The history of skincare

1 March 2021

When we think about skincare, we tend to think of luscious creams, delicate fragrances, and modern products. But the first evidence that the human race was looking after their skin dates back 6,000 years.

How it all started

It began with the ancient Egyptians, who used cosmetic products for very different purposes than we do today. As well as protecting their skin from insects and the sun’s rays, they also used the products for burial traditions and to aid mummification.

As the ancient Egyptians couldn’t pop to their local pharmacy, or visit our online shop, to buy their cosmetics, they created their own using the natural products they had available. These included essential oils, herbs, plants, ostrich eggs and aloe vera, which we continue to use and is the main ingredient in our skincare products. Sand was added to create exfoliating scrubs and, legend has it, Queen Cleopatra bathed in sour milk to keep her skin smooth.

The ancient Egyptians were perhaps the first to try to minimise the onset of wrinkles, by using frankincense, which they believed had anti-inflammatory properties.

‘Cosmetae’ in ancient Rome

The ancient Romans were also known for their skincare routines. In fact, the word ‘cosmetics’ comes from ‘cosmetae’, who were female slaves in ancient Rome. They created make up and skincare products for their masters.

The Romans were also the founders of what many of us have come to consider as a treat – a spa day. They were known to spend an entire day focusing on their skin, with the cosmetae providing the role of beautician and applying perfumes and oils once bathing had finished.

Skin care comes to Europe

As we headed into the medieval era in Europe, new methods and ingredients were added. Most notably, the first cold cream was developed which contained rose oil, water and melted beeswax.

Those in the Elizabethan era began putting lead and vinegar mixtures onto their skin to hide blemishes and achieve the extremely pale look that was popular at the time. However, doctors soon noticed that, due to the use of lead, people were slowly poisoning themselves. Doctors recommended using alum instead, but it wasn’t until the end of the century that people started heeding this advice.

More modern times

It was in the1800s that those making skincare products started to promise to cure acne and eczema, and there was more of a focus on making skin appear youthful. Vaseline and talcum powder were invented during the century and these quickly became popular for skincare regimes. As ingredients became more inexpensive, those who couldn’t afford to buy ready made products were able to make their own – egg yolks, honey and oatmeal were used to soften the skin and hide blemishes.

It was in the twentieth century when the industry really took off. The benefits that adding certain vitamins can have to skincare products were discovered, but it was also during the 1900s that synthetic substances and alcohols began to be included. 

The beauty and cosmetics industry now seems to be going full circle, with people turning their backs on moisturisers and cleansers that are full of artificial ingredients and instead choosing those made from the natural environment, like our range. Head to our online shop to view our natural skincare collection.

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