The history of skincare brings a wealth of ancient knowledge that includes thousands of years of rich culture, traditions, and experimentation. Skin care has always been evolving and is associated with human beings’ quest to find the fountain of youth, while it remains a part of our most basic self-care routines. The following guide tells an informative story of historical accounts of skin care routines that have brought us towards our standards of skin care to this day.
The Ancient Egyptians and the Development of Cosmetics
Our introduction into skincare history should start with the adornment of the eyes. The use of eyeliner is likely to have come from the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians’ use of Kohl as a cosmetic was a daily occurrence. Kohl held both aesthetic meaning and medicinal significance for both men and women who used it as an eyeliner. The Egyptians also utilized Kohl because it held spiritual or religious significance.
Kohl as a Cosmetic
Significant findings of Kohl have been found among the artifacts associated with ancient Egypt, including Kohl applicators, wooden bowls, and Kohl terracotta pots. Some Kohl applicators have been found to date back between 1575 BC and 1194 BC. However, the subsistence of Kohl as a cosmetic dates back to ancient Egypt around 3000 BC.
Kohl as Medicine
Eye issues such as trachoma, conjunctivitis, trichiasis, and cataracts were common among the Egyptians due to the salt and sandy region in which they lived. The Ebers Papyrus, found in 1872, by George Ebers, is where the use of Kohl to remedy these issues began. This remedy was found among more than 699 magical solutions that is said to date back between 1553 BC and 1550 BC. The Antimony, as Kohl was called and what was referred to as “eye past”, also helped to reduce the impact of the hot sun on the eyes of the Egyptians. The ingredients in the Kohl recipe used by the Egyptians does have some benefits according to today’s science:
• Chaksu – The Chaksu seeds as they are called in Hindi, were used as an ingredient to make the Kohl-based eye paste used by the Egyptians. According to the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, cassia absus, as the Chaksu plant is called botanically, has many benefits, including its use as an antibacterial, antihypertensive, antiglycation, antifertility, and antifungal properties.
• Laurionite and Phosgenite Synthesis – The compound form of Phosgenite and Laurionite was synthesized by the Egyptians using painstaking efforts. This synthesis of medicinal elements did not occur within their natural environment. However, these added ingredients have been found to produce some remarkable benefits. According to ChemistryWorld.com and the neurochemistry experts that led the group that studied more than 50 Egyptian cosmetic samples at the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, the synthesis of Laurionite and Phosgenite triggers the body’s immune defense system.
• Zinc Oxide – The addition of zinc oxide within galena or Kohl was also a relevant medicinal element. Although this ingredient may have been used to boost immune responses that protected against ailments, such as the Egyptian sun, wind, and insects, today we know that it offers ocular benefits. According to the National Eye Institute, zinc oxide taken along with other high antioxidants has been shown to reduce the incidence of eye diseases such as macular degeneration that is linked to age-based issues.
Kohl as Religious Significance
The use of Kohl among the Egyptians held some spiritual significance for rich and poor people within the area. According to lore, the use of Kohl was associated with the God of Healing, known as Horus. Kohl also had some spiritual connections to both Hathor and Amun Ra. However, to pay homage to Horus, it is said that Egyptians would apply Kohl to their eyes at least three times each day. This tradition is still upheld in other cultures as well, such as in Muslim cultures. For example, the Prophet Muhammad would apply Kohl three times around his left eye, while he would only apply it twice to his right eye. This traditional is still held among Muslim men during the celebration of Ramadan. Furthermore, another reason why the Egyptians wore Antimony was they felt that they needed extra protection from evil. As a result, they believed that drawing the Eye of Horus and painting the Kohl around their eyes would protect them from evil, such as in the case of the “evil eye”.
Lady King Hatshepsut and Kohl Use
King Hatshepsut was a lady king that has also been depicted with Kohl around her eyes. However, some historians believe that she may have accidentally poisoned herself to death using a cosmetic salve that contained a carcinogenic tar. The study of the lady king’s body revealed that her bones did contain cancer. However, a definitive answer as to if the skincare salve she used actually killed her is still under investigation.
Skin Care and the Use of Rose Quartz
Rose Quartz held significant meaning to the Romans. Greeks, and the Egyptians. There is some evidence dating back to 7000 BC that these ancient people used rose quartz as part of their skin care routines in the form of face masks. The Rose Quartz was more than the stone of love due to its association with the Goddess Isis, who was known for her youth and beauty. According to mythical legend, the Goddess Isis would take the rose quartz and rub the gem over her face to preserve her youthful looking skin. Today, Egyptian women continue this practice by rubbing the quartz over their faces to prevent wrinkles and preserve their youthful glows.
