Secrets of the Egyptian Queens
The Ancient Egyptians were known for their knowledge of beauty and their appreciation of luxury. Even today, the remains of their vast palaces, temples and monuments attract archeologists and tourists alike. The Egyptians are legendary for their precision and technique, using methods that today’s technology still cannot explain. Their quest for perfection was not limited to the great pyramids, however, but also to the perfection of the human appearance. In fact, the Egyptians’ knowledge of beauty is as legendary as the sphinx, and they were the first culture to develop and record their skin care methods and techniques.
Many Egyptian queens were renowned for mastering the finer points of skin care and beauty. Even today, Cleopatra is considered to have been one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. She was an avid student of beauty techniques and authored one of the first books of beauty secrets. Her secrets included bathing in milk and rubbing her skin with aloe vera. Queen Nefertiti and her two daughters were also renowned for their beauty and were buried with a number of cosmetic implements, such as tubes of the kohl they used to line their eyes. Queen Thutu was another pioneer of make up and skin care techniques. She used pumice stones to exfoliate her skin, and had a special bronze dish used to mix herbs and plant compounds into beauty ointments and eye shadows.
The Desert Effect
Skin care techniques were not only important for queens, however, but were an important part of Egyptian court life. The hot, dry desert air took its toll on the skin, and many cosmetics were developed to keep the body’s largest organ soft and supple. In fact, combating the climate was one of the main concerns of many Egyptian beauty regimens. Most noble men and women wore their hair short or shaved their heads to allow for better aeration and easier scalp care. They covered their bare heads with elaborate wigs made of human hair, plant fibers and sheep’s wool. Plant oils were used as moisturizers and were liberally applied to the whole body. While these were necessary to combat the effects of the dry air, they were also scented with fine perfumes which helped keep the wearer smelling fresh all day. In fact, the Egyptians were expert at mixing perfumes and many of the perfume pots found in tombs still contain traces of their original scents, thousands of years after they were buried.
While their sense of cleanliness and hygiene may have originated in response to the climate, the Egyptians soon developed elaborate skin care systems based on a deep knowledge of plants, oils and organic compounds. Noble men and women were expected to bathe daily, and many applied scented oils to their bath water. Exfoliating scrubs were made from sand and aloe vera. Numerous formulas for body oils were developed to help treat specific skin ailments. Some formulas, such as those made to fade stretch marks, were intended mainly for women. Others, such as those made to prevent balding and promote hair growth, were intended mainly for men.
The Egyptian nobility also developed a number of cosmetics intended for special occasions. Many perfumes and incenses were used in religious ceremonies, particularly during the last rights before burial. Other cosmetics were used for more festive occasions. Women and men would attend parties, their eyes lined with thick kohl and their heads adorned with their most elaborately decorated wigs. They would often attach cones of perfumed wax to the tops of their wigs. These cones would slowly melt, releasing the scent of jasmine and frankincense into the air.
The Beginning of the Book of How to Make the Old Young
The Egyptians valued youthful vibrancy and beauty and developed many concoctions intended to smooth away wrinkles and regrow lost hair. Some of these were even compiled into a book titled The Beginning of the Book of How to Make the Old Young. Fenugreek, a grass-like plant with a number of medicinal and ceremonial applications, was the main ingredient in many anti-aging lotions. Concentrated fenugreek oil was considered to be a potent skin care treatment that would erase wrinkles and other blemishes, leaving the skin eternally youthful. Even in death, good skin care and a youthful appearance were important to the Egyptians. Many tombs contain the perfume pots, the make up containers and the remnants of body oils necessary for maintaining a beautiful, youthful appearance in the afterlife.