Makeup and cosmetics have been used by women since ancient times for beautification and self-expression. However, some Christians debate whether makeup use is acceptable for followers of Christ. This article will examine what the Bible says about the origin and purpose of makeup to help Christians understand God’s design for beauty.
- Makeup originated before the Bible was written, but the Bible mentions women using cosmetics.
- God created women with natural beauty, but makeup can enhance and celebrate God’s design.
- Modesty and inner beauty should be a woman’s priority over excessive outward adornment.
- Makeup is acceptable in moderation but should not become an idol.
- Biblical women used makeup and God did not condemn them for it.
The Origins of Makeup
Archaeologists have found evidence that makeup originated with ancient Egyptians around 4000 BC. Elite women would apply lead ore and copper to create dark eye makeup. Egyptians believed makeup had magical powers and was necessary for the afterlife. Ancient people around the world developed cosmetics for beauty, rituals, status and protection from the sun.
The Old Testament does not provide exact details on when cosmetics originated, but it shows that by patriarchal times, women in the ancient Near East used makeup. In Genesis, when Rachel wanted children, she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30:1 NKJV). The Hebrew word for “give me” refers to the practice of applying kohl eye makeup. Kohl was used by ancient women to accentuate the eyes and was considered beautiful.  So in this passage, Rachel was dramatically telling Jacob to enable her to bear children or she felt her life had no beauty or purpose.
God’s Design for Natural Beauty
The first mention of beauty in the Bible describes God’s creation of humanity: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Woman was the glorious climax of creation.
God purposefully made Eve after Adam to show she was the crown of creation. Eve was created from a rib near Adam’s heart to show she was a cherished part of man (Genesis 2:21-22). Everything about Eve’s design revealed the dignity and beauty of womanhood. She was masterfully formed by God to complement Adam. The Genesis account shows that God purposefully created woman with innate physical beauty.
The Bible says God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As Creator, the Lord filled the earth with lovely shapes, sounds, scents and sights to surround humanity with beauty. He made butterflies, sunsets, flowers, rainbows, gems, mountains, sunrises and countless other beautiful things for our enjoyment. God is the ultimate Author of beauty.
As God’s image bearers, women specially reflect God’s beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” This shows that a woman’s loveliness flows from her heart and character, not merely her appearance.
So while God made women naturally beautiful, true beauty is deeper than the surface. Makeup can enhance the beauty of God’s creation, but it should not distract from cultivating inner beauty.
Makeup in Moderation
Though the Bible nowhere explicitly mentions makeup, it provides principles for modesty and sobriety that can guide makeup use. 1 Timothy 2:9 says “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” The emphasis is on modesty and self-control, not stopping women from looking beautiful.
Excessive makeup contradicts the Bible’s emphasis on moderation and simplicity. But in the proper context, makeup can honor God’s design for women. For married women, makeup can be “part of the marital chamber’s calls to intimacy.” It’s loving for a wife to make herself beautiful for her husband. Song of Solomon praises physical beauty, so long as it draws attention to the inner person. “You are altogether beautiful my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
However, makeup becomes wrong when used excessively to draw attention to self or when it attempts unnatural alteration of one’s appearance. The Bible consistently condemns pride and vanity (Psalm 131:1, Proverbs 31:30). So makeup should not become an idol of self-glorification. Believers must ask if their motive is to thank God for beauty or fuel pride in beauty. Is the goal to honor the Creator or crave creation’s compliments?
Overall, the Bible suggests beauty practices are acceptable in moderation and the right context. The key is keeping the heart fixed on honoring God with your appearance, not honoring self.
Biblical Women Who Used Makeup
Several godly women in the Bible used cosmetics, and Scripture does not condemn them for it.
For example, when Jezebel prepared to meet Jehu, she “put painted eyes on and adorned her head” (2 Kings 9:30 NKJV). Though Jezebel was wicked, her application of eye makeup and hair adornment were not singled out as sinful.
When Esther went before the king, she received “beauty treatments with oil and perfumes” (Esther 2:12). Esther used cosmetics to prepare to see the king, and Scripture commends her courage and character.
God also instructed Ezekiel to dress up the Lord’s bride Jerusalem, picturing future restoration: “I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of fine leather. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments…I put a ring in your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (Ezekiel 16:10-12). This shows God delights in adorning His beloved people.
While these women lived before Christ under the Old Covenant, nowhere does the New Testament prohibit cosmetics. What matters most is the heart motive in using makeup.
Principles for Makeup Use Today
Based on Scripture’s emphasis on moderation, here are some principles for makeup use today:
- Keep your focus on developing inner beauty over relying on outward beauty (1 Tim 2:9, 1 Pet 3:4)
- Avoid makeup becoming an idol by checking your motives – is it to glorify God and honor your design or fuel vanity? (Exodus 20:4)
- Makeup can celebrate beauty but should not inspire jealousy or comparison with others (Galatians 5:26)
- Prioritize your husband’s interests when using makeup in marriage. Dress to please him, not other men. (1 Cor 7:34)
- Remember your beauty stems from being made in God’s image. Cosmetics simply enhance the beauty God gave you. (Genesis 1:27)
- Be thankful to God for the colors, textures and abilities He’s created for makeup artistry. Let it reflect His creative handiwork. (Psalm 139:14)
The Bible does not categorically prohibit makeup. Rather, it calls women to honor God with modesty and moderation in outward adornment. When used properly, makeup can be creative way for women to celebrate God’s gift of beauty. The key is keeping the heart fixed on glorifying the Giver and not the gift alone.
While the Bible does not provide the exact origin date of cosmetics, we see women used makeup in ancient Biblical times. As Creator, God formed women with natural beauty that reflects His image. Makeup can enhance God’s design when used in moderation and with the right motives. The key principles for makeup use are prioritizing inner beauty, avoiding excess, and checking your heart motives to honor the Lord with your appearance. When used rightly, makeup can celebrate the beauty of God’s handiwork in womanhood.