Ancient Beauty Secrets – Ancient Skincare
Ever wonder what the ancient Greeks used for skincare? How did the Egyptians become masters of the smokey eye? What did the Mayans use for that “natural” sun-kissed glow? Ancient history is a treasure trove of beauty secrets, and a little research goes a long way toward unraveling our modern beauty conundrums.
What did Cleopatra, Queen Nefertiti, or Helen of Troy do for their complexions? How were ancient royals, peasants, and even slaves expected to look? The pages of ancient history are filled with beauty secrets that reveal fascinating information about the products available in ancient times, how they were made, and what ingredients ancient people considered favorable. Ancient civilizations used everything from animal fat to arsenic paste in their quest for eternal youth.
Many of these “ancient beauty secrets” are still in use today but have changed dramatically. Ancient beauty products included everything from perfumes to pomades. Couple this with the fact that different cultures had different standards of beauty and preferred vastly different ingredients, and it becomes clear that there is no such thing as one “ancient secret.” That said, there were some key ingredients that were popular throughout the world at different points in history.
Ancient Greek Skin Care
One of the most popular cosmetic ingredients in Ancient Greece was olive oil. According to legend, a Greek cook named Calamus invented soap by mixing olive oil with wood ash from Mt. Sapo, so it could be used for cleaning the utensils at sacrifices. When he washed his hands with this mixture, however, his skin became soft and smooth. It was clear that olive oil had cleansed and beautifying properties (source). Olive oil was such an important ingredient in Greek skincare that it is still commonly used by women in Greece today.
There were many cosmetic recipes for skincare available in Ancient Greece. One of the simplest examples, which is still popular today, involves mixing powdered white lead with red ochre or saffron to form a paste that can be applied to the body. A similar combination of white lead and red earth was used as eye paint (source). Both recipes were highly poisonous, however, and would have done more harm than good.
Beauty in Ancient Egypt
Beauty was a huge deal in Ancient Egypt, and both men and women enjoyed using cosmetics to enhance their assets. Women were not only interested in how they looked but also in keeping up with the latest styles of makeup, which changed throughout the centuries for different events, societies, or occasions.
One of the most iconic symbols of ancient Egyptian beauty is the “Cleopatra look.” This style is characterized by black kohl eyeliner, blue eye shadow, white face powder, and red lipstick. Although modern interpretations might be more subtle than this dramatic mix of colors, the original Egyptian makeup was used to mimic female genitalia. Men believed that these cosmetics would bring them good luck in hunting or fertility rituals. The colors used in beauty marks were also significant: black for desert dwellers or to represent fertility, white for the nobility or young brides, and red for people who had died.
Queen Nefertiti’s famous bust shows a subtly enhanced beauty, with light eye shadow and reddish cheeks. It is an example of the more natural look that was popular in this time period.
Ancient Roman Skin Care
Romans were known for their elaborate and detailed beauty rituals, which often required a lot of work, time, and money to maintain. Even slaves wore makeup and had access to the best beauty products (source). The Romans even devised a way to share cosmetic recipes with other people. Instead of writing, they used a system of symbols to communicate beauty secrets (source).
The Romans also attributed great power to cosmetics. They believed that the smoke from burning ambergris would make women more attractive; ambergris was typically used in face powders for this reason (source). Another trick involved sitting over straw fires to make the hair shine or sleeping in a vase filled with chicken blood to make it thicker. Although these tricks seem strange today, they show how much effort Romans put into their skincare routines.
It might be hard to do justice to Ancient Roman beauty standards without using modern technology, but that is what makes Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome so intriguing. From olive oil to kohl eyeliner, Ancient Greek skin care featured a variety of ingredients that would have been helpful for the skin. And by describing the colors and components of makeup throughout history, we can learn how they were used to enhance certain types of beauty. Whether you want a natural look with a hint of glamour or a dramatic style, you can find inspiration from ancient cultures around the world.
We hope you enjoyed learning about ancient beauty secrets. If you liked the article, please let us know in the comments section. If you have any other historical facts about skin care or makeup, please tell us about them in the comments! Don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.