The team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that shells containing pigment residues were Neanderthal make-up containers.
The team says its find buries "the view of Neanderthals as half-wits" and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking.
Professor Joao Zilhao, the archaeologist from Bristol University in the UK, who led the study, said that he and his team had examined shells that were used as containers to mix and store pigments.
Black sticks of the pigment manganese, which may have been used as body paint by Neanderthals, have previously been discovered in Africa.
"[But] this is the first secure evidence for their use of cosmetics," he told BBC News. "The use of these complex recipes is new. It's more than body painting."
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