Considering the fact that time immemorial, humans have been generating ourselves stunning for every single other.

Ahead of our contemporary age of hyaluronic acid moisturizers, waterproof mascara and hair masks, we made use of a wide variety of other techniques to enhance our appearances, ranging in effectiveness from harmless organic treatments to inadvertent poisoning.

So how effectively did ancient beauty practices truly function?


The wax figure of Elizabeth Taylor, in 1 of her most popular roles, Cleopatra, is observed at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, California, on March 23, 2011. The actual-life Cleopatra was believed to have taken milk baths as Elizabeth did in the film.Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty

Ancient Egypt was 1 of the earliest civilizations to use cosmetics. As early as ten,000 BC, males and females made use of scented oils to clean their skin and conceal physique odors, according to a 2009 paper published in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Oils can certainly enable to clean the skin, as they will bond with the organic oils created by the skin and enable to lift the dirt. Oils also enable to replenish the organic oil in the skin, maintaining the skin moisturized.

Rose oil, which was well known in the Middle East, includes a quantity of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and also acts as an anti-inflammatory, assisting to treat irritation from situations such as eczema and rosacea, according to Health-related News Now.

In the 1963 film Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor’s eponymous character is observed bathing in milk baths filled with saffron oil, as the actual Cleopatra is also reported to have often accomplished. Each of these components would have had some actual advantage, with the milk’s lactic acid assisting to exfoliate the skin, sloughing off dead skin cells, and the saffron oil containing antioxidants that some study has shown may perhaps be wholesome for your brain and nervous method.

“With regards to chemical compounds made use of [in ancient beauty], quite a few are vital and protected,” Pierfrancesco Morganti, a professor of skin pharmacology and cosmetic dermatology at the Second University of Naples, told Newsweek. “It is beneficial and protected to use organic components [as many people do], but they have to be effectively studied and controlled to keep away from allergic and sensitizing reactions.”


Ancient Egyptians have been also amongst the earliest wearers of makeup. They would apply kohl, a dark eyeliner, on their upper and reduced eyelids, which they believed would lower the glare of the sun and even restore poor eyesight.

Kohl was created of crushed antimony, burnt almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ochre, ash, malachite, and a blue-green copper ore named chrysocolla, the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutics paper states, as effectively as powdered galena (lead sulfide), according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Dermatology &amp Cosmetology.

The Journal of Dermatology &amp Cosmetology paper also describes how ancient Romans and Greeks made use of antimony as eyeshadow.

Stone scene depicts a wealthy lady seated in a round-backed wicker chair with her feet resting on a footstool. Her 4 slave girls are busy about her: 1 holds a perfume flask, a second poses a mirror, a third waits with a modest pitcher, and arranging her hair is the ornatrix—an crucial member of the slave household who also saw to the rouge, lipstick and eyeshadow. Dated 1st Century B.C.Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty

The U.S. Centers for Illness Manage and Prevention states that antimony can be dangerous to the eyes and skin, causing irritation soon after even modest levels of exposure. It can also be absorbed by means of the skin, and lead to nausea and vomiting, and even harm to the liver and kidneys.

The application of lead to the skin can result in lead to enter the physique, major to poisoning and subsequent harm to the brain, nerves and digestive organs. Lead poisoning is particularly hazardous to young children, as it impacts their improvement. According to Cleveland Clinic, symptoms in young children contain developmental delays, finding out issues and seizures, when adult symptoms contain issues with memory or concentration, mood issues and fertility difficulties.

Lead sulfide is also dangerous: when it can also result in lead poisoning soon after repeated exposure, it is also viewed as a carcinogen.

For a nascent lipstick, ancient people today in Japan made use of crushed safflower petals to colour eyebrows and edges of the eyes and the lips. Safflower petals include yellow and red dyes due to the pigments carthamidin and carthamin, which have also been made use of as colorants in ice cream.

Japanese people today also made use of rice powder to colour their faces and back, the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutics paper describes.


This practice of whitening the skin has been idealized in beauty for centuries across quite a few cultures, with people today applying a quantity of unique substances to their faces to either temporarily whiten the skin, or permanently stain the skin paler.

“‘Cardamomo’ (cardamom) was made use of to ameliorate [lighten] the skin’s organic colour,” Morganti stated.

Japanese people today made use of nightingale droppings to whiten their skin, when Ancient Greek females utilized dangerous lead carbonate, according to the Journal of Dermatology &amp Cosmetology paper.

