Book Review: “Face Paint: The Story of Makeup” by Lisa Eldridge
Lisa Eldridge is one of my favourite makeup artists and creative directors. Her passion for her art shines in everything she produces. Her endless Vogue covers and YouTube tutorials are loved by many, including myself! A couple of years ago, she added ‘author’ to her resume, creating a book called “Face Paint: The Story of Makeup”.
The book talks about the history of makeup, and how it has been used throughout different time periods. Though, rather than writing in a chronological way, as history books usually are written, she divides the book into themes. Her interesting approach to this is because “history is not linear”, and the chapters are thus able to delve into detail and tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. There are two main sections; the first section is called “The Ancient Palette”, and the second, “The Business of Beauty”. The latter is about double the size of the first, and each have several chapters within.
“The Ancient Palette” has three chapters, titled with fundamentals colors in the industry: Red, White, and Black. I think these are the parts of the book that might bore some people… they largely mention ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, etc. It’s difficult to follow some stories if you’re not familiar with the context, so you might want to brush up on your history lessons to get the most out of it. I assume the lack of context is due to editing constraints…otherwise the book could be enormous. Still, it was interesting to read about the social implications of wearing makeup in different time periods, and what was said about women who wore cosmetics (most of which was critical and written by men… lol)
The next section, “The Business of Beauty” discusses the business side of makeup. As a marketing graduate, I enjoyed this part the most. The comparison of advertisements (newspapers, magazines, etc.), the growth of beauty giants, and impact of Hollywood, are major themes that come up. Though, there is some repetition and the chapters overlap a few times. One of my favorite chapters is called “History in Your Handbag”, which talks about how the items we use today came to be.
Another cool concept Lisa incorporated is "Makeup Muses": throughout the book there are short, one page pieces about women she's been inspired by, like Audrey Hepburn, Queen Alexandra, and Amy Winehouse.
I think Lisa's voice truly comes out in the last chapter/afterword, where she talks about where we are now and the current beauty obsession. She explores modern day conformity and the paradox behind why we wear makeup, ending with a statement I (surprise) love:
All that being said, the book is not an easy read. It is not for you if you want a summary of the history of makeup, or how-to’s and tricks of the trade. It is for you if already know a little about general history and the context of various time periods, and if you’re deeply interested in how and why makeup and the cosmetics industry is what it is today.