The Magic of Natural Cosmetics – Ancient Egypt

by Oana Maria Dan

The Magic of Natural Cosmetics – Ancient EgyptI have a proposal for you. An unusual excursion into the beauty secrets of the Queens and Empresses of the ancient world. Even modern research bows in front of these formulas.
Cosmetic formulas scented with small historical and scientific details. For us, women...


Did you know...
The first archaeological proof of the use of cosmetics dates back to Ancient Egypt, to the year 4000 BC. For the ancient Egyptians it was extremely important to look and smell good, for they followed the saying “cleanliness is the road to the gods”. Egyptians believed that their image and their self care showed their level of spiritual development.

The first product used for eye make-up is considered to be the so-called mesdemet, green for the lower eyelids and black or dark grey for the upper eyelid. Subsequently, this product got the name of kohl, from the Arabs. Eye make-up had medical reasons – mesdemet had disinfectant qualities (because of the climate there was the risk of conjunctivitis), but also the belief that by using dark colours you were protected from the evil eye.

The chemists from l'Oreal and the researchers from the Louvre museum in Paris (Phillippe Walter & Pauline Martinetto) have analysed different samples of make-up and  cosmetics from  Ancient Egypt. This way they discovered that elements of the mesdemet could not exist in a pure state in nature, thus Egyptians were synthetizing substances.

Research has lead to remarkable results: the creamy texture of the mesdemet was due to a content of fat of 7-10%. This is in fact the percentage of fat that cosmetics nowadays contain as well.

The main component of mesdemet was galena, a dark lead sulfide extracted by the Egyptians from a mine nearby the Red Sea. For obtaining a lighter colour, they used cerussite, a white lead carbonate from the same place.


Test Cleopatra's secret yourself
Undoubtedly, Queen Cleopatra represented an ideal of beauty for the Ancient World. In the 1st century BC, Cicero said that her personality was charming, the sound of her voice was sweet when she spoke. Beyond her stirring beauty, which made Caesar and Mark Antony fall in love with her, ancient writings reveal her attentive concern for cosmetic treatments and body care.

One of Queen Cleopatra's secrets was bathing in goats milk and honey. Later on, goats milk was rediscovered by Hippocrates, who described it in his writings as being a healing essence.

But what does modern science have to say about this ancient method?
Recent research has proven that the active ingredients in goats milk are identical to those in the coating of the human epidermis and this quality gives it great bioavailability. It is also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergic and anti-aging. It is rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It contains a fat acid, the caprylic acid, which has the property of reducing the pH, thus protecting the skin from bacterium invasion.

It is rich in tryptophan, another essential amino acid, which has the property of eliminating nervous tensions and reducing pain. Vitamins A, E and B6 (riboflavin) contained in goats milk have strong regenerating properties. Riboflavin participates actively in the metabolic processes, helps at forming the antibodies and cells of the skin.

Related to honey, it was the first sweet substance used by man, being valued especially by priests in many different rituals. The oldest documents regarding honey are two fragments written in Sumerian. There are also testimonies left from the Egyptians about the way of harvesting and using honey.

Modern research shows a content rich in water, glucose, fructose, sucrose, a wide range of minerals (sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, aluminum, manganese, iron, chlorine, sulfur, silicon), certain trace elements (beryllium, gallium, vanadium, zirconium, titanium, nickel, tin, lead, silver), vitamins (B1, B2, B6, PP, H, B12, C, pro-vitamins A, vitamin K), pantothenic acid, folic acid, proteins, organic acids, a total of 435 organic substances.

The content of trace elements in honey is similar with the one of the human blood, which is why honey is so easy to assimilate. Used in cosmetics, honey maintains the brightness of the skin, stimulating it and having an important antiseptic effect, eliminating the excess.sebum.


Choose to be a queen
Blend equal parts of goats milk and honey in a vessel, add jojoba oil (optional), then pour the content in your bath water. Relax your body and soul for 20 minutes in this blend and you will notice the magic effects of the ingredients upon your skin.


The Magic of Natural Cosmetics – Ancient EgyptRediscover the plant of deathlessness
Archaeological discoveries have revealed images of the plant called aloe vera on the Egyptian walls and sarcophagi dating back in 4000 BC. It was much appreciated by the Egyptians, who used it both for its healing properties and as an offering at the funerals of the pharaohs. They even called it “the plant of deathlessness”.

The transparent gel from the interior of the leaves was used by both Cleopatra and Nefertiti in order to maintain their glowing beauty. The first written testimony about the pharmaceutical use of aloe was deciphered on a Sumerian tablet of clay from 1750 BC. Subsequently, the plant was mentioned in the Egyptian medical treatise “Papirus ebers” and in “The Egyptian Book of Remedies” written around 1550 BC.

Bill Coats, the chemist who discovered the formula of stabilization of the aloe gel, says: “With Aloe Vera there are no limits to the good that can be done”. Thus, the extract, obtained from aloe leaf juice concentrate, contains approximately 240 active ingredients: vitamins, mineral substances, mono and polysaccharides, amino acids, enzymes etc. The synergic effect of these composites leads to the magic effects of aloe vera.

For instance, it assures 20 of the 22 amino acids needed by the human body and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. In a study on 27 patients with different wounds caused by burns, it was found that aloe gel was a quicker healer than vaseline, reducing the recovery time from 18 to 11 days and curing the skin without scars.

Surprising effects have been registered in the curing of psoriasis as well. The test was performed on 60 patients who had been suffering from this illness for approximately 9 years. The study was scheduled for  a period of 4 months and the patients have been kept under observation for another 12 months afterwards. At the end of the experience, the cream with aloe extract had healed 80% of the patients.


Do yourself a favour. Learn how to prepare a cream for your complexion
Blend a cup of honey, with one of thin goat milk and two teaspoons of aloe vera gel. Apply on the face in the morning and in the evening with a cotton pad. The blend can be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks. You will see the miraculous effects upon the complexion, which becomes supple and bright.


For Cleopatra’s sake
The Queen obtained exclusivity for producing cosmetics, pharmaceutical products and extracts from the Dead Sea after Mark Antony conquered the region for her sake. His camel caravans crossed the Sinai desert to bring the mineral extracts and the bay mud from the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a curiosity and a gift of nature. Throughout history, the place has been well known for the value of the salt, minerals and special climate for treating certain illnesses.

In the Dead Sea there are 26 minerals, among which magnesium, calcium, bromine and potassium. Compared to the 3% salt content in regular sea water, the water of the Dead Sea contains 32% salts and minerals, which is why we can float in the water of the Dead Sea. With these minerals, combined with cold pressed aromatic oils, bay mud and other natural ingredients the first cosmetic and body care products were manufactured (soaps, creams, oils and masks), which made famous the beauty of the women of Levant and Egypt.


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