What Make Up Did Men Use In Ancient Rome

The use of make-up in ancient Rome forms an interesting part of history. It was a sign of status, but also a vital part of ritual and ceremony, particularly amongst the wealthy and upper classes. Make-up had its own culture, with an array of tools and processes used to produce the desired results.

As far back as to the 7th century BC, men and women of all ages in Rome enjoyed applying various makeup products. Ancient Romans believed that applying cosmetics enhanced both the beauty and masculinity of a man.

During the Republic leading to the Empire, makeup for men was popular for different reasons, some of which included: emphasizing eyes, making skin look pale, protecting from sunlight, and to maintain a Tan. Additionally, men with fairer skin used cosmetics to maintain white complexion.

Ancient Romans utilised vegetable extracts and minerals to accentuate the eyes and apply colourful tints on the lips, sides of cheeks and eyes to provide a more dramatic, powerful look. Though the range of products that were available to men was not as extensive as it is today, there were in fact multiple products available to them.

For example, male beauty products included Unctions and Collyria, which were used to soften the skin. Men were also able to use Ophthalmic, an eye liner or a cake/tint that enhanced their appearance and gave them a more defined look. Men also used pomades, unguents and scented oils to give them a gentle scent.

It was not uncommon to apply makeup every day and some would mix tints and dyes with herbs and spices to soothe and soften the skin. In terms of accessories, the Roman men often styled their hair with perfumed pomades, waxes and sprays.

Though the makeup products were not identical to the ones used in the 21st century, it is evident that men and women alike were interested in making themselves look more attractive and presentable.

Current Status of Male Makeup

In the 21st century, male makeup has become a much more accepted notion, but there is still some stigma attached to it. Many men are reluctant to wear any form of make-up, believing it to be too ‘feminine’. In spite of this, there is increasing experimentation with male cosmetics available in the market.

It is no longer necessarily the preserve of theatre, film and the music industry, but a part of daily life. Men of all ages and backgrounds are becoming increasingly comfortable with experimenting with products such as foundation, concealer, bronzer, blush and powder.

A particular trend seen in recent years is the rise of gender-fluid makeup, which allows people of all genders to experiment with gender expression and presentation. This is seen both on the street and on social media, where there is a great deal of encouragement and even celebration of male makeup.

Cosmetic companies have also responded to the trend, producing lines of gender-neutral and gender-specific makeup specifically designed for men. This includes foundations, bronzers, eyeshadows and lipsticks. The range of products available is vast and varied, enabling men to choose products that are tailored to their specific needs.

Societal Attitudes

Societal attitudes towards male makeup have shifted significantly over the years. Whilst there is still some degree of stigma attached to it, it has become more accepted and increasingly embraced by men and women alike. This is largely due to the rise of social media and its potential for expression and self-expression.

The use of male makeup is no longer seen as a sign of weakness or femininity, but rather as a way for men to express their individuality and to explore new and different forms of self-expression. It is being embraced by men in both subcultures and mainstream society alike.

What is clear is that we are beginning to see the emergence of male makeup as a legitimate form of art and expression. It is a trend that has been seen across different eras and cultures, and is set to become an even more commonplace phenomenon in the future.

Advice For Male Users

Though male makeup may be more accepted in the modern era, it can still be daunting to take the plunge. There are a few tips that male makeup users should keep in mind:

  • Start small and experiment – the key is to use the products with subtlety, so start with the basics and gradually build up your skills.
  • Choose products that are designed for male skin – there are a variety of products designed specifically for male skin, so make sure to research the types of products that are best suited for your skin type.
  • Pay attention to application and blending – it is important to pay attention to details when applying makeup, such as making sure to blend the product properly and not apply too much.
  • Know when to stop – the key to looking natural and avoiding a ‘caked-on’ look is to know when to stop. Too much makeup can look over the top and can take away from the natural look.


Despite the initial resistance, male makeup is becoming increasingly accepted and embraced. It has evolved from being viewed as a sign of weakness and femininity to being seen as a legitimate form of art and expression. Furthermore, it is no longer simply the preserve of the theatre, film and music industries, but has become a part of daily life for many men. Ultimately, it is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the near future.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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