Substances or treatments applied to the face or other parts of the human body to alter one’s appearance, to beautify, or to promote attractiveness. Such preparations can be applied to the skin, the nails, or the hair. The English word “cosmetic” is derived from the Greek word ko·sme·ti·kosʹ, which means “skilled in decorating.”
There were ointment makers and mixers among the Israelites (Ex 30:25; 1Sa 8:13; Ne 3:8), and ointments (often scented) were widely used, perhaps more so than other cosmetics. When applied to the skin or the hair in a hot, dry climate, ointments would help to cope with dryness. Perfumed oils were in use, a sinful woman once anointing Jesus Christ’s feet with such oil. (Lu 7:37, 38) Also, a few days before Jesus’ death, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, “came with an alabaster case of perfumed oil, genuine nard, very expensive,” and anointed him.—Mr 14:3; Joh 12:3; Mt 26:6, 7; see OINTMENT AND PERFUMES.
When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel, in addition to attending to her coiffure or doing her head up beautifully, “proceeded to paint her eyes with black paint.” (2Ki 9:30) At least some women in Israel, like those in other Middle Eastern lands of antiquity, used eye paint. (Eze 23:40) Eye paint was often black, which color would contrast with the white of the eye and tend to make the eyes look larger. (Jer 4:30) Scriptural references to eye painting do not associate the practice with faithful women of Israel in general, though one of Job’s daughters was named Keren-happuch, which possibly means “Horn of the Black (Eye) Paint [that is, a receptacle for makeup].”—Job 42:14.
Modest and tasteful use of cosmetics and articles of adornment is not Scripturally condemned. However, Paul and Peter admonished Christian women to adorn themselves “with modesty and soundness of mind, . . . in the way that befits women professing to reverence God,” and to let their adornment be “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1Ti 2:9, 10; 1Pe 3:3, 4) And, in the inspired appraisal of the good wife, it is fittingly stated: “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”—Pr 31:30.