Vine Vera reviews the evolution of skin care over the years. Find out more about how the concepts of skin care evolved from what it was in the ancient times to what it has become today.
Ancient Egyptian Skin Care: 3000 BC-1070BC
The Ancient Egyptians were famous for their appreciation of everything to do with beauty and luxury. Their precision and techniques were legendary, and their theories were based on technologies that scientists cannot explain even today. The empire’s biggest gift to the world might be found in those temples, monuments and palaces; but the Egyptian Civilization was also about perfecting the appearance. They were the first culture which managed to record and develop skin care routine and techniques. Many of their queens and royals were famous for mastering all things to do with beauty and skin care. Queen Cleopatra was perhaps the defining symbol of the civilization. It took modern-science years to discover the wonders offered by many ingredients that she was already using at the time. Things like milk baths, rubbing aloe vera on the skin and gold facials might be the rage today, but Queen Cleopatra made them the standard norm centuries ago. Queen Nefertiti was another Eyptian Queen who popularized the use of kohl to add some character to the eye area. Queen Thutu pioneered the use of pumice stones as a means of exfoliating the skin. Moreover, the desert environment made it important to place stress on skin care. As a result, the use of cosmetics to keep the body soft and supple was common throughout the empire. Most men or women used plant oils as moisturizers and kept their hair short to make scalp care easier.
Ancient Chinese Skin Care: 1200BC-500BC
Ancient China actually began with the Xia dynasty, but very little information about the period can be found today. The earliest records of China date back to the Shang dynasty. By the time, China had emerged as a highly-developed society and numerous practices such as the farming of livestock and rice, and the growth of textiles can be attributed to the period. The Shang dynasty was also responsible for laying the foundation stones for Chinese skin care. The textile industry had a drastic impact on beauty and played a huge role in boosting the skin care industry in Ancient China. Clothes makers perfected the techniques of weaving silk and creating elaborate dresses. This led to the need to look beautiful and thus the need for skin care and cosmetics. The Chinese were also known to be famous for their quest for pale skin. Chinese medicine paid a great deal of stress on skin care because the people believed that healthy-looking skin was a sign of good health. Although the society had traditionally opted for a healthy and natural look, the use of powders, bold makeup and skin lighteners to make the skin look whiter became very common in Imperial courts.
Ancient Greece Skin Care: 750BC-500BC
Ancient Greece emerged as one of the most advanced societies around the world. It was the birthplace to numerous philosophies and was also home to the first democratic society. Grecian women were famous for their beauty and their use of various beauty and skin care tricks to look beautiful. The favorable climate also allowed for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables that were used to derive lotions and body oils. In fact, Greece was the civilization that gave birth to the modern-day cosmetic industry. Although Greece started its skin care traditions based on Egyptian techniques, it soon came up with its own solutions for beautiful skin. The ideal Grecian woman had pale skin, dark hair, berry red lips and elaborate curls. It wasn’t possible for all women to afford the expensive materials that were required to maintain this appearance, but the higher classes went through laid a great deal of effort on proper skin care and flawless looking skin. Hippocrates might have become popular as the Father of Modern Medicine, but he was also the Father of Dermatology. He encouraged maintaining a strict hygiene standard and was one of the first people to treat the issues of the skin like any other health-related issue.
Ancient Roman Skin Care: 500BC-30BC
The Roman Empire borrowed customs from Greece and had numerous skin care techniques that were quite similar to the ones used in Greece. However, the Roman society was more focused on external and sensual pleasures, and it applied its knowledge towards the improvement of physical appearance as well as mental well-being. The Romans paid a great deal of stress on hygiene, and cleanliness was of paramount importance. This led to the creation of the Great Roman Baths that used a system of indoor plumbing. These baths gave people the ability to clean themselves in their own home. The Roman women were also famous for stressing on pale looking skin that enjoyed a smooth and soft appearance. To maintain their skin, they used numerous natural substances as treatments and moisturizers. Ingredients like beeswax and honey were commonly used to protect the skin, and the first techniques of hair removal were also developed.
Skin Care in the Middle Ages: 500AD-1499AD
The fall of the Great Roman Empire plunged the world into a period of darkness that was popularly known as the Dark Ages. Europe was in a state of flux at the time. Although most of the Christian monasteries discouraged vanity, maintaining the hygiene was still considered to be important. Fashion was modest, mostly because of the religious beliefs that chastised women for trying to look beautiful. Clothing was primarily used to hide the shape of the body. Despite the darkness surrounding the time, clear skin was celebrated. Women had to resort to natural solutions to take care of their skin because things like pastes, chalk and powders were looked down upon. Staying out of the sun gained importance around this time as well. The dawn of the 13th century finally saw a cultural rebirth in Italy that had far-reaching effects throughout the world. Some of the greatest artists and philosophers came about during the Renaissance era, and this also changed the way the world looked at feminine beauty. The Renaissance woman wore her dress loosely to show her voluptuous body and took the help of a variety of beauty and skin care products to maintain her flawless looks. However, many of the materials used during this era have now been termed as toxic. Although women didn’t have a permanent solution for bleaching their skin, they made use of chalk and lead to lighten their skin tone. Ingredients like silver mercury and vermilion were popularly used as well.
Skin Care in the Elizabethan Era: 1500AD-1599AD
The British Isles experienced Renaissance almost 100 years after Italy, but the effects were nothing short of spectacular. Queen Elizabeth I oversaw Britain’s expansion and added numerous colonies under British Rule. The clothing became very elaborate and skin care routines soon followed suit. Women wore tight corsets to give their body a smooth appearance. A lot of stress was also placed on taking proper care of the skin. Queen Elizabeth has also been credited with being the first person to enjoy a completely made-up appearance. Most noble women soon followed suit and began to paint their faces using ingredients like hydroxide, lead and carbonate. Less expensive solutions were also made using boiled eggs and talcum powder. Mercury was also used to treat issues such as discoloration, wrinkles, acne and scars.
Skin Care in the Age of Enlightenment: 1700AD-1799AD
As the century wore on, people began to become more logical when it came to skin care. People began to look for cures for numerous skin ailments and started to bathe in milk for a softer and clearer look. The use of cosmetics toned down drastically over the century as stress was placed on beautiful skin. The growth of fashion magazines also played a huge role in making things like fashion and skin care more accessible. The elaborate use of makeup gave way to a natural glow. Things like vermilion lips and face powder were in fact reserved for prostitutes and actors. The use of cosmetics was completely looked down upon and the English Parliament practically ended up banning the use of cosmetics by the end of the century. This made natural skin care even more important.
Skin Care during the Romantic Era: 1850AD-1899AD
Once Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of the largest empire in the world, she quickly influenced world fashion in a big way. Women were expected to stay covered up from head to toe. The society was dominated by modest feelings when it came to fashion, and this had far-reaching effects on skin care. Lampblack eye shadows and zinc oxide were still used, but mostly in secret. Complexions became paler than ever, and women carried parasols to protect their skin from the harmful rays of the sun.
The second half of the 19th century saw numerous technological advances that totally changed the way the world looked at skin care and anti-aging. The industrial revolution gave birth to a strong middle class that was willing to pay for the finer luxuries of life and indoor plumbing also saw great improvements in the era. Bathrooms began to be stocked with things like manufactured soap, and skin care products were easily available for women in all sections of society.
The rest as they say is history!