History of Skin Care

History of skin care dates back to prehistoric times when the early man and woman had to brace themselves against the harsh weather conditions just to survive. With evolution and appearance of civilizations, beauty and skin care techniques developed. Even though our modern civilization is much more advanced than the ancient ones, they too were ahead of their times, especially if one were to look at the Egyptian civilization.

Ancient Civilization

Pioneers of beauty and skin care in the ancient civilizations were not doctors, as we understand the term today, nor did skin care have the same meaning.

From 2000 B.C. to 1400B.C,. the Egyptians were using a variety of herbal concoctions for skin care. Surprisingly, they knew how to make scented creams and special hennas. Body oils were so highly valued that labors often received payment for their work with body oils, which helped them to protect their skin from the sun's rays. During that time, the import and export of skin care cream and skin oils was a flourishing trade.

Egyptians also knew how to decorate their eyes with dramatic makeup. They used kohl for highlighting eyes, and colorful galena and malachite over their faces. Egyptians made kohl out of animal fat, soot and lead.

Ancient Use of Lead

Not only Egyptians, but the Greeks used lead to enhance their beauty. In fact, for thousands of years, lead was the main ingredient for cosmetic products. Lead cleared skin blemishes and made the skin look shiny and white. However, people that time were unknown to the harmful effects of lead, such as infertility and madness. These days, cosmetic companies do not use lead in their skin care products.

Other Ancient Beauty Secrets

The ancient Romans used olive oil to get rid of pregnancy stretch marks. Similarly, a mixture of juniper berries and myrtle helped heal hair loss and promote thicker hair.

The history of skin care travels farther, even before the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations. Around 3000 B.C., almost 5000 years ago, the ancient Chinese created skin and beauty products like the nail polish using gelatin, beeswax, egg whites and gum.

Medieval European Skin Care

As civilizations evolved, perception about beauty and skin care underwent a great change. Medieval era was the time when emphasis on fair skin and spotless beauty prevailed. Fair-skinned women from the upper echelons of society found praises for their spotless beauty. Trade in the medieval ages included skin care products import from eastern countries and Arabic nations into the European nations.

Use of herbs and natural products was abundant. Lavender, olive leaf, peppermint, rosemary and thyme were the primary skin care herbs often still in use today.

Science Looks at Skin Care

Eventually scientists and chemists began to research skin care products, which resulted in a study on the harmful effects of lead , which was a primary ingredient in vinegar-based skin whitening foundations. Finally, in 1869, the American Medical Association (AMA) published the case study "Three Cases if Lead Palsy from the Use of a Cosmetic Called Laird's Bloom of Youth". This case study proved the harmful effects of lead and prepared the way for the iconic 1906 ruling from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning lead in cosmetic production.

Modern Era

In the modern history of skin care, emphasis has been on science-based skin care methods. In the early 1900s, beauty companies like L'Oreal, Max Factor, Maybelline and Elizabeth Arden came on the scene. These companies produced effective skin care products, which the consumers found helpful for removing skin flaws. Evidently, the beauty industry boomed at the turn of the century.

From the 1900s to the first decade of the new millennium, perceptions of skin care have undergone yet another change. Beauty companies these days are focusing more on natural skin care products and chemical skin care products are passé. The western civilization using the wisdom of eastern civilizations like the Chinese and Ayurvedic conventions of beauty care are coming out with new and more cost-effective skin care products.


History of skin care from the ancient to the modern civilization has been a learning experience, and even today are in the process of re-exploring what the nature has provided to benefit our skin and contribute to our beauty.

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