The cosmetics worn by men & women in ancient Egypt did more than just beautify the body. Scientific studies have shown that lead-based products like kohl (a powder made of galena) can fight infection.
Women used rouge to color cheeks, whitener to lighten the skin and kohl to outline eyes. Hair dyes, such as boy’s urine and a compound of rat poison (Koremlu), were also common.
It might seem like a modern phenomenon, but makeup has been around for millennia. In ancient Egypt, men and women of all classes used cosmetics for more than just boosting their appearance. They were part of daily life, rituals and even the afterlife.
Egyptians lived in a climate of damp marshes and arid deserts, so they needed to care for their skin. They developed a number of beauty practices that were meant to protect the body and enhance beauty.
For example, the Egyptians used henna to color hair and fingernails. Henna contains an essential oil, so it has been credited with moisturizing the skin and soothing irritation and redness. They also applied perfumes made from myrrh, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, rosemary, peppermint and lily. The use of fragrance also had a spiritual meaning for them, as it was believed to optimize the functioning of the human body.
One of the most important tools of their makeup was a brush, usually made of salvadora persica (the twig of a small tree native to southern India) or animal hair. The brushes were used to apply all sorts of cosmetic substances, ranging from black “kohl” for eye liner and malachite powder for eyeshades to mascara and rouge. The Egyptians used kohl to shield their eyes from the sun and malachite to make them appear larger, which might have helped protect their sensitive eyes.
In addition to makeup, Egyptians also brushed their skin with oils such as sesame, olive and baba amunu, which hydrated the skin. They also used clays to cleanse their faces and bodies.
The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with their beauty, and it shows in their art. We often see images of them with heavy makeup and brightly colored eyes. The Egyptians also incorporated cosmetics into their death rituals, and jars of makeup have been found in their tombs, including ones belonging to women and children. As experimental archaeology continues to evolve, scientists are gaining a better understanding of what the ancients put into their cosmetics. The findings are allowing them to recreate these products for today’s consumers, as well as learn about the effects of these products on the health and wellbeing of ancient people.
Unlike Egypt, where cosmetics were used more for protection from the sun and as an indication of class, Greeks made beauty products out of plants and herbs indigenous to their homeland. They also used honey and milk, which are rich in nutrients and help the skin shed dead cells and rejuvenate.
Rose, a popular ingredient in ancient Greek skincare, soothes dry and sensitive skin. It is packed with nourishing vitamins and essential oils, preventing wrinkles and promoting healthy skin. Moreover, it is known to reduce redness, increase blood circulation and promote cell regeneration. In addition, it is a natural deodorant.
The ancient Greeks also used olive oil as a beauty treatment, making them one of the first people in history to use an effective face mask. They mixed it with a number of ingredients, including berries and flowers, for an instant facial glow. It is still one of the best facial masks for sensitive skin today.
Another popular Greek beauty ingredient was egkhousa (enchousa), a kind of dye made from the roots of the plant Alkanna tinctoria, or dyer’s alkanet. It was used by women to make their cheeks look rosier. The ancient Greeks also made a face cream called kharis. It was a combination of animal feces, urine and bile. Although it didn’t have a pleasant smell, it had an effect similar to talcum powder and was used for a bright and clean complexion.
Despite the fact that many ancient Greek sources like Xenophon and Lysistrata explicitly mention white lead makeup, it is not clear whether most Greek women actually wore this kind of foundation. It seems likely, however, that they did powder their faces with cerussa, as it was a sign of wealth and beauty in ancient Greece.
In ancient Greece, physical attractiveness was closely connected to moral virtues. This reflects the fact that the ancient Greeks were idealists, as opposed to modern Westerners who value beauty primarily for its own sake. The ancient Greeks also believed that beautiful bodies were divine. Their idea of beauty was based on the concept of kharis, which was related to an individual’s dignity and grace as well as their ability to inspire these qualities in others.
Like the Egyptians, Romans used a variety of beauty products. They had a wide range of treatments for skin, rogue, eyes, nails and teeth. It was important for Roman women to look young and healthy. They used different recipes to fight blemishes, freckles and even wrinkles.
Face creams were in high demand for all levels of society, although rich Romans preferred more exotic ingredients. They used a special ingredient, crushed blue-grey haematite (iron ore), to make their complexions shine. There were also ancient recipes for disguising scars and removing pimples. In addition, there were creams made with honey, which was considered a miracle product.
The Romans also used kajal, a kind of eye liner, to darken their brows. It was mixed with soot or antimony and applied using a stick of ivory, bone or glass. This way, they could create a “Frida Kahlo effect”, with eyebrows that met in the middle. It was also fashionable to use colors such as green and blue to enhance the appearance of the eyes.
In Roman times, the ideal of female beauty was quite different from that of Greek antiquity. A beautiful woman was a symbol of wealth and high position in the social hierarchy.
Unlike in Egypt, where cosmetics were used as a form of protection, they became an important part of the feminine image for the Romans. They were used as a sign of feminine virtue, and it was believed that a woman who did not wear makeup was more modest and moral than those who did.
As a result, a number of recipes for cosmetics and perfumes have survived from ancient Rome. However, most of the sources were written by men, and therefore the descriptions were heavily influenced by the authors’ ideas about the role of women in society.
In the Roman Empire, cosmetics were not as well regulated as in modern-day societies. They often contained a mix of dangerous substances and were very expensive. Some ancient formulas used mercury or lead to whiten the skin, and others included substances such as tar, beeswax and tin oxide (a chemical compound). Scientists have been able to recreate some of these old-fashioned beauty products thanks to modern technology and the knowledge of the original recipes.
The ancient Etruscans were a culture of wealthy, self-confident, and cultivated women who were known for their beauty and seduction skills. They were also known for their love of perfumes, and a wide range of beauty treatments. Their beauty routines were highly ritualized and involved specific ingredients, such as crushed pearls and a tar-like substance called bitumen. These were used for their nourishing properties and to add a glossy sheen to the skin.
These cosmetics were also used for religious and spiritual purposes, and often included animal pigments and images of animals. These animals were thought to have both physical and spiritual powers that could be bestowed on the wearer. The makeup and tools were often buried along with the dead. Archaeologists have found ornate jars, palettes, and containers along with stylized tools for applying the products to mummies.
In Late Antiquity, the Byzantines continued some of these traditions. Both men and women were reported to use hair dyes, including a preparation made from boys’ urine, and face whiteners and other makeup. Some of these substances were expensive and difficult to acquire, such as frankincense resin (obtained from Boswellia trees) and myrrh.
Although modern cosmetics are generally safe, some ancient formulations were dangerous. For example, lead was commonly used in facial creams for a pale complexion until it was replaced by safer compounds such as talcum powder. Moreover, some ancient products contained poisons like arsenic. These were put into small wafers and sold to women as a way to brighten their complexion. However, these were incredibly poisonous and caused the death of many women.
Today, there are a number of cosmetic brands that make safe and natural products. A family owned company called Ancient Cosmetics is one of them. It is a black-owned, inner city business that was started after being fed up with industry companies selling harsh chemicals in our communities. The founders of this company wanted to change that by creating a line of high quality, non-toxic products. They were able to attract influencers such as Jayda Wayda and Queen Naija to promote their products.