Queen Cleopatra and Skincare Research
It was none other than Queen Cleopatra herself that helped to start the history of cosmetics, in regards to beauty and research. Born in 69 BC, Queen Cleopatra, did more than rule fiercely. She was able to develop her own manufacturing plant, including creating many natural perfumes, serums, skincare tinctures, and cosmetics. It’s no secret that she is known for sporting the Kohl look along with other Egyptian gods and goddesses. However, here are some specific reasons why Cleopatra made a name for herself in the beauty industry:
One of Cleopatra’s beauty secrets to treat her entire skin was to bathe in sour milk. It is a mystery regarding how she discovered the connection between sour milk and the smoothing of her skin. However, we know that sour milk offers us the combined benefits of alpha hydroxy acid and lactic acid for which spa’s use as a chemical peel to increase smoothness and a vibrant skin tone today.
Queen Cleopatra was thought to have started the trend of using royal jelly to enhance skincare. Women use royal jelly as a daily moisturizer that is made from nursing bees. Royal Jelly is said to provide many benefits:
• Nourishing the skin with essential nutrients
• Deep moisturization
• Boosts of collagen productivity
• Increased elasticity of the skin
• Anti-aging cell regeneration
Through her research, Queen Cleopatra was able to make the connection between henna and the nourishment of her hands and nails. Some women take advantage of the benefits of Henna. Such benefits include Henna being a safe and natural nail color alternative, providing protection from nail fungus, and improving nail strength.
Natural Pale Skin and the Shang Dynasty
1760 BC marked the first time that the Shang Dynasty began skincare. The dynasty valued the look of naturally pale skin. However, painted pale faces were also highly fashionable. To achieve the natural pale look, cosmetics were commissioned that included face powders that incorporated mushrooms, lead, and skin lightening agents.
Europeans and Pale Skin
Europe also caught the craze for the pale skin look. This European standard for beauty included having pale white skin with blue colored eyes and cheeks pinched with rouge. This quintessential beauty standard increased the demand for beauty products that were lead-based and created to lighten the skin. As the European Middle Ages progressed the pale look along with curvy women became mainstream.
Queen Elizabeth and Pale Face Look
Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled between 1558 through 1603, was one of the main European characters to put the pale look to use on a routine basis. Some believe that she initially used a lead-based cosmetic mixture to remove her freckles, which was a sign of lower class. However, others believed that she had blemishes from having smallpox as a child. As a result, covering up those blemishes to meet the beauty standard of a queen was necessary.
1800’s and Privileged Skin Care Routines
The history of cosmetics also included the privileged skin care cosmetics used within the 1800’s. Many women that were considered upper class had access to makeup and skincare products that many others did not. Natural skincare products were still produced such as facial masks that included lemon juice, egg yolks, oatmeal, honey, and Zinc Oxide, other natural ingredients. However, the 1800’s saw a surge of other types of skincare products that emerged, such as baby powder, Vaseline, and Chapstick. Privileged skincare often meant that white women were privy to new developments in beauty and cosmetics.
1900’s and Birth of New Skin Care Routines and Makeup
The rise of modern skin care includes the development of many famous cosmetic brands and products that we still use today. However, this new era in cosmetics and skincare came about through the emergence of several significant events. First, we saw the birth of the Food and Drug Administration or what we know as the FDA. In the cosmetic industry, the FDA helped to regulate unsafe practices in makeup, cosmetics, and skincare. Sunscreen was also developed during the mid 1930’s, while privileged skincare became a thing of the past.
Later within the 1900’s, the introduction of laser-based skin treatments, skin peels, and tanning devices became popular rather than skin lightening products. Women also began to shave with modern shave products that included moisturizing shaving creams, waxes, and other routine beauty products. The development of scientifically based skincare formulas also took off to treat specific skincare issues. However, many over-the-counter skin care products and prescription products were developed, such as emollients, rash creams, and moisturizers for extra dry skin.
Today’s Skin Care
The history of skincare has evolved significantly to include almost everyone. Many products have been developed to help reduce a wide variety of skincare issues, while specific spot-treatment products are also available. The FDA continues to regulate the development of products so that they are safe for the public. However, we now have access to products that are created for virtually every skin color, texture, and tone.
Today’s convenient store shelves and online skincare boutiques offer more than just old school skin lighteners. We now have access to a plethora of skincare products, including toners, body washes, acne treatments, dry-skin moisturizers, anti-ageing creams, and much more.
Women and men can indulge in the use of suntan lotions and unique skin care products that almost anyone can afford. Yet, there are still skincare products, makeup, and potions for those that want to pay top dollar to improve their skin’s appearance, slow the impact of aging, and even reduce the look of stress. Now men and women can access the best of cutting-edge skincare research to improve their skin from head to toe.
Reviewing the history of cosmetics means to look at how skin care has evolved to include both specific and broad skincare needs. Now, the use of science and technology and skincare research has made many products available to the masses, while still offering exclusive products for those that want high-end cosmetics and skincare solutions. Today, cosmetic products are easily accessible, and many celebrity skincare products can be purchased online. Products for the upper elite are still available. However, now the history of skincare has laid down the platform for everyone to be able to create their own skincare routines and get access to both enhanced products and natural products alike.