Cosmetics were all the range in ancient Egypt. Women and men. Rich and poor. Everyone used them. And not just for vanity reasons. Back then, makeup was a necessity that helped them protect their skin against the boiling desert sun and insect bites.
Makeup was even used for religious rituals! In fact, cosmetics were so important to the Egyptians that they were buried with them so they could use them in the afterlife.
Curious to find out their beauty secrets? Read on:
The hot, torrid and windy climate of Egypt dries out skin, cracks it open and burns it. That’s why moisturiser was an absolute must for ancient Egyptians. Even workers received body oils to keep their bodies hydrated as part of their wages (lest they revolted). Sometimes they’d even use honey to moisturise their skin. The Egyptians also made lotions to remove stretch marks, stimulate hair growth and prevent baldness… but who knows how well these worked. They probably didn’t!
The Ancient Egyptians cared about personal hygiene a lot. They believed an unclean and smelly body was impure, so they kept themselves clean and well groomed at all times. They’d wash themselves frequently using soaps made with clay or ash mixed with scented oils.
The Ancient Egyptians used black and green paints on their eyes. The black paint, made from powdered galena (now known as kohl), was to protect eyes from the hot sun.
The green paint, made from malachite powder (a green coloured mineral), was used to make eyes appear larger. Plus, they believed this paint invoked the eye of Horus, the god of The Sky & Sun and healing. If you wore it, the god would protect you.
To make these paints, the Egyptians powdered the minerals on a palette and then 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. Red ochre was also 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 they used to paint nails and dye grey hair. FYI, both men and women used it 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.
They 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, you could tell who was rich and who was poor 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.
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