Are we really a vain society? Do we really have a more-than-normal pride in our appearance? To answer that, you'd have to define normal. There's nothing wrong with being vain, as long as we don't get carried away with it. We just want to look good to look our best. And people have been working hard at looking their best for centuries. And that's why cosmetics has such a long history. We'd like to take you through the history of cosmetics here; and let's just see how similar we are to people living in 10,000 BC.
Ancient Egyptians had a full line of cosmetics
Have you ever seen pictures of the Ancient Egyptians, with their painted faces? They look very striking, don't they? Very classic. And that was the intent. It was extremely important to them that they looked and smelled good, because the old expression "cleanliness is next to Godliness" is that old they believed it very strongly.
The Egyptians were very spiritual people, and believed their appearance was directly related to their level of spirituality. And so they needed to find ways to make themselves look at least presentable, if not fabulous.
The Egyptians were also very resourceful people. Some of the things they came up with were very innovative, even by today's standards. And cosmetics was one of those things. They had a knack for developing natural formulas to solve their skin challenges. Would you believe that around the fifteenth to the tenth centuries BC, they had cosmetic products that would get rid of stretch marks, shrink wrinkles, get rid of scars, and make hair grow?
That's amazing, when you look at the line of products that'll do those same jobs today. And today, we seem to need all kinds of research and development programs to come up with the same thing. Perhaps there's something to be said for natural cosmetics after all.
Some of the other cosmetics the Ancient Egyptians used were eye makeup, face creams and body oils, as well as a wide array of perfumes and fragrances.
The Egyptians really knew how to mix ingredients
All these cosmetics that the Egyptians used had to come from somewhere. Well, it's the old story of "necessity is the mother of invention". Because there was so much emphasis on looking good, Egyptian women had to find a way to do it. And one of the things they came up with was something called mesdemet.
Mesdemet was made of copper and lead ore not the safest thing to be constantly putting on your face, but it did the job. They applied green to their lower eyelids, then black or dark gray to their eyelashes and upper eyelids. And keeping with their spiritual beliefs, the dark colors were designed not only to enhance their appearance, but to ward off evil eyes.
And an evil eye wasn't the only thing mesdemet warded off. It was a great disinfectant, as well as an insect repellant. And with life on the Nile being fairly filled with annoying insects, the eye makeup performed a dual purpose. So the combinations of ingredients that made up their cosmetics, were very diverse. In fact, many were used for all kinds of medicinal purposes, too.
Now how's this for a combination: burnt almonds, oxidized copper, a couple of different-colored copper ores, lead, ash, and ochre. They called it kohl, and it came out as a dark-colored powder, which was applied with a small stick, on and around the eyes, in an almond shape. Then, to complement the fancy eye makeup, they applied a mixture of red clay and water to their lips and cheeks. And the nails weren't left out, either. They used henna to dye them orange or yellow. Quite a colorful picture, don't you think? But that's exactly what they wanted back then something like today, perhaps?
And the Egyptians weren't good at just putting together natural products. Some research done by L'Oreal, along with scientists from the Louvre in Paris, revealed that the black eye makeup used back then had ingredients that had to have been chemically made, because a natural origin...
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