Rouge was used as early as in ancient Egypt. It was also applied on the lips, the way lipstick would be used today. In some times and places, such as the English Regency, both men and women wore rouge. In Britain in the late Victorian Age, wearing visible makeup such as rouge was associated with low morals. Ladies resorted to pinching their cheeks (and biting their lips) to make them appear red instead.
Various substances have been used as rouge. In ancient Greece for example, crushed mulberries were favoured, while red beet juice, crushed strawberries and red amaranth have also variously been used.
Modern rouge generally consists of a red-coloured talcum-based powder that is applied with a brush to the cheek. The colouring is usually either the substance of safflor (the petals of safflower), or a solution of carmine in ammonium hydroxide and rosewater perfumed with rose oil. A cream-based variant of rouge is schnouda, a colourless mixture of Alloxan with cold cream, which also colours the skin red.
- Schweitzer, Marlis (July 2005). ""The Mad Search for Beauty": Actresses' Testimonials, the Cosmetics Industry, and the "Democratization of Beauty"". The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 4 (3): 255–292.
- By the Zuni people, according to Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #30 (1915), p. 83