Our fascination with beauty has been a part of life since the beginning of civilization. Cosmetics is not a modern concept. Makeup has been an integral part of humankind, from the ancient Egyptians, who used copper and lead ore to make the world’s first cosmetics, to today’s advanced technologies that can create new beauty products to hide pores, smooth complexions, and much, much more.
Over the centuries, women have experimented with everything, from burnt matches to darken the eyes, berries to stain the lips, and even drastic measures, such as drinking ox blood, in a misguided attempt to improve their complexions. Dangerous and toxic concoctions have been used worldwide in the quest for beauty. Take for instance the use of arsenic, mercury, lead, and even leeches to create the pale appearance that used to be deemed attractive in some cultures.
As early as 10,000 BC, cosmetics were an integral part of Egyptian hygiene and health. Both men and women used scented oils and ointment to clean and soften the skin, and mask body odor: aloe, olive oil, lavender, lily, peppermint, thyme, among others were ingredients commonly used. Dyes and paints were used to color the skin and hair. A clay called red ochre was ground and mixed with water and used to color lips, cheeks, and nails.
In Greece, around the 8th and 7th centuries BC, precious oils and perfumes, cosmetic powders, eye shadow, skin glosses and paints, and hair dyes were universally used. The export and sale of these items was an important part of trade in the Mediterranean around this time period.
By 300, BC, myrrh and frankincense had reached the Mediterranean through Persian traders. There was great demand for such things as roses, sweet flag, narcissus, saffron, cinnamon, and allowood. Iraqi men and women painted their faces with kohl, just as the Egyptians did. By 1 AD, Rome was using approximately 2,800 tons of frankincense and 550 tons of myrrh per year – it was the Romans who gave us the actual word perfume. Romans used butter and barley powder to treat pimples by approximately 100 AD. Mud baths also became popular around this time. People of India were using henna to color their hair and paint their bodies for religious purposes around 300 AD.
Distillation of essential oils and the use of aromatics progressed in the Far East as well. China imported jasmine-scented sesame oil from India, Persian rosewater via the silk route, and eventually, Indonesian aromatics – gum benzoin, cloves, ginger, nutmeg – through India. Both the Chinese, as well as the Greeks, were whitening their faces by 3000 BC; the Chinese with rice powder and the Greeks with white lead. In England during the Middle Ages, women wore egg whites on their faces to whiten them. And, about 1500 AD, European women also wore a variety of products – some quite harmful to their health – to whiten their skin.
In the U.S. today, reputable cosmetic companies, such as Oro Gold Cosmetics, and the cosmetic industry as a whole, must meet strict government regulations about what ingredients they can or can’t include in their products. Cosmetic companies must also follow safe manufacturing guidelines. We have come a long way from the crude, sometimes even barbaric, ancient practices of achieving beauty. Thanks in part to the work and research behind cosmetic companies and products like Oro Gold products.