The fascinating history of skincare—they used to do what?

Makeup and skincare have been around almost as long as humans, so it’s probably safe to say that this practice isn’t going anywhere. Some of the first human societies used paint to draw images onto cave walls, then used the same paint on their facial features, sometimes to make them stand out, sometimes to look more threatening (we know the feeling.)

The first recorded case, however came from Ancient Egypt, who took cosmetics to a serious level—even more than we do today. If you lived in Egypt in 3000 BC and were wealthy, you would have likely spent several hours each day to look your best. Makeup was used for aesthetic purposes—to bring out your features, but was also applied to protect the skin from the beating sun and intense heat.

The ancient Egyptians were creative when it came to the materials, they used semi-precious stones or ground up metals as “eyeshadow” because they would catch the light and project a shiny radiance. The “eyeliner” would be a mix of lead, almonds, soot, animal fat and copper.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans borrowed from the Egyptians and also placed a high value on skin care and makeup. Honey was used as a moisturizer, and oils and sand were used as a natural sunscreen. Many of them had slaves known as Cosmetae who would exhaustively pull out each individual hair from chests, arms, legs, face, and backs of their masters, who wanted a smooth and sleek appearance. A day at the baths would include extensive care for all parts of the body, with fragrant oils and perfumes to soothe and gloss the skin after bathing.

Moving towards China—the first recorded skin care began in 1760 BC during the Shang dynasty. They valued a natural pale look at the time and used face powders made from lead and skin lighteners made from songyi mushrooms to get the desired look.

The popularity of pale skin spread across Europe too, and the demand for lead- based skin and makeup products increased. European women, including Queen Elizabeth I, used lead mixed with vinegar to make a whitening foundation to remove freckles. During the Elizabethan Era, bathing was not in fashion, in fact, men and women rarely washed their faces and body. To keep their skin looking pale, they would just add a new layer of powder over the old. As the cosmetic layer became difficult to wash off, people started experimenting with everything from rainwater or donkey’s milk to red wine or urine to take their makeup off (aka: Whaaat?)

The rise of modern skincare started with formation of the FDA in 1906 to regulate the industry. During this time, L’Oreal, Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor and Maybelline all launched a range of skin care products and the cosmetic world as we now know it, began to take shape.

Today, skin care has advanced significantly and the development of new products features cutting-edge ingredients that aim to improve the look and feel of skin, and we couldn’t be happier about it!

This is just a quick overview on the history of skincare and makeup, but you don’t need any history textbooks to get professional beautifying treatments. Check out our services here.