Since it is the beginning of a new year, I thought I would add something different. This is the start of a new blog category called Beauty through the Ages. It is sort of a history lesson.
There is quite a bit written about Cleopatra’s (69-30 BC) beauty routine and many influences are used today in spas and the skincare market.
Many of us may have been fascinated by the discoveries found in the Egyptian tombs through the years. There have been movies, documentaries and books. With the opening of the first tomb brought a new craze called Egyptomania.
Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.
The Ancient Egyptians
The Egyptians were all about hygiene and appearance; bathing daily, shaving their heads to prevent head lice and the use of cosmetics and perfumes on a regular basis.
Bathing was a morning ritual upon rising. There was no soap as we know it today but the Egyptians used a cleansing cream made of oil, lime and perfume.
Every home had some type of basin and jug used for hand washing and showering. There was also foot baths made of stone, ceramic or wood.
In addition to rising in the morning; hands, face and feet were washed before and after meals.
In the morning after washing a cream was applied to the body, somewhat of a sunblock. This would be followed by makeup derived from ochre.
Cosmetics were not only for their appearance but also served for their health. The ingredients in their oils and creams helped soften the skin, protect from sunburn, protect their eyes (eye infections were common when the Nile flooded) and improve their self-esteem.
Most Egyptians went barefoot so the use of ointment on their feet, especially the soles would help as an insect repellent and sunscreen.
No matter the social class cosmetics were worn. However the better ingredient products could not be purchased by all. Lesser quality may have been made at home.
Ancient Egyptian manufacturers found the finest natural ingredients and used the most trusted production methods. Professionals manufactured the cosmetics and had a high reputation having to please their gods in the afterlife.
As for the king and upper class, manicurist found employment and would use a small knife and file. This was a prestigious position and these men would have their job title displayed on their tomb. The lower class would not have been able to afford such luxuries.
Egyptians are credited with the inventions of toothpaste, (they used a paste to clean teeth) toothbrushes, toothpick and breathe fresheners.
Disease was thought to be inflicted by the gods. The oldest medical documents in existence go back to ancient Egypt.
The Ebers papyrus contains written records of Egyptian medical practices. They are credited with having the best doctors of that period.
The ancient Egyptians performed surgeries but not as extensive as modern day. Bronze surgical tools have been discovered.
The Egyptians gained great knowledge of the anatomy while performing embalmment during their burial rituals.
Use of the Nile River
Having a community next to the Nile River the Egyptians took advantage of the waters. The majority of the people would bathe in it.
Egyptians believed in cleanliness to ward off disease and illness. They bathed regularly purifying their bodies.
Cleopatra is said to have visited the Dead Sea to soak in the mineral waters (a type of water therapy practiced by others through the centuries). She may have even established pharmaceutical and cosmetic factories at the Nile shores.
Herbs used in Ancient Egypt
Egyptian travelers would return with spices and herbs form other lands. These were used for medicinal purposes, in funerals, cosmetics and perfumes.
Glycolic acid an alpha hydroxyl acid derived from sugar cane is used today in skincare to remove seborrheic keratosis and prevent skin aging. This goes back to Cleopatra’s time.
Aloe vera was used in the 16th century BC in Egypt medicinally by Egyptian queens Nefertit and Cleopatra.
The Egyptians called aloe vera ‘plant of immortality’. It was used to treat infection against parasites, heal burns and treat skin diseases.
The queens treasured aloe and considered it to be the source of their beauty. Pharaohs took it to their tombs for their afterlife.
Honey was used to heal and fade scars. A natural antibiotic, honey was used for dressing wounds.
Almond oil was beneficial for dry or aging skin. Fenugreek seeds were used to soften skin in facial mask.
Frankincense and myrrh were rubbed on to get rid of body lice.
Caraway and mint was used as breath fresheners. Mint and parsley were often chewed for this purpose.
