Rouge (cosmetics)

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A rouge compact with a mirror and brush
Ancient Egyptian rouge compact
Traditional rouge makeup

Rouge (/ˈrʒ/; French: red), also called blush or blusher, is a cosmetic for coloring the cheeks in varying shades, or the lips red. It is applied as a powder or cream.


The Ancient Egyptians were known for their creation of cosmetics, particularly their use of rouge. Ancient Egyptian pictographs show men and women wearing lip and cheek rouge. They blended fat with red ochre to create a stain that was red in color. [1]

Greek men and women eventually mimicked the look, using crushed mulberries, red beet juice, crushed strawberries, or red amaranth to create a paste. Those who wore makeup were viewed as wealthy and it symbolized status because cosmetics were costly. [2]

In China, Rouge was used as early as the Shang Dynasty. It was made from the extracted juice of leaves from red and blue flowers. Some people added bovine pulp and pig pancreas to make the product denser. Women would wear the heavy rouge on their cheeks and lips. In Chinese culture, red symbolizes good luck and happiness to those who wear the color. [1]

In Ancient Rome, men and women would create rouge using lead II,Iv (red lead) and cinnabar. The mixture was found to have caused cancer, dementia, and eventually death. [3]

In the 16th century in Europe, women and men would use white powder to lighten their faces. Commonly women would add heavy rouge to their cheeks in addition. In Britain during the early 20th century, Queen Victoria ruled wearing visible makeup such as heavy rouge on the lips or cheeks was associated with low morals. People who could not afford makeup may have resorted to pinching their cheeks and  biting their lips to make them appear red. [2]

In the 1900s during the Suffrage Movement in America, members of the Women’s Suffrage Parade wore red lipstick during their marches to make a statement and show that they could wear makeup without negative connotations. [1] Wearing rouge was more common in America after Hollywood stars were seen wearing heavy make-up in movies and on television.

Early ingredient structure[edit]

A July 1991, patent [4] shows powder rouge composed of:

  • 0.1 to 60% of crosslinked poly 9-alanine micro spheres mixed with polyhydric alcohol [4]
  • 0 to 20% of a fatty body [4]
  • 1 to 70% of pigment [4]
  • 5 to 90% of a mineral or organic charge or filler, such as talc or starch [4]


Modern rouge generally consists of a red-colored talcum-based powder that is applied with a brush to the cheeks to accentuate the bone structure. The coloring is usually either 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 colorless mixture of Alloxan with cold cream, which also colors the skin red.

Today, rouge is a term used to primarily identify blush of any color, including: brown, pink, red, and orange. It is not commonly used to identify lipstick, however, some may use the term to refer to the red color of the product.

When the fashion trend of matching lipsticks with nail polish took hold and the color range of lipstick increased, people no longer used the term to identify lip color. The shade range for blush generally remained limited, keeping the name rouge. [5]

Blush currently comes in the form of a cream, liquid, powder, or gel. [6]


  1. ^ a b Eldridge, Lisa (2018). "The Story of Make-up". BBC.
  2. ^ a b "The gruesome and lengthy history of why we use blush". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  3. ^ "Deadly Blush". Livingly. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  4. ^ a b c d e DeFrossez. "Cosmetic Composition" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Cosmetics and Skin: Rouge". Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  6. ^ "Makeup of Makeup: Decoding Blush". WebMD. Retrieved 2018-09-16.

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