How ancient Egyptian cosmetics influenced our beauty rituals


The mysteries of the traditional Egyptians are immense, however, their beauty tricks are not any secret. Makeup might sound sort of a trendy development — one that has grown up into a multi-billion-dollar industry — however cosmetics were equally necessary to everyday life within the ancient world. From the earliest era of the Egyptian Empire, men and ladies from all social categories munificently applied makeup, eyeshadow, lipstick, and rouge.

The perceived seductiveness of Egyptian civilization incorporates a ton to try to do with how we’ve glamorized its two most famous queens: Cleopatra and Nefertiti. In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor defined the stylish Egyptian look once she portrayed Cleopatra in the eponymous epic. In 2017, Rihanna (herself a makeup magnate) formed it once she paid tribute to Nefertiti on the duvet of Vogue Arabian. In their homages, each beauty icons wore saturated blue eyeshadow and thick, dark eyeliner.

Yet ancient Egyptians didn’t solely apply makeup to enhance their appearances — cosmetics also had sensible uses, ritual functions, or symbolic meanings. Still, they took their beauty routines seriously: The hieroglyphic term for makeup creative person derives from the basis “sesh,” that interprets to put in writing or engrave, suggesting that lots of ability were needed to use “kohl” or lipstick (as anyone who has tried to emulate beauty tutorials on YouTube will attest).


The most refined beauty rituals were administrated in the toilettes of rich Egyptian women. A typical regime for such a woman living throughout the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2030-1650 B.C.) would have been indulgent, indeed. Before applying any makeup, she would first prepare her skin.

She would possibly exfoliate with Dead Sea salts or luxuriate a milk tub — milk-and-honey face masks were well-popular treatments. She could apply incense pellets to her underarms as deodorant, and floral- or spice-infused oils to melt her skin. Egyptians also invented a natural technique of waxing with a combination of honey and sugar. “Sugaring,” as it’s referred to as nowadays, has been revived by beauty firms as a less painful different to hot wax.

After all this, a servant would usher in the various ingredients and tools necessary to form and apply her makeup. These apparatuses, containers, and applicators were themselves lavish art objects that communicated social rank. Calcite jars control makeup or unguents and perfumes and containers for eye paint and oils were crafted from costly materials like glass, gold or semi-precious stones. Siltstone palettes used to crush materials for kohl and eyeshadow were engraved to match animals, goddesses or young women.

These symbols represented rebirth and regeneration, and therefore the act of grinding pigments on an animal palette was thought to grant the user special capabilities by overcoming the creature’s power. (Members of the lower categories used modest tools once applying their own makeup.)

The servant would produce eyeshadow by admixture small-grained mineral with animal material or vegetable oils. Whereas the lady sat at her toilette, before a refined bronze “mirror,” the servant would use an extended ivory stick — may be engraved with a picture of the goddess Hathor — to sweep on the rich green pigment. Even as ladies do nowadays, war paint would be followed with a thick line of black make-up around her eyes.

This a part of the routine had practical purposes on the far side beautifying the user. Make-up was utilized by both sexes and every one social category to shield the eyes from the extreme glare of the desert sun. The Egyptian word for “makeup palette” derives from their word meaning “to shield,” a regard to its defensive skills against the cruel daylight or the “evil eye.” to boot, the toxic, lead-based mineral that it had been made up of had made antibacterial properties once combined with wetness from the eyes.

The final touches to this lady’s makeup would, of course, be red lipstick — a classic look even these days. To form the paint, ochre was usually amalgamated with animal material or oil, though Cleopatra was not able to crush beetles for her perfect shade of red. These extremely virulent concoctions, typically mixed with dyes extracted from iodine and bromine mannite, may lead to serious malady, or sometimes death — probably wherever the phrase “kiss of death” derives from.

In death, too, the personal look was crucial to Egyptian identity. Burial sites uncovered from the very starting of the society’s history, in pre-dynastic times, show that it absolutely was common for Egyptians to incorporate everyday things like combs, scented ointments, jewellery and cosmetics in the graves of men, women, and kids  (many graves are found with makeup still within them).

We might closely associate the Egyptians with their dramatic beauty appearance, for the most part, thanks to their prolific use on mummies and death masks. Rather than representational process their subjects’ real features, these car tonnage masks, and picket coffins portray idealized youths with smooth skin and kohl-rimmed eyes.

In fact, mummification itself followed several of the daily self-care rituals Egyptians followed while alive. Unguents for softening the skin took on nonsecular significance after they were used to oil the body, and even cosmetics were sometimes applied.

The singular Egyptian aesthetic — from design to art to makeup — has captured the fashionable imagination for its class, exoticism, and elegance. nevertheless, the ancient kingdom’s influence on our beauty ideals is a lot of direct through its inventions, right down to the eyeliner and lipstick we have a tendency to still like to wear.