Ancient Egypt and Us

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics

When the ancient Greeks visited Egypt they remarked that both women and men wore, what seemed to them, extravagant amounts of facial cosmetics. This is confirmed in numerous intact colored tomb reliefs and paintings. Egyptian cosmetics can be traced back to the earliest periods, the Narmer ceremonial palette c3100BC was used for grinding and mixing cosmetics for application to the cult statues of the temple gods. Three noble ladies at the court of Pharaoh Thutmosis 3 c1450BC were buried with costly cosmetics contained in purpose-made decorated containers, two of these jars still contained a cleansing cream made of oil and lime.

Egyptians used a brush, doubling as toothpaste, from the salvadora persica tree. To improve their breath the Egyptians chewed herbs, gargled with milk, and chewed frankincense. The most common facial make up was black ‘kohl’ as an eye liner and mascara, and green malachite as an eye shadow. Lipstick and blusher were made from ochre. Ancient Egyptian eye make-up was kept in lumps and was ground on a palette to a fine powder. The powder was poured into vases from which it was extracted with a moist application stick. Eye makeup was also beneficial in curing or preventing eye diseases caused by the ever present wind-blown organisms prevalent in the dry dusty Egyptian climate.

The heavy metals copper and lead in the make-up also killed bacteria. Red lip gloss made from fat with red ochre was applied with a brush or spatula. Facial rouge consisting of red ochre with resin has been discovered in a tomb c2000BC having survived satisfactorily for four thousand years. Chalk and white lead pigment were used to provide the sought-after traditional white skin appearance for women. Some Ancient Egyptians appear to have dyed their fingernails using henna.