Egyptians came up with the first recorded toothpaste of rock salt, mint, dried iris flower and pepper. Toothbrushes having a frayed end have been found among some tombs.
Aromatherapy in Ancient Egypt
Since there were herbs along the rich Nile, aromatherapy (essential oils), were produced. The scents were used in many forms.
The use of massage and reflexology has been depicted on their tombs. Egyptians were known for their perfume.
Essential oils were used like we use deodorant to cover body odors.
Unguents (soothing or healing ointments) were kept by the wealthy and rubbed all over the body. Especially, the sweeter and potent smelling mixtures were rubbed under the arms and around the legs.
The Use of Tattooing in Ancient Egypt
Tattooing instruments have been found made of bronze and beaten flat at corners for a sharp point. These may have been worked as olden day ink pens minus the ink. Instead the point would have been dipped in charcoal soot or indigo powder.
Tattoos found on mummies were colors of black, blue or green. In ancient Egypt black symbolized life and resurrection. Green was usually a symbol of life, while blue symbolized fertility and birth.
The point would repeatedly be pricked into the deeper dermis skin, making the process time consuming and painful. This may be the reason why geometric designs were used.
Both men and women were found to have worn tattoos. New studies are interpreting the meanings behind the symbols.
Tattooing has been thought to be a form of healing, for religious worship, marking status in society or maybe punishment.
It is thought that older women, possibly female seers did the tattooing. They would have knowledge of the connection of the symbols and colors used. Seers also being associated with practical magic and healing would recommend what herbs and oils to use during the healing process.
There is some evidence of ear piercings among the ancient Egyptians as well.
The Use of Crystals in Ancient Egypt
Lapiz lazuli, turquoise, carnelian, emerald and clear quartz have been found in Egyptian jewelry. The primary use was for protection and health.
In ancient Egypt the Malachite crystal in powdered form was applied to wounds to fight infection and also applied as a cosmetic.
Other crystals were used in cosmetics; Galena (lead ore) was ground into a powder, then used as eye shadow known as kohl.
Makeup, unguents and perfume were stored in beautiful pale calcite jars. Crystal mines are still in use today worldwide.
Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt
Kohl was made through grinding crystals of galena or malachite into a powder and mixing with either oil or fat to make a cream. It was applied with a stick. Kohl was not available to everyone.
The kohl eyeliner of that time was a toxic, lead based mineral substance thought to contain anti-bacterial qualities when combined with moisture of the eyes.
It would also reduce glare of the sun as athletes use today. Some of our modern culture has chosen to use the eyeliner look of the ancient Egyptians.
This eye cream was then stored in stone or faience pots and then kept in a wood, ivory, silver or other precious metal case. These contained beautiful carved works of art.
There were anti-aging creams and oils that were applied with the hand or brushes. These applicators in addition to cosmetic spoons have frequently been discovered in burial sites.
Cosmetics also helped to ward off sand flies as well as other insects.
Ancient Egyptians wore Wigs
During this period people were plagued by head lice. In order to prevent this they shaved their heads and wore wigs.
Since Egypt was a hot climate having a full head of hair was uncomfortable under the sun. To protect the scalp from sunburn and to be fashionable, wigs were worn.
There are suggestions that ancient Egyptians wore hair extensions as well.
The upper class could afford to have wigs woven of their own hair or another person’s hair (the real thing).
The Egyptians philosophy was to live with mindfulness to be kind, having harmony, balance and gratitude for their gods.
This was evident in their daily life.
Many inventions and habits we practice today have been discovered in the Ancient Egyptians burial sites.
Have you used any Egyptian influenced products? If so, what did you think?
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Header Photo Egyptian woman from Pixabay
https://www.ancient.eu/egypt/ accessed 12/22/2020
https://www.ancient.eu/article/933/daily-life-in-ancient-egypt/ accessed 12/23/2020
https://www.tattoodo.com/a/a-brief-history-of-ancient-egyptian-tattoos-150103 accessed 12/27/2020