The earliest Ancient Egyptians lived in a region of Northeastern Africa near the banks of the Nile around 3500 B.C. Yearly flooding of this fertile region carried with it wealth and plentiful harvests that rewarded its inhabitants with the ability to grow food and experiment with natural ingredients. Often, these natural ingredients were used to craft cosmetics and special skincare preparations for beauty and religious purposes.
Many ancient Egyptians lived their days as scribes, farmers, and craftsmen while others existed as nobles. Despite their differences, there was one thing that brought both social statuses together: cosmetics.
Beauty was often regarded as a sign of holiness; the act of applying cosmetics (done in both life and death) was thought to have a magical and spiritual purpose. Cosmetics and skincare were important parts of daily living for both men and women. The ancient Egyptians designed intricate wigs, shaved their hair, and began to establish much of what is considered the beauty ideal for the present-day.
In life, much attention was paid to the eyes, and dark black kohl eyeliner was used to emphasize the area and create a more almond-like shape. Blue and green eye paints were used with the belief that they could ward off bad luck. Who can forget the iconic image of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra? Her hair and makeup made that role. In death, tombs were enclosed with religious items, one of them being cosmetic palettes.
Ancient Egyptians, though they rarely lived over the age of 40, concerned themselves with keeping their skin cared for. Long, hot days under in the arid desert were enough to keep the skin dry, dehydrated, and in need of nourishment. Royals were especially conscious of preserving youth, and they turned to milk, honey, olive oil, sesame oil, and castor oil to help keep wrinkles at bay. These ingredients were commonly used in cleansing rituals, such as creams and scrubs, due to their moisturizing properties for the skin. It has even been said that ancient Egyptians valued their skincare and cosmetics so much they were sometimes received as wages.
Ancient Egyptians are also credited with designing cheek and lip stains derived from clays, as well as hair and nail pigments obtained from henna. To this day, we still use henna in hair products to help with conditioning; henna is also used to give reddish highlights to locks. Having a strong connection to spirituality, ancient Egyptians believed that cosmetics were more magical than medical.
Ancient Egyptians also led the way in deodorant, using plants and incense in areas of perspiration to ward off body odor. Wrinkles due to daily sun exposure were common. To treat this, ancient Egyptians also coated their skin in a wax made with herbs and ground plants and their juices, so the next time to swipe on some color, give your tresses a conditioning treatment, or apply your favorite clay mask thank the ancient beauty lovers who came before you.