Monday, February 8th, 2010

100,000 Years of Beauty

Beauty and the Brain:  100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty ($295.00, currently listed at $239) is a set of five books designed to be an extremely comprehensive study of the evolution and history of beauty. 100,000 Years of Beauty was commissioned by the L’Oreal Corporate Foundation (to celebrate their 100th anniversary!), but it is a wonderful set of books to go through if you’re a knowledge-hungry beauty addict.

100,000 Years of Beauty is the culmination of a study which identifies many approaches to beauty in all civilizations throughout the ages, including a look into the future. A major editorial endeavor, uniting contributions from 300 writers of 35 different nationalities and 20 different disciplines, 100,000 Years of Beauty brings original insights into the quest for beauty. At the heart of the book is a central theme that throughout all civilizations the quest for beauty is universal. Through this initiative, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation hopes to share knowledge and encourage the emergence of new perspectives about beauty.

The books come in a “pyramid” with each book sized differently (the first being the smallest, the fifth being the largest) and stacked inside the book “holder.” The first book is titled “Prehistory” and goes through the early history of beauty in various societies. The second book is titled “Antiquity,” which takes a look at the changes that have changed the “pursuit of beauyt.” The third book is titled “Classical Age” and goes through beauty in both the medieval and early modern periods. The fourth book is titled “Globalization” and explores beauty through the modern era. The fifth book is titled “The Future,” and it looks at how the digital age and technology-driven period will change the way we look at beauty going forward.

One of the details I really liked about the set is that there are a variety of topics and voices. You’re not reading just one perspective, but hundreds; you get to read so many different authors with varying backgrounds–from historians to anthropologists. The other detail I like is that these are real books. These are not flimsy paperbacks with nothing to them. These are nicely weighted, thick pages with color-rich images and presented in style.

This set of books is a bit overwhelming–there are over 1,500 pages to go through–but it’s done exquisitely (and rightly so, given the price tag). These are the kind of books that you flip through, admire the images, and read over a long period of time. If I didn’t also eat dinner on my coffee table, I’d love to keep these right in the middle. I’m still working my way through it, page by page, but if you’ve ever wondered just how far back beauty has dated or what kind of beauty “rituals” were performed hundreds of years ago and how they’ve shaped beauty as it stands today–this is something to put on your wish list.

See photos of the inside!

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

100,000 Years of Beauty

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34 thoughts on “100,000 Years of Beauty Book Review & Photos

  1. Great idea, shame it came from L’Oreal. I wonder if there’s a chapter in there about animal testing and how L’Oreal, despite being the largest and likely richest players in the industry, continue to damage and distress living creatures because their customers are “worth it”?

    • Maggie

      It may have been commissioned by l’Oreal, but it was done by Gallimard, which is one of th best and most respected publishing houses in France (and internationally, for that matter).

      It looks absolutely gorgeous. I love books like this. I wish it was available on

    • rose

      can’t say i disagree re: companies that still test on animals. we can put planes in the sky and prolong life with mechanical hearts, but can’t find a better way to test cosmetics?


      however, i will wait and see if this drops in price in a few months b/c it does look fascinating. even from a historical point of view.

    • Heather

      I agree Sarah! I refuse to buy any cosmetics from companies that test on animals! Thankfully there are many awesome companies (like MAC) that are cruelty free:)

      • Not to hop on the side of animal testing or anything – But just so you know, that artificial heart you’re talking about? Those are tested on animals for safety before they are put into human trials. That’s how western science works; animal trials, then human trials.

        I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of prolonged life due to advances in medicine; be it artificial organs or antibiotics. It’s always good to be aware of the process behind the development of these advances though.

        While MAC may not directly conduct animal testing – be aware that the INGREDIENTS that are in your cosmetics were most likely, in their early stages of development, tested on animals.

        • brooklyn

          I absolutely agree with you Dusty. People should be aware of terminology. Like you said not testing on animals DOES NOT MEAN ingredients that are included in the product weren’t scientifically tested for safety in their early stages of development on animals. Companies are incredibly intelligent with their terminology/language and they legally know what they can “claim” something to be without any legal action taken against them. And it’s everywhere….most claimed organic food actually isn’t certified organic….etc…anyway…I’m digressing…..
          Love the look of the books and they sound incredibly interesting.

  2. Jae

    I love the concept but hate the price.

  3. Sorry Christine – I didn’t mean to spout negative things on your blog. I just find these people so despicable.

  4. Tina

    oh my god!! I so lemming this!

