Ancient Roman makeup – shoot

A while back I organised a photo-shoot to illustrate the way that Ancient Roman women wore their hair and makeup, and was lucky enough to find my very own Roman to model for me. With the perfect features, Alessia looked every inch the part, and was beautifully photographed by the talented Chema Mora.


For the ancient Romans, applying makeup was a ritual process that involved various paints and potions – many of them poisonous. The wealthy could afford slaves to apply it for them, but it still needed re-applying throughout the day as compositions was poor and humidity and sweat washed it off.

Although Roman makeup was exaggerated, they believed in preserving and accentuating beauty rather than embellishing the skin. Pure white skin was a sign of beauty and status, and this was achieved by applying whiteners made of chalk, white marl, crocodile dung or white lead. Rouge was created with vermilion, poppy and rose petals, red ochre, annabar or red lead. For ideal eyes, which was large with long lashes, kohl and coloured eye-shadows were used. Dark eyebrows, meeting almost in the center was much admired, and achieved by darkening eyebrows with kohl.

All the effort and health-risk seems to have been wasted on men though, as the majority view on women wearing makeup was that of distrust. Women were accused of being deceptive, immoral and using witchcraft when they wore cosmetics.

For more information on Roman hairstyles, Click here.

Photography: Chema Mora

Model: Alessia

Makeup and hair: Retromorphosist


3 thoughts on “Ancient Roman makeup – shoot

  1. Pingback: Rocking the Roman look | retromorphosist

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