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Ancient Cosmetics

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ancient cosmetics

The ancient Egyptians made a strong connection between beauty and spirituality. This can be seen in their beauty rituals and even in their burial traditions. It is common for scented oils, cosmetics and kohl-rimmed eyes to be found in tombs from predynastic times.

During this time, they also used a whitening foundation called cerussa, which contained white lead shavings. They also favored light complexions and used crushed mulberries for lips and cheek stains.


The ancients had an inordinate preoccupation with beauty and they were keen to use all sorts of powders, creams, lotions, perfumes, oils and all kinds of body adornments. They also strove to remedy common problems of vanity such as grey hair and baldness. Written and pictorial records along with remains of the materials used to make these cosmetics demonstrate how concerned they were about appearance.

Cleopatra’s lipstick, for example, contained crushed carmine beetles which gave it a rich crimson colour. She would also bathe in donkey milk to keep her skin smooth. As well as adorning their bodies, the Egyptians used cosmetics to ward off evil spirits during the afterlife. They applied masks to their faces and used makeup to outline the eyes and lips – examples of these can be found in tomb paintings, such as one of Nefertiti busting out with her eye liner. They also used a red ochre and vegetable mix to blush their cheeks, as illustrated in the 12th-century BCE Turin ‘Erotic’ papyrus.

Another common cosmetic was kohl which was made from olive oil, beeswax and plant extracts and was often used to define the eyebrows. They also made a lip and cheek stain from ground carmine beetles. They stored their cosmetics in containers such as reed tubes, glass (women and fish were popular shapes) and faience or stone. Many of these are preserved and can be seen in museums today.

The ancient Egyptians had a very different view of life to the modern world in that they believed they were composed of both physical and spiritual parts or aspects. Each human being had a ba (personality or soul), ka (life force) and swt (shadow). When a person died, their swt left their body to become one of the blessed dead. The ka and ba were then released from the body, but they needed to have a place to come back to at some point. The purpose of a burial was to give these spirit components a home to return to when they wished. The king’s job was to propitiate and praise the gods, set order (ma’at) in the world and re-unite the ba and ka with the swt of humanity in a state of perfect harmony.


The Greeks were obsessed with beauty and used a wide variety of natural cosmetics. They had access to some of the finest ingredients and, like the Egyptians, believed that the physical appearance of a woman was important to her social status. The Greeks held Aphrodite, the goddess of love, as their standard of beauty and drew and carved her images into everything from coins to building facades. This is why women’s faces were often depicted with a wide smile and long wavy hair in vases, carved relief carvings, and even engraved on the handles of their wine cups.

Greek cosmetics were largely made from natural ingredients such as honey, clay, goat’s milk and herbs. Honey was widely used due to its natural beautifying and healing properties as well as its scented perfumed aroma. Women enjoyed luxurious honey baths and milk skin care routines in order to maintain supple and smooth complexions. Olive oil was also used in a similar manner as it has cleansing and moisturizing properties. Aphrodite is depicted as wearing an olive branch in her hair and it has been suggested that the Greeks used a mixture of honey and olive oil to keep their hair healthy and shiny.

Other popular cosmetics among the Greeks included rouge for the cheeks, whitener to make skin paler and black eyeliner and lipstick. They would grind charcoal to make it darker for kohl, or use ground iron oxide to create rouge colored blushes and redden lips with beeswax. The Greeks also used powder to connect or create the illusion of connected eyebrows (unibrows).

The ancient Greeks were very concerned with their looks and they were known as pleasure-loving dandies. The Romans and the Byzantines inherited their preoccupation with beauty and made the use of cosmetics even more popular.

The team at Ancient Cosmetics has built a brand on making the best natural skincare products from recipes inspired by their ancestors and with an emphasis on customer service. The family based company started in their kitchen and has since grown to their own small strip mall space, employing 10 people locally and working with influencers to grow their brand. Their commitment to quality and staying true to their roots has allowed them to thrive and become one of the most successful brands in the industry.


Ethiopia is a mountainous country located in the Horn of Africa with Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan to the north, Somalia to the east and Kenya to the south. Its landscape is varied and includes high plateaus, the Great Rift Valley, and many rivers. The Ethiopian population is largely ethnically homogenous and is very religious with two-thirds being Orthodox Christians and the remainder Muslim or following traditional religions.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia has made progress towards industrialization and has stable democratic institutions. It is also a member of the African Union and has sought substantial foreign aid. The government has worked to improve health care services and sanitation and has made efforts to reduce infant mortality and poverty. However, there is still a shortage of doctors and life spans are low.

Women in ancient times used a variety of powders to enhance their natural beauty, including chalk for a lighter complexion and kohl eyeliner to create the perfect smokey look. These powders were likely made from crushed minerals and plants, and they probably contained toxic materials like lead.

The alum stone, which is still found in many African homes today, was an important cosmetic tool for a number of reasons. It was used as an deodorant to keep sweaty armpits at bay, and it was also used for shaving, hair removal, to heal canker soles and cracked heels and to treat lice. In addition, the alum stone was known to tighten skin and prevent wrinkles.

In recent times, Ethiopia has made progress towards economic growth and democracy with the government led by prime minister Negasso Gidada. It has established warm relations with the United States and Western Europe. The country is currently divided into nine administrative regions and two chartered cities. Its constitution grants significant power to regional governments.

There are 84 different indigenous languages in Ethiopia. The most common are Amharic, Oromifa and Tigrinya. Christianity has a large presence in the northern highlands and is also prevalent in southern Ethiopia, while Muslims are mostly concentrated in central Ethiopia and adherents of traditional beliefs have a strong presence in south and western Ethiopia.


In the world of ancient cosmetics, the Romans are one of the most well known for their use of beauty products. Like the Egyptians and Greeks before them, they were deeply concerned about how their bodies and faces looked. As such, ideals emerged about what the perfect face and body should look like. Both men and women sought to achieve these ideals with a variety of cosmetic products and treatments.

This is largely evident in the art and literature of the period as well as in the thousands of small glass and pottery jars, containers and applicators that have been found across the Roman empire. These items are now used to reconstruct and test recipes of the cosmetics that were made in Roman times as they were used by their owners.

Some of these recipes were quite dangerous as they contained lead, a product that was widely used in the Roman world at this time. For example, one recipe used a substance called biacca (which was probably toxic) to create a whitening foundation for the skin. Another recipe involved using a powder that was created by grinding together tin, gold, copper, and a bit of white lead to create cheek rouges and lip colors.

The Romans were also very fond of kajal and used it mixed with soot or antimony to line their eyes. They also used a similar combination of ingredients to create green and blue colored eye shadows. It is thought that this was the inspiration behind the “blue eyes” that were so popular with artists from the time.

Like their Greek counterparts, the Roman women often sought to have their eyebrows meet in the center. They also liked a bright smile, which is reflected in many artwork of the period.

Although some Roman writers – all male – did regard cosmetics as the preoccupation of prostitutes or unfaithful wives trying to catch a husband, it seems that most women of the upper classes carried on the make up traditions of their Greek predecessors. It was not uncommon for them to apply makeup while reading a book or listening to music.

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