Cleopatra was well known for her legendary political skills and beauty, which certainly helped her being one of the most powerful woman in the history.
Ancient Egyptians, an enlightening civilization, were quite enthusiasts of beauty rituals, which had symbolic meaning and practical uses too. Perfumes, makeup and some beauty routine was seen as a manner to honour their gods and goddesses.
You will never see a painting of an Egyptian woman of that era without the dramatic black kohl around their eyes. And the wealthier the woman was, the more refined her beauty rituals were.
We have ancient Egypt to thank for not only eyeliners and cat-eye, but also exfoliation, face masks, deodorant and waxing – well, maybe I’m not so thankful about that painful one… But many of the luxurious treatments they created are still used today.
Here are the 11 ancient Egypt beauty tips that you can add now to your own beauty regimen:
Ancient Egyptians made soap using clay and olive oil, which would not only cleanse but also nourish and heal the skin.
Before applying makeup, the Egyptians would get their skin ready. Exfoliation with Dead Sea salts to remove all impurities was one of the first steps.
Cleanliness was crucial for Egyptians and they regarded body hair, including that on their heads, uncivilized. To obtain smooth skin, women used beeswax or a sugar, lemon and water mixture to wax. “Sugaring” is a method of hair removal still used in our days. Around 3000 BC, Egyptians were already using tweezers made from shells, pumice stone and razors made of copper to remove all unwanted hair. Hair removal meant the person was from a high class but was also a treatment against lice, which was common in the region.
The youth was as idealized then as it is today, so Cleopatra and her contemporaries indulged in long milk baths to nourish and hydrate their skin. This is definitely an ancient Egypt beauty tip that I’ll try one of those days!
Face masks were very popular back then. They mixed milk and honey to keep skin supple and avoid wrinkles. Milk’s lactic acid exfoliates and rejuvenates the skin. Today you can find beauty products containing hydroxy acids, AHAs, which are similar to lactic acid.
Ancient Egypt Beauty tips for smooth baby-like skin? Apply over the body oils such as almond, sesame, moringa or castor oil, infused with flowers or spices. Egyptians had to protect their skin against the dry desert climate so not only women but also men applied regularly vegetable oil emollients.
Perfumes and Deodorants
Women applied incense pellets as a deodorant for their underarms. Scented ointments perfumed ancient Egyptian’s bodies. They used frankincense and myrrh (the same the three wise kings offered to baby Jesus) in perfumes, skin and dental care products. These ingredients also served as an insect repellent and for the embalming process of the dead.
Men and women already knew a trick or two to enhance their natural beauty! Kohl, the black eyeliner made of sulfites, was a must. Malachite powder mixed with animal fat was also used as eyeshadow, giving them those beautiful big eyes we see on hieroglyphs and paintings. The thick dark line over the eyes had actually a practical reason besides beauty; they protected the eyes from the bright glare of the desert sun. Kohl also had anti-bacterial properties. As a matter of fact, the Egyptian word for makeup derives from the word “to protect”.
Red lips were a classic, not only to enhance the wearer’s beauty but also to protect the lips from the hot desert wind. Lipsticks were made by mixing vegetable oil or animal fat with ochre and sometimes, as in Cleopatra’s case, with crushed beetles. The result was a beautiful red colour that could be enhanced with red dyes from seaweed, iodine and bromine mannite. These early lipsticks were highly toxic and could cause illnesses and even death, talk about having to suffer to be beautiful!
Long before Rihanna and co, Egyptian women were already painting their eyebrow. They burnt almonds to fill their brows out and define them.
Women used henna to dye orange and yellow their fingernails. Henna is a natural conditioner and promotes growth.
How about indulging yourself with a beauty-ritual weekend?
Photo by Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons