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Any of several preparations (excluding soap) applied to the human body for beautifying, preserving, or altering the appearance or for cleansing, colouring, conditioning, or protecting the skin, hair, nails, lips, eyes, or teeth. The earliest known cosmetics were in use in Egypt in the 4th millennium BC. Cosmetics were in wide use in the Roman Empire, but they disappeared from much of Europe with the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century AD) and did not reappear until the Middle Ages, when Crusaders returned from the Middle East with cosmetics and perfumes. By the 18th century they had come into use by nearly all social classes. Modern cosmetics include skin-care preparations; foundation, face powder and rouge (blusher); eye makeup; lipstick; shampoo; hair curling and straightening preparations; hair colours, dyes, and bleaches; and nail polish. Related products include antiperspirants, mouthwashes, depilatories, astringents, and bath crystals.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cosmetics, visit Britannica.com.