Mind Candy

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Beauty secrets of the ancient Egyptians

Posted by mandyf on July 24, 2012

When people think of the ancient Egyptians, the first thought is usually pyramids, King Tit’s sarcophagus, or those crazy paintings on the wall with long bearded dudes carrying spears or those cats that look like royalty. Rarely do people think of the vast contributions that the ancient Egyptians made to the modern day industry of cosmetics. While many other civilizations had their own beauty secrets, in many cases the practices employed were later found to be toxic leading to paying the ultimate price for beauty. There are six significant contributions to modern day beauty and or style that remain to this day – and soon you’ll know what they are.

Starting at the top, the ancient Egyptians were the frontrunners in hair dying procedures. While many cultures had ways of dying hair that lasted only as long as the next washing or first rain – which could be awhile – it was the ancient Egyptians who are believed to have pioneered permanent hair coloring. Although it is doubted their formulas ever met what we consider permanent today so far as hair coloring goes, they made hair dyes from a mixture that included the blood from a calf or bull that has been found to be very durable. So the next time you dye your hair, you know that in part the procedure of today follows parts of that ancient formula.

While few people if any use crocodile dung to make their eyebrows look fuller these days, the ancient Egyptians are believed to have been the first to pay special attention to the eyebrows. They mainly strived for a full but defined sleek look when it came to eyebrows, The aforementioned croc dung was one way to achieve that, while the simpler way was simply removing the eyebrows completely and then penciling in new ones that met their specifications. Caring for eyebrows is an industry today, but it all began way back when.

The ancient Egyptians were big on finding anti-aging formulas. While Cleopatra was an advocate of milk baths – which incidentally do work to some degree thanks to the lactic acid in milk – they had another bath that dates to at least 1500 BC that is rumored to work better. This formula was sometimes added to a bath,  but gained widespread use when used as a paste. The magic formula included honey, baking powder, salt, and powdered alabaster.

Blush is also a beauty preparation credited to the ancient Egyptians. While using iron oxide to make blush was hardly the healthiest thing that could be used, it worked extremely well. For the most part, the iron oxide minerals used were hematite and ochre.

Given that the sun in Egypt can be brutal, skin protection was a must for nearly everyone. At various times, documents show that animal fat, palm oil, and castor oil were all used to help protect skin from the dry and often harsh environment. While all worked to some degree, it is said that palm oil worked the best.

Given the sun was so harsh as discussed above, it could do some serious damage to the eyes to go around all day without some form of eye protection. The ancient Egyptians addressed that by using Kohl powder which was made from ground up minerals to deflect the rays of the sun. The added benefit was that it also made the eyes water which kept them moist and kept flies away from them which helped prevent transmission of diseases carried by flies. In essence, the first beauty products for the eyes were really created for protective measures – the beauty enhancement was just a collateral benefit.

It can be said that the ancient Egyptians contributed much to modern beauty and skin care. Although we may not follow the exact same formulas, they served as the starting point for generations of people that tweaked and played with them to reach where we are today.


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