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The Evolution of Skin Care from Ancient to Modern Times

Throughout history, smooth, supple skin has been prized, and both men and women have sought to achieve it. While what has been valued about skin has not changed much, skincare practices and products certainly have. Find out what has people from ancient Egypt to modern America have used to maintain clear, youthful-looking skin.

Skincare of the Ancients

As far back as 3000 BC, humans have considered healthy, hydrated skin to be beautiful. But in places like Egypt, keeping skin moisturized wasn’t always easy. To keep skin soft and smooth and avoid uncomfortable (and unsightly) dryness, they used natural ingredients, like:

  • Honey
  • Beeswax

Egyptians had to import many of the ingredients they used for emollients, but the Greeks had ample stores of herbs and fruits to add to oils for skin softening mixtures. Ancient Romans relied heavily on olive oil both for cleansing and for moisturizing.

On the European continent, light skin was valued because it was a sign of wealth (the poor worked in the sun where their skin was darkened). As a result, many skin “care” products were sought to lighten naturally dark skin, such as:

  1. Chalk powder
  2. White lead powder
  3. Crocodile dung

Some skin lighteners were toxic (unbeknownst at the time), some simply disgusting (yet expensive).

Skincare of the Dark Ages and Renaissance

The desire for light skin became a drive for pale skin in the Dark Ages and Renaissance period. The use of toxic powders containing lead, sometimes arsenic, were common among all but the poorest people who couldn’t afford them.

Because the whitening powders and vermillion used to make vibrantly red lips and cheeks were expensive, they were not removed often. People chose to layer powder over powder. When they finally did wash their faces, water was often not enough to remove the makeup. Instead, they used a variety of acidic substances, such as:

  • Wine
  • Vinegar
  • Milk (usually not from cows)

Despite the seeming lack of concern for skin health, a blemish-free complexion was still desirable, During Elizabethan times, mercury was often used. However, it was corrosive, leaving scars in place of the blemish it “cleared.”

Revolution-Era Skincare

The French Revolution and the public’s disgust with King Louis and Marie Antoinette’s reign led to a backlash against the artificially made face. Moving into the Industrial Revolution, Europeans and Americans were opting for a natural radiance, and once again, natural ingredients were used to achieve it:

  • Egg yolks
  • Honey
  • Oatmeal

Fair skin was still preferred over sun-tanned skin, but lemon juice was the ingredient of choice to naturally lighten skin.

Skincare of the Early Modern Period

Skincare started to look like what it does today—a multi-step process with a variety of carefully formulated products—starting in the early 20th century. Assembly-line production made soap widely available to all classes, but it was deemed too harsh for delicate facial skin. Ladies of the day preferred “cold cream” instead to remove dirt and makeup. Tonics and serums, some homemade from beeswax, mineral oil, water and borax, were applied before applying makeup. Oil-based complexion creams were occasionally applied in hopes that oil saturation would help fill out wrinkles.

Science-Based Skincare of Today

It would not be until the 1960s that science, driven by the Space Race, would be applied to skincare products. Unfortunately, that meant for decades potentially hazardous synthetic ingredients were used before a resurgence in the natural and/or organic ingredients.

Today, Hale Cosmeceuticals harnesses cutting-edge research with nature’s finest ingredients to produce effective, safe and environmentally-friendly skincare formulas. Find the products formulated for your skin type and skin health goals. Take our personal skin assessment and contact us to speak to a knowledgeable skin care representative.

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