Everyone in ancient Egypt used cosmetics: both men and women, the rich and the poor. Makeup was used for vanity reasons, to protect skin against the environment (boiling hot desert sun and insects bites for example) and for religious rituals. Cosmetics were so important to the Egyptians that even in their tombs, archaeologists have found makeup and ointments.
Curious to find out their beauty secrets? Read on:
The hot, torrid and windy climate of Egypt causes skin to become dry, cracked and burnt. Therefore, it was very important for the Ancient Egyptians to always keep their skin moisturized. So important, that even workers received body oils to keep their bodies hydrated as part of their wages. Apart from body oils, the Egyptians also applied honey, which has moisturizing properties, on their skin. Some lotions were also used by women to remove stretch marks while others were applied by men to stimulate hair growth and prevent baldness.
Personal hygiene was very important for the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that an unclean and smelly body was impure and so they kept themselves clean and well groomed. They would wash themselves frequently using soaps there were a paste made with clay or ash mixed with oils that were often scented.
To decorate their eyes, the Ancient Egyptians used black and green paints. The black paint was derived from powdered galena (now known as kohl) and it was supposed to protect eyes from the hot sun. The green paint was derived from malachite powder (a green coloured mineral) and was used because it would make eyes appear larger. In addition, green paint was believed to invoke the eye of Horus, the god of The Sky & Sun and also of healing. For this reason, the Egyptians thought green paint would protect those who wore it.
To make these paints, the Egyptians powdered the minerals on a palette and then, they mixed them with a substance (probably derived from animal fats) that would make them adhere to the eyes better. To apply these paints they used either their fingertips or little sticks made of wood, bone or ivory.
The Egyptians used red ochre mixed with fat or gum resin to colour cheeks and lips. In addition, red ochre was mixed with kohl and sycamore juice to create a mixture that could help heal scars caused by burning.
Henna is a natural dye derived from the leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis shrub. Once its green leaves are crushed and dried, they create a reddish powder. The Egyptians would mix this powder with water to form a paste, which was used to paint nails and dye grey hair. In addition, it was also used by both men and women to stain their lips red.
The Egyptians loved strong scents and made lots of perfumes using ingredients like myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, lily, cedar, aloe, rosemary, rose, olive oil and almond oil blended with animal fats and oils.
The Egyptians knew several ways to make perfumes. A common method was enfleurage: flowers, roots or resins were soaked in layers of fat to create creams and pomades. These were worn in the shape of a cone on top of their heads and would melt throughout the day, running down their faces and necks, scenting them.
Another popular method was called maceration. Basically, they would heat fats or oils to a temperature of 65 degrees Celsius. Then, they would add flowers, herbs or fruits to it. Finally, the mixture was sieved and, once cooled, shaped into cones or balls.
On festive occasions, both men and women wore wings made of human hair. Archaeologists also found short fine tooth combs and hair pins used by Egyptians on their hair.
Although everyone, regardless of their social status wore makeup, the rich and the poor could be distinguished by the quality of the applicators and pots they used. Rich people kept their cosmetics in beautiful ornate and jewelled containers and used ivory applicators, while the poor had clay pots and small sticks.