Cosmetics Use in Ancient Egypt

Egypt, one of the earliest civilizations on the earth was not only remembered today as a birthplace of the western civilized world and place from witch which many sciences and arts spread across the Europe, but also as a home of one of the most commonly used beauty items that are used today – cosmetics. It was there that cosmetics were embraced by almost everyone, enabling them not only to maintain better body appearance and fashion, but also giving very important medical benefits to the civilization that lived in very harsh desert conditions.

Ancient Egypt and Cosmetics

Over 3 thousand years of experience and practice with creating various cosmetic products have enabled Egyptian royalty, aristocracy, and middle class to fully embrace cosmetics and make it to be important part of their lives. Greek traders who visited Egypt around 1000 BC mentioned that they were astounded with fashion shown in public places - almost everyone wore cosmetic products of some kind, and not in small quantities! But that was not the end, because even their statues of gods and public buildings with human motif decorations wore cosmetic paints. There cosmetics were not only celebrated as a fashion products, but as items that were gifted to them by the gods. Religious priests who guarded the secret recipes for many ceremonial oils fought constantly against enabling Egyptian traders to share their goods with the surrounding civilizations.

The first archeological findings of Egyptian cosmetics is dated to 3100BC (ceremonial palette that was used for grinding and mixing of cosmetic ingredients), but more regular artifacts could be found after 1500BC. One of such great findings was located in the tomb of the Pharaoh Thutmosis 3 (c1450BC) which featured not only buried consorts of the ruler, but also their fashion items. Few of those surviving cosmetic jars even managed to preserve cleansing oils that was used to remove elaborate mascaras, lipsticks and eyeshades.

The most important tool in Egyptian fashion was brush. With it they applied almost every cosmetic substance they had. The most common brush was made from the salvadorapersica tree, which in addition to applying facial paints was also used as a toothbrush by many. Most commonly, Egyptians used black “kohl” as an eyeliner and green malachite as an eye shadow. Mascara was also popular. These products were made not only to make wearer more beautiful, but they also protected their skin and eyes from diseases that could be caused by the harsh African desert wind (grind of tiny particles and attacks by wind-blown organisms). Oils, pastes and hair colors also contained heavy metals (such as copper and lead) which successfully fought bacteria’s and infections. Finally, full body paints that were based on Chalk and white lead pigment were used by nobles who wanted to showcase their pale skin as a sign of aristocracy and position.