1753, "red cosmetic coloring for the skin, fine red powder used to give artificial color to the face," from French rouge "red coloring matter," noun use of adjective meaning "red" (12c.), from Latin rubeus, related to ruber "red" (from PIE root *reudh- "red, ruddy").
It replaced native paint in this sense. The verb, "to color (the skin, especially the cheeks) with rouge" is attested by 1777. Related: Rouged; rouging. The same French word had been borrowed in Middle English with the sense of "red color" (early 15c.), also "red" (adj.).