Rouge (cosmetics)

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

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


The Ancient Egyptians were known for their creation of cosmetics, particularly their use of rouge.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] Other sources for rouge (raw materials) included malachite and antimony[5]

In the 16th century in Europe, women and men would use white powder to lighten their faces.[6] Commonly women would add heavy rouge to their cheeks in addition.

Studies have strived to research other reasons as to why individuals choose to color their faces in a red tint and what blushing may also signify to others. Blushing, the body's natural reaction to feelings of shame/embarrassment/guilt is often followed with a reddish coloring on one's cheeks on individuals whose bodies react as such. This reaction can be associated with different moral and human tendencies such as pro sociality and commitment to social relationships. Emotions are involuntary and instantaneous reactions, and because of this are pretty reliable. Knowing this researchers have used social emotions to understand how humans signal prosocial intentions. Embarrassment which is often accompanied by the reddening of the face can now be seen as an indicator of one's prosocial behavior.[7]


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. Modern blush is offered in both a pressed or loose powder, a cream consistency similar to lipstick, or a liquid form. 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.[8]

Blush is made in the form of a cream, liquid, powder, or gel.[9]


  1. ^ "History of Rouge". Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  2. ^ Eldridge, Lisa (2018). "The Story of Make-up". BBC. Archived from the original on 2019-10-16. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  3. ^ "The gruesome and lengthy history of why we use blush". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  4. ^ "Deadly Blush". Livingly. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  5. ^ Словарь античности. Moscow =: Progress. 1989. p. 289.
  6. ^ "A History Of Blush". Into The Gloss. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  7. ^ Feinberg, Matthew; Willer, Robb; Keltner, Dacher (2012). "Flustered and faithful: Embarrassment as a signal of prosociality". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 102 (1): 81–97. doi:10.1037/a0025403. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 21928915.
  8. ^ "Cosmetics and Skin: Rouge". Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  9. ^ "Makeup of Makeup: Decoding Blush". WebMD. Retrieved 2018-09-16.

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