Ancient Egyptian Fashion: Perfume, Bathing & Makeup

Move over Maybelline and Covergirl, some of the cosmetic practices you use today may have originated from some of the techniques developed during ancient Egyptian times. This article covers some of the rituals and materials related to ancient Egyptian practices, such as perfumes and cleansing products.


The Important Practice of Bathing


An important practice throughout ancient Egyptian communities involved rituals centered on cleansing. Bathing was held in high regard among the ancient Egyptians, which often took place during daily trips to the river. Sometimes, bathing occurred at home from onsite water basins. If you were a wealthy individual during these times, you would enjoy a bath within a separate room in the house. It was the job of the servants to pour water on top of their master. This could be seen as their way of having a shower without all of the necessary plumbing. The excess water collected in a drainage system that consisted of a pipe that transported the water to the garden. This was a nice way to reuse the water for another helpful purpose. The ancient Egyptians did not wash with bars of soap, but instead used a certain type of cleansing cream, which consisted of lime, oil and perfume.


How Perfumed Oil Was Made and Used


Throughout the day, the ancient Egyptians rubbed perfumed oil on themselves, which was usually made from scented wood and flowers that has been combined with fat or oil. All of these ingredients were placed into a pot. The oil was complete once all of the scent had been absorbed. Since Egypt delivered an unforgiving climate, the perfumed oil not only made you smell nice, but also prevented the skin from the damaging effects of dry weather. Another tradition involving the perfumed oil was seen during times of celebration. When a party was being held, servants placed cones of perfumed grease on top of the heads of arriving guests. The grease melted as the party “heated up,” which provided a cooing effect as it ran down their faces.


Bring on the Makeup!


It didn’t matter how old you were or what social class you belonged to; even if you were a man, woman or child, you wore makeup during ancient Egyptian times. This process was held rather important in the minds of the people, who used shiny silver or copper mirrors when applying their “faces.” Eye paint was one of the popular applications of the day, which was created from green malachite, as well as a gray-colored lead ore called galena. These materials were ground into a powder, which was then mixed with an oil to produce the eye color referred to as Kohl. Once the Kohl was made, it was transferred into a jar. Small sticks were then used to apply this type of makeup to the eyes.


The signature lines extending to the sides of the face were created by using Kohl. This is often seen about the upper and lower eyelids. Makeup also served more than one purpose besides bringing about cosmetic appearances; magical powers were thought contained within the powder. Many believed that it even possessed the power to heal or cure the sick and injured. Some even thought that if you suffered from poor eyesight, then wearing makeup could be used as a cure. It thus became a common remedy used for eye infections.


Other types of makeup dating back to ancient Egyptian times included various colored items for the cheeks, lips, as well as nails. Red ochre clay was ground and mixed with water for lip and cheek enhancement. Henna was applied to the fingernails as a dye, which came in colors of orange and yellow.