July 6, 2012

Ancient beauty secrets of the past – would we try them today?

Believe it or not, our ancestors weren’t all hairy, unwashed Neanderthals who didn’t care about their appearance. Our more recent forefathers (and mothers of course) invented many innovative preening techniques – although some would make your toes curl just thinking about them!

We took a look at four of the colourful ways in which people used to beautify themselves and asked the question, would we go through the same thing nowadays?
Abrasive hair removal
These days, laser hair removal can remove unwanted stubble – but ancient civilisations like the Egyptians used some pretty abrasive methods to get rid of body hair. Both men and women from all classes used pumice stones to literally tear out unwanted follicles, rubbing it in circles over their arms and legs, and ripping out strands of hair as they went. Shells were also used to pluck out hairs one by one and the first razors were made from sharpened flint. The pumice stone technique still exists today (primarily in Asia) and can leave the body looking soft and smooth.

Would we use it?
Well, it seems any effective hair removal involves some level of pain or at least discomfort, but tearing out the follicles by rubbing our skin with a stone? I think with the laser option now so readily available and the comparatively comfortable option of waxing available, it has to be a no.

Egyptian Beauty

Both the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks understood the importance of exfoliation and used salt to improve their complexion along with natural products to cure flaky, dry and dull skin like olive oil – which is also a natural sun cream. Over time, people have developed natural exfoliating face masks too, with products like oats and mashed bananas found to remove dead skin cells and soften the skin.

Would we use it?
There are so many expensive exfoliation products around today, basic ingredients might just be worth a go. Apparently salt and sugar are a great way to smooth out rough areas and the luxurious mashed banana and oat facemask sounds great!

Saffron eye shadow
There are plenty of tips online that claim to make you look beautiful, but before the days of the Internet people would have to get creative when it came to make-up. Ancient Egyptian women would make eye shadow from natural ingredients like saffron, while dry red ochre would be used to make lipstick. An eye cosmetic known as kohl was even made from lead sulphide and was used an eyeliner and mascara – although a number of historians believe this product caused many women to die of lead poisoning.

Would we use it?
Well, kohl is still available today but is made using the much safer option of charcoal – and saffron as eye shadow? That actually sounds quite doable! Natural products can often be good for the skin, but can cause allergic reactions too. This one is a maybe.

Elaborate wigs
The Ancient Egyptians found body hair repulsive, but enjoyed wearing elaborate wigs. This might have been due to the fact that lice lived in human hair so it was better to have a bald head. The Egyptians passion for wonderful headwear was also shared by the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and later the Brits. Wigs were often made out of human hair or vegetable fibres and were decorated with henna.  Liposculpture and other surgical procedures might be relatively new, but the desire to look good dates back years.

Would we use it?
Are you kidding? Stars like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj are the queens of elaborate wigs and if there was an opportunity to do the same then hey – why not? We would exercise caution though; turning up for a job interview in a fluorescent blue bob is never a good idea.

Hair Highlights
In Venetian times bleaching your hair and being blonde was highly popular as being blonde was seen as being feminine and even a sign of nobility on a woman. Venetian ladies are reported to have made there tresses even blonder with natural highlights by pouring fresh lion urine on their hair, and then proceeding to sit out in the sun.

Would we do it?
Whilst this is a crazy one and the risk of death of a lion must have been pretty high, there are natural techniques that can be used to lighten the colour of such as squeezing lemon juice over your hair that don’t require getting close to a big cat!

Venetian Lady

Many ancient beauty techniques are still around today and we have our ancestors to thank for a number of innovative products (even if they look swankier these days).

Isabella is a beauty blogger for a cosmetic surgery information blog, bringing the latest news and advice on everything from non-surgical chemical peels to breast augmentation and liposuction surgery.
Image Credits:1, Wikipedia

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  1. Olive Oil was extensively used those days.

  2. The Romans used the placenta as a facial mask. They would take the afterbirth and spread it all over their face and neck and leave it to harden. Then they would rinse it with a mixture of lavender and water, and then wipe olive oil on as a moisturizer.

  3. Some North African tribes used camel's milk mixed with sand and honey as a facial and body cleanser.
    The Assyrian women and men both used dried reeds made into combs and combed their hair with a mixture of oil, flowers and musk.


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