By Arwa Lodhi
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that every generation throughout history likes to believe that they’re the most ‘advanced’ – economically, morally and commercially. Whilst we may have made some serious changes in these areas, it’s hard to say whether as time progresses, we actually ‘advance.’
Take the realm of beauty, for example. While we have indeed made changes in recent centuries – namely with plastic surgery and facial injections like Botox – whether these indicate a progressive move or not is up for debate. The same could be said for clean beauty – many see this as an evolution in the cosmetics industry, but to be honest, it’s just a (welcome!) step back to a more natural past.
The ancient Asians, Indians and Egyptians were all famous for having a wealth of beauty treatments at their disposal, and many of the products they used – be it neem oil, kohl eye liner or a honey and natron face scrub for acne – still provide powerful treatments today.
Whilst cosmetics were made of stuff you could use today, but may not want to – saffron was used as an eyeshadow and burnt almonds were used to darken eyebrows, for example – ancient skincare ingredients were more practical and effective. In fact, there are so many potentially useful ingredients from those ancient cultures that it would be tough to list them all here. But we have come up with a few key ancient Egyptian skincare ingredients that can still be incorporated to your beauty regime, with incredible effects.
Moringa & Castor Oil for Wrinkle Removal
Anti-ageing treatments are among the most popular cosmetic pursuits, with an entire category of the industry dedicated to it. The ancient Egyptians however, used the natural goodness of castor oil, sesame oil and moringa to tighten their skin and remove wrinkles.
These oils nourished the skin from within, and made it appear tighter and firmer with prolonged usage. Needless to say, this beauty secret has been adopted in the form of extracts in commercial products; however, nothing beats gently massaging the pure, organic stuff onto your face.
Not only was Cleopatra clever and powerful, she was also the epitome of beauty for her time. Apparently, one of her everyday essentials was aloe vera, which she used to tone her skin and rinse off the day’s impurities. This particular beauty ritual is still performed by millions today, and has become more popular due to the rise of clean beauty. It’s simple to use: just take a bit of the gel from a leaf, apply it to a cotton pad, and wipe over the face.
Sea salt is known to be far more beneficial to the body, due to its compendium of minerals which rejuvenate skin and combat a number of skin conditions. When in its purest form, it’s also very useful in preventing acne, as it reduces the toxic contents of the skin, and keeps bacteria at bay. In practice, sea salt leaves the skin feeling luscious and quite clean. Other than a salt bath, sea salt scrubs are also great – scrub some pure salt over your skin before a bath to remove dead flakes and to condition the skin for moisturizing after a good soak. Note, however, that everyday table salt will NOT do anything good for your skin – or your health!
Vegetable Oil as ‘Soap’
Soap wasn’t present in the ancient Egyptian bathroom – instead, vegetable oils were applied all over the body, then scraped off, along with all the nasty dead skin and other accumulated muck. It sounds gross, but the end result was clean, soft and silky skin. The upper classes would often infuse the oils with expensive perfumed herbs to boost the beneficial effects and provide a nice scent. Whilst you may not want to swap your soap for oil, you could at least try using an oil facial cleanser – there’s a reason they’ve become a huge trend this year! Try Damask Rose, Coconut or Sweet Almond Oil.
Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter
These all natural, thick pastes were used as hair gels and to hold their hairstyles in place, as well as to condition the hair. You can still use these ingredients today – they work especially well on the tips of the hair to moisturize, strengthen and to tame frizz.
Rich in fatty acids and vitamins, avocado masks have long been used as a mask to nourish the skin and hair. Eating this fruit also helps with maintaining a great complexion from the inside out – and as a bonus, if you make like an ancient Egyptian and place avo paste under the eye, it helps reduce puffiness. Try it!
This plant based colourant has been used to cover grey and change hair colour for millennia. It’s perfectly safe, easy to use, and an effective alternative to the harsh, highly chemical hair dyes that line the shelves of our supermarkets and drugstores today. Henna was also used in important ceremonies to imprint long-lasting designs on the hands and other parts of the body. In fact, rather than take the risks involved with permanent tattoos, why not try a henna tattoo instead?