  5. Lorna

    looks interesting and well done but i doubt i would buy. if i could check it out at a library i would definitely read it though.

  6. I doubt I’d buy this. 300$ is a LOT of makeup i could buy instead! (heh!) That said, I’d be really interested to read it. I’ve always been a major history nerd, and have spent waaaaaaay too much time memorizing period fashions, hairstyles, etc. I was so fascinated reading how even ancient cultures managed these trends. Though I had a big gag moment studying ancient Greece, when I read about how Flavian(if I recall?) era women LUSTED after blond hair, and used HORSE URINE to lighten theirs…..

    I’ll have to see if my local library has this. I really would love to read it!

    • Yeah — it’s just one of those, “OMG I WANT!” kind of things, but the price tag is so hefty, and you’re like… “but lipgloss, and eyeshadow, and the makeup I could buy!”

      It would be fun if the library has it (I wonder how they make it available, if so). Do let us know if you happen to find it! Even though it’s definitely worth the price tag (excellent quality, lots of images, everything’s in color, etc. etc.), it’s more the type of book I’d finally cave in after it went on sale. (Admittedly, it is on sale on Amazon at $239 vs. $295, but yeah.)

      • My local library does NOT appear to have it, though its new enough that it might be worth checking in six months.

        They have other books on cosmetics preparation, history of beauty, etc. The ones that look similar to this are all labeled “reference-in library use”. So that might be a bit tedious if you aren’t looking for one specific ingredient, or period, or trend. Ah well.

        I think I’d gladly shell out the money for this if i could justify it, or look at it as an “investment” in my own beauty acumen, but since I’m not really doing makeup art for profit, that seems unlikely. I bet this would be great reference material for a classroom, for fashion programs, history/sociological programs, etc. It WOULD be a fascinating read!

  7. amy

    It is definitely something I would look into getting because I love to buy and collect art and design books. Yes almost $300 is a bit steep but considering that it is 5 books, it is not so bad.

  8. Nicole

    That’s INTENSE!! It looks really fun to flip through, but I would never spend that much on it. I already have hundreds of dollars worth of history and art history books, thanks to my stupid degree! LOL.

  9. Rosanna

    Sounds like an an art history book, lol! Speaking of which, my art history class would so read this.

  10. Brittany

    I wish I could afford these! It looks so interesting!

  11. babicsek

    wow,this book looks amazing,maybe i will get it some day:D

  12. Out of my budget but this is such a cool concept!

  13. Oo! I eat dinner at my coffee table too 😛 LOL! This is quite a nifty little set of books. The price is not out of the realm of possibility IF they were hard bound. Paperback though?! Plus the whole, “different sizes” of the books is just too… Aggrivating for this Virgo.

    Would love to look at it though! I’ve been hard at work researching for a YouTube series I want to do on the history of cosmetics. I think this would be a great resource.

    Ah well… Thanks for the pretty photos 😛

  14. Helena

    Can I have it?? xD

  15. OMGOMGOMG! I need this! LOL! I’m an art school student, so a lot of this I’ve actually studied! But I think this would be a great thing for me to take to an art history class and be like, “I want to do my project on THIS!!” because they often make us focus crap like chairs or other material culture art!

  16. SiaM

    OMG!!!! So awesome, What’s better than books that provide artistic, anthropological, time line comparisons, representations, views, perspectives, and social aspects of BEAUTY from past to present??? (a complete case study)…..Definitely interesting and something I think will not be boring to read. Like the creative encyclopedia style…
    I know I will not be able to buy it, but will try to check it out
    (I don’t know if it will come to US territories =( )

    Thanks for the preview!!!

  17. Jennifer

    That’s really freaking awesome, but not for the price…Although I shouldn’t be talking …I just ordered Michael Jackson’s official opus book, and that cost me 240.

  18. Jillian

    Oh my gosh, this is so perfect for my classical studies self! Must get hands on!!!

  19. All righty – so now I know where my next check is going to. Temptalia – I don’t know if I love you or hate you now!

    Seriously though – these look great! And since I paid full price for the Joe Blasco/Vincent Kehoe Professional Makeup Artist book – I’m probably doomed.

    If you see me on the streets, toss me some lipstick, okay? Much better than food!


  20. Jennifer

    This looks incredible!! I love history. If I had the money I would definitely get it but I think it might have to be something I ask for as a gift.

  21. Nicole

    Hey Christine i was wondering why you don’t review Revlon cosmetics?

    • If I don’t review a brand or a product, there’s not usually a reason why not – more likely that there were other products that I was more interested in reviewing at the time, since I can only review so many.