Lisa Eldridge is a famous makeup artist, so this is probably one of the more anticipated women’s interest history books of the year. The book is very beautiful, mixing historic images of painted people with photography of modern models, and all of that is mixed with images of historic cosmetics pots, lipstick tubes, and compacts. Art museums should really do displays of cosmetics designs, cosmetics packaging is always lovely. You can in good conscience get this book just to look at it!
But the overall history is, frankly, a bit sloppy. I was constantly annoyed by generalizing statements, and leads not finished out, such as mentioning such-and-such came from the theater world and moved into everyday cosmetics, but not telling us how it moved, who did the moving, or what the makeup originally looked like in the theater. I was hoping to get a good grasp on makeup of the 18th century, but I’ve read historical blogs with more detail. However it really picks up when she hits the 20th century Western world, which she knows very well. The history after about 1920 is really excellent pop-style history, ranging from Estee Lauder to Mary Quant to the modern “shimmer” effects made possible by microglitter technology.
The book opens with a “makeup as universal” angle, with three chapters focusing on the “universal” colors, white, red, and black, which I thought was really not a good look. It presents a lot of pop science evo-psych reasoning and stuff like "red light wavelength=good moods" for reasoning why people wear makeup, but all the evidence you are presented is from the Western world with a dash of Asian and Ancient Egypt, used to argue for women self-painting to a universal ideal of “pale face with red and black accents." Because Science Reasons. I can understand the appeal of including this material, because it worked on the book's overall angle of makeup as an ancient, universal, and ultimately natural and valuable human activity, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth, and soured the start of the book.
But, still, a gorgeous book and I learned a lot about recent makeup history. I love makeup and I felt good about wearing it after reading this.