The ancient Egyptians have been incredibly conscious of their individual look and followed a regime of applying fragrant oils to their skin and hair and applying makeup to their eyes and mouths. Eye makeup was commonly black or green and acted as a style statement as effectively as stopping sand and dust from the desert from having into their eyes. The oils they made use of prevented chafing from the desert wind and also supplied a scent. Unshaven males have been deemed unclean and so a method of removing hair utilizing razors and tweezers was commonplace. The wealthier ancient Egyptians also wore wigs constructed from human hair. SSPL/Getty

Lead carbonate is now viewed as a toxic carcinogen, when the feces of nightingale birds includes higher concentrations of urea and guanine. It is unclear if these chemical compounds could whiten the skin, but the urea may perhaps enable lock in moisture, and the guanine may perhaps make the skin seem shimmery and iridescent.

“The cause this solution may perhaps function is the higher concentration of urea in the fecal-urine mixture in bird feces. Urine has a lot of urea in it and it has lengthy been made use of as a skin-softening agent,” Brian Keller, a dermatopharmacologist and executive vice president of San Francisco-primarily based BioZone Laboratories, told CNN in 2008.

Throughout the middle ages in Europe, members of the upper classes whitened their skin utilizing white lead paint, which also contained arsenic. Lead, once more, can result in lead poisoning, when arsenic is a hugely toxic chemical that is linked with skin, lung, bladder, kidney and liver cancer, according to the Globe Well being Organization.

Skin whitening is nevertheless a huge industry in quite a few components of the planet, with the market place for whitening ointments and tablets skin getting worth an estimated $eight billion as of 2020.


The Journal of Dermatology &amp Cosmetology paper describes how red hair became all the rage in England for the duration of the reign of Elizabeth I, who was recognized for her shock of ginger hair. To mimic her, quite a few females would dye their hair a deep red utilizing saffron and sulfur.

People today from all more than the planet have made use of plant oils as hair softeners, anything that quite a few people today nevertheless do nowadays. Berber females in Morocco made use of argan oil, BBC Culture reported, when in ancient Polynesia, the indigenous Maohi people today made use of monoi oil, a concoction of coconut oil with petals of Tahitian gardenias soaked into it, as a hair softener.

Argan oil includes fatty acids like oleic acid and linoleic acid, which lubricate the hair shaft and enable the hair remain moisturized. Coconut oils include the medium-chain fatty acid lauric acid and have significantly the identical moisturizing impact on the hair.

Beauty remedies

Some beauty remedies attempted to adjust the shape and look of the face extra permanently. According to the Journal of Dermatology &amp Cosmetology paper, belladonna was made use of in eye drops to improve the size of women’s pupils for the duration of the Renaissance period to make them seem extra alluring. Belladonna, also recognized as atropine, is a poisonous substance created by the plant Atropa belladonna, or deadly nightshade. Now, atropine is made use of as a paralyzing agent to dilate the pupils in optometry, as effectively as in the remedy of some heart difficulties.

The classic Chinese practice of gua sha made use of a jade or crystal stone to massage the face in lengthy, sweeping strokes, meant to sculpt the face and enhance circulation. This is nevertheless accomplished by quite a few people today nowadays and is lauded for its relaxing outcomes and verified effects on circulation.

Two females bathers caked in mud at Weston-Super-Mare circa 1934, exactly where the mud was reputed to have overall health-providing properties. Hulton Archive/Getty

Other extra spa-like remedies performed by ancient humans integrated an early kind of sauna. The Aztecs enjoyed steam baths in volcanic sweat lodges recognized as temazcales. Certainly, steam has been located to enable clear the sinuses and lungs of mucus. Now, saunas continue to reap related added benefits, even though steaming specific physique components can lead to burns.

One particular extra bizarre beauty remedy requires the application of fish to the breasts to make them smaller sized. The practice is described in a book referred to as Pratica de’ Speziali, written by Father Domenico Auda Capo Speziale dell’Archiospitale di S.Spirito di Roma, Morganti stated. The book was published in 1736 in Venice, Italy.

“The prescription was: ‘Per dimenuire le zinne o poppe alle donne che pareranno vergini’ (To diminish the size of women’s breasts so that they seem virginal),” Morganti stated.

“Prescription: That fish referred to as ‘squatina,’ which in Rome is referred to as ‘squared fish’: reduce it in half across the middle, eliminate the viscera and apply every single portion more than every single breast two or 3 instances day-to-day and you see the impact.”

Unsurprisingly, there are no topical techniques verified by science to lower breast size.

No matter whether they helped or harmed us, humans have seemingly often made use of what ever we could locate to make ourselves match what ever was viewed as stunning at the time.

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