We know that many of our beauty rituals have been passed down through generations...but exactly how many generations? We actually have our pioneering Middle Eastern ancestors from centuries back to thank for many of the tried-and-tested beauty tips and products that have shaped today’s cosmetic climate. Are our modern-day beauty practices straight out of Queen Cleopatra’s black book of beauty secrets? Very possible. Read on to find out some of the best beauty *throwbacks* of all time...
The ancient Egyptians took a more natural route than the nail polish of today, opting for fingernails stained bright orange or red with henna dye, which was made from a bright orange-red powder extracted from the dried leaves of the Lawsonia inermis plant, according to an article published by Old Dominion University. It was then mixed with water to form a paste. Henna was also used as natural hair dye, so the bold-red hair trend’s not a new one either.
The Turkish bath
The traditional Ottoman-style bath originated in Turkey, but the ‘hammam’ is also a long-standing element of Moroccan culture. The ‘hammam’ experience, widely available in spas and traditional bathhouses today, involves a full-body scrub, massage, time spent in a steam room and a splash of cold water. Queen Cleopatra is famed for her milk and honey baths, which, although a less accessible treatment in modern times, were used to combat ageing, moisturise and exfoliate the skin.
The discovery of loose human hair in archaeological sites, according to an article published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, suggests that wigs and hair extensions were commonly used in ancient Egypt. At first human hair was the preferred material, but horse hair was later incorporated too.
The dramatic smokey eye
That's right: the ancient Egyptians were the first to create this iconic look. Similarly to today, they used s combination of eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow to create a dark, smudged effect - which now has hundreds of thousands of YouTube tutorials on how to get the look. Both men and women used kohl in ancient times, accentuating their eyes by tracing the shape with a thick black line. A paper published by the Royal Society of Chemistry explains that kohl was made up of natural ingredients, principally charcoal and galena (a lead-based substance) with green malachite (a copper carbonate mineral) used for a splash of green eye paint.
Traditional oud, made from tree resin, holds a special place in Middle Eastern culture, and is now part of many brands’ perfume ranges. The Ancient Egyptian civilisation also had their own fragrances, prepared with myrrh, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, or frankincense, according to the Middle East Institute.
Extracted from the kernels of the Argan tree indigenous to Morocco, this multi-purpose treatment for guaranteed shiny hair and moisturised skin is a beauty hack as old as time. Its nutritional benefits are endless, and it's still a major fav for beauty bloggers and afficianados alike.
This natural hair-removal method was popular back in ancient Egypt, says the scienticif journal Jama Dermatology. A paste of sugar, lemon juice and water is applied to the hair, rather than the skin, and is not only less painful and more moisturising than waxing, but takes longer for hair to grow back.
Pretty much every skincare product
Rose water facial toner, shea butter lotion, clay facemask…these cosmetic products can all be traced back to ancient Egypt. Their nutritional anti-ageing, cleansing and exfoliating properties had already been discovered centuries ago.
Again, the Egyptians were the original beauty experts, creating rouge from red ochre, a clay earth pigment and applied it with a brush, explains a post on University College London's blog. It could be left in the sun or burned for a more vivid colour, or mixed with resin to ensure a longer-lasting effect. Reds and oranges were the primary shades of choice, but yellow and purple hues were also worn as lip stain. Red ochre smeared on the cheeks offered useful daily skin protection against desert conditions. Sir John Gardner Wilkinson writes in The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians that another natural pigment involves burnt almonds used to fill in the eyebrows. Looks like we’re the ones late to the full-brow trend.
Press play to watch the latest episode of Bazaar Beauty...