A guide to the function of cosmetics in Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians connected cosmetics to spirituality, since everything about the Ancient Egyptian culture was regarded as a sign of holiness. Everyone used cosmetics regardless of their sex, social status and age. Cosmetics weren’t only applied for religious purposes, but also to be protected by eye and skin infections caused by the Nile flood, hot desert and animal bites.

Concerning the eye infection caused by the Nile, they applied black kohl which improved the production of nitric oxide in their skin, that helped strengthen their immune systems against diseases. Oils and creams also helped in protecting one’s skin in dry climates.

Kohl pot in the form of Bes, a god of war.
Kohl pot in the form of Bes, a god of war.

Returning to the spiritual function of cosmetics, they were thought to contain magical powers. Wearing green eye paint, or “awadju”, was thought to summon the protection of the goddess Hathor, the goddess of beauty.

Bronze mirrors were used by people, and for the religious purpose, their handles were decorated.IMG_9887

Cosmetics accompanied people in their tombs, too. It was a key to maintain a youthful appearance in the afterlife, and in fact, archaeologists found kohl pots, cosmetic spoons, and ivory hair combs in different tombs.

A box of rouge found in a tomb.
A box of rouge found in a tomb.

Despite the fact that there was no difference present when it came to make up, the noble women used to pale their skin with cream and powder. Having lighter skin was more regarded as a sign of nobility, meaning less exposure to the sun, as dark skin was associated with the lower class who tanned while working in the fields.

Maintaining one’s personal hygiene was extremely important and holy, and having a dirty body was a sign of impurity.

A bath ritual.
A bath ritual.

To moisturize their skin, they used moisturizing creams and oils made of whipped ostrich eggs, olive oil, sea salt and were scented with essences of fruit and nuts. The Ancient Egyptians were so advanced that they even had anti-wrinkle creams that were made with wax and milk.

Ancient Egyptian oil pots.
Ancient Egyptian oil pots.

Our great grandparents turned out to be the first in almost everything, and that includes makeup too!

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