Beauty rituals in Ancient Egypt
The thought of Ancient Egypt evokes the images of Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Nefertari - women with unsurpassed beauty and charm, still glorified by history today. Apart from the legends about these beauties, the generation that followed had inherited a number of cosmetic recipes, too. Some of them contain quite bizarre ingredients and are therefore inapplicable today, but others have been appropriately valued by the modern cosmetic industry.
The perfect appearance for the ancient Egyptians does not differ significantly from the modern conceptions of beauty. Its characteristic features were slender figure with a thin waist, big eyes, full lips and straight nose.
Men used to spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, as well, and used all sorts of ointments, perfumes and make-up, led by the desire to increase their attractiveness.
To make their eyes even more expressive, the Egyptians visibly elongated their eyes and eyebrows with black colorant, often made of the toxic crystal stibnite. They used to emphasize their lower eyelids by adding green ground minerals mixed with oils, while their pupils they expanded with juice of belladonna. Naturally red gifts of nature made women's lips more tempting. Similar dyes or simply peppery plants were used to tone up the blush of the cheeks. The removal of all this maquillage was done with a decoction of celery and hemp.
The members of this ancient civilization paid particular attention to personal hygiene. Soaps made of healing clay and olive oil cleaned their bodies from head to toe, and to remove dead cells in use came sea salt or baking soda mixed with honey for more sensitive areas like the face. The secret to Cleopatra’s amazing skin was hidden in a bathtub full of donkey milk, honey and almond oil, in which the ruler immersed daily. The perfect combination of these three ingredients acted as both a gentle exfoliant and a deeply nourishing emulsion.
The Egyptians certainly did not underestimate the role of the smile in terms of overall appearance. They cleaned their teeth regularly using reed brushes to keep them white and healthy. The oldest recipe for toothpaste known to mankind belongs to the representatives of this magnificent civilization. It constitutes of dried blossoms of iris, pepper, mint, salt and several other ingredients that cause a furor at a recent International Congress of Dentistry.
The ancient beauties did not tolerate excessive body hair. Thanks to the method, invented by them, known today as "sugaring", millions of women are able to enjoy smooth skin for weeks. It is believed that the famous Nefertiti was one of the first admirers of epilation with sugar syrup.
Since lice were a great scourge at the time, the Egyptians often had to shave their heads with a razor. Despite the availability of effective wigs, not every woman was reluctant to part with her "mane". Therefore, numerous recipes for hair cosmetics have survived to this day – from strengthening masks with olive, almond and sesame oils, to styling products made of coconut and shea, all the way to coloring agents like our favorite henna.