Of course the suggestion of fertility is not the only explanation as to why lighter skin has been so consistently sought after over time. Before tanning became fashionable, skin that showed no effects of sun exposure was directly tied to social status, particularly for women, whose place throughout history has more often than not been cloistered and confined to the home.
The desire for alabaster skin can be traced back to before the semi-legendary times of the Trojan War and is mentioned in the epic poems of Homer, in which the goddess Hera is described approvingly as white armed. More evidence survives from the golden age of Greek culture and particularly from Athens, enabling us to reconstruct both what Greek women applied to their skin and something of the social conventions that surrounded the use of makeup.
We know that a white or pale complexion was associated with upperclass women, who spent the vast majority of their time indoors, away from the skin-darkening sun. The Greeks made their own skin lightener from lead carbonate, as Greek philosopher, and observer of chemistry, Theophrastus describes in his treatise On Stones.
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