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The Egyptians believed beauty and fashion were very important. The word 'Nefer, means beautiful, so many people had names like 'Nefetar', 'Nefret' and 'Nefertiti'. Men and women both wore makeup.

The Egyptians used oils to protect their skin from the sun and to perfume themselves. Their breath was also perfumed by carrying an aromatic liquid in the mouth, which was later spit out and refilled. Before 4,000 b.c., the Egyptians wore eye makeup. The makeup was usually black or green to signify fertility and rebirth in the next life. They painted their lips red or blueblack. The red paints were made from red ochre, a type of clay, which was ground and mixed with water. Their eye makeup was made from Malachite, copper ore, or Galeha, lead ore, which was ground-up and mixed with oils. Their eye paint, called Kohl, was applied heavily to the eyelids and under the eye. Henna, a reddish color, was used to dye hair, paint nails (3,000 b.c.), and the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. The Egyptians also crushed beetle shells and mixed it with their eye paints to make the first known glitter. Their mirrors (3,500 b.c.) were made from polished silver and/or copper. The handles were made from wood, ivory or gold.

Egyptian commanders would paint their nails and lacquer and curl their hair before going off to battle. Only kings and queens were allowed to wear red on their lips and nails, while others, could only use pale hues. Noonewould dare flaunt the color worn by their ruler's. Manicuring was also invented in Egypt. The early Egyptians also had Manicuring sets to maintain beautiful nails. The shape and condition of their nails separated peasants from royalty.

Approximately 4,000 b.c., Egyptian beauty shops and factories were everywhere. The art of makeup use was highly skilled and widely practiced.

The ancient cosmetic pots and applicators we uncovered, were made of clay and wood; they were beautifully decorated. The tall pot we found, probably contained perfume. The short, wide pots most likely contained powders used for the face, such as henna. The small cylinder may have contained eye makeup and carved sticks were used to apply it. The mirror was used to reflect their natural and enhanced beauty. The small box or chest was used to hold cosmetic items.

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics and Chemistry
Friday, 12 February 1999

An analysis of Egyptian cosmetic powders dating back to as early as 2000 BC revealed an unexpected level of sophistication in the 'wet' chemistry practised by the ancient Egyptians.

It was already well-known that they were using fire-based technology to produce their blue pigments prior to 2500 BC. Yet this is the first time that the analysis of the black, green and white cosmetic powders shed light on the level of their practices in chemistry.

Researchers identified a number of organic and mineral ingredients in the powders. Two of the mineral ingredients were naturally occurring ores which were crushed, ore of galena (PbS) and cerussite (PbCO3). However, the surprise came from laurionite (PbOHCl) and phosgenite (Pb2Cl2CO3), which were both compounds which occurred rarely in nature. They are found when lead artefacts are weathered by sea water. Or in the case of phosgenite, the compound could also be found when lead-containing minerals were exposed to carbonated and chlorinated waters.

The researchers ruled out the possibility that these compounds were extracted from scarce natural sources since they were too abundant in the preserved cosmetic samples. Also they ruled out the alteration of the other natural lead compounds in the make-up as a source. And in doing so, they arrived at the conclusion that the Egyptians were capable of artificially synthesising the compounds.

They reconstructed the process which the Egyptians probably used by following recipes documented by classical authors. According to the ancient recipe crushed purified silver foam (PbO) was mixed with rock salt and sometimes with natron (Na2Co3). This mixture was filtered and the procedure was repeated daily for several weeks.

The authors recreated the process using PbO and salt powders in carbonate free water. The resulting precipitate was successfully identified as laurionite. The same process in the presence of carbonate would produce phosgenite.

Given that the procedures required repetitive operations, the manufacturing of these compound revealed a previously unknown level of sophistication of ancient Egyptian chemistry.

Original article: Nature, 11 February 1999; Making make-up in Ancient Egypt, P. Walter et al., p. 483-484 D. Hirokawa, Elsevier Science Channel

Ancient Egyptian Beauty Aids

Egyptians were vain in their appearance. Cosmetics, perfumes and other rituals were an important part of their dress.

The Egyptians thought that an abundance of facial hair was a sign of uncleanliness and personal neglect. An exception to this was a man's thin mustache or goatee. There was no soap so an oil or salve was probably used to soften the skin and hairs of the area to be shaved. Tweezers with blunt or sharp ends were used for removing individual facial hairs.

Oils and creams were very important against the hot sun and dry, sandy winds. The oils kept skin soft and supple and prevented ailments caused by dry cracked skin. Workers considered these oils and ointments to be a vital part of their regular wages such that when they were withheld, grievances were filed during the reign of Ramesses III.

The Egyptians were quite fond of strong scents. A great variety of oils and fats were available for perfumes. The most popular was the basic oil called balanos, among the lower class it was castor oil. In terms of perfumes, a distillation process using steam was probably not used for extracting scents from flowers, seeds or fruits. There were three known techniques for extracting scents. The first was enfleurage, accomplished by soaking flowers in layers of fat. Creams and pomades were created in this manner. A popular form of pomade was shaped like a cone and worn on the top of the head. As the evening progressed the cone would melt and the scented oil would run down the face and neck. The cones would be renewed throughout the evening. The second process was called maceration. Flowers, herbs or fruits were dipped into fats or oils and heated to 65 degrees Celsius. The mixture was sieved and allowed to cool then shaped into cones or balls. The third process, though not used often, was to express the essence from flowers or seeds much like the wine maker did from fruit.

Eye makeup was probably the most characteristic of the Egyptian cosmetics. The most popular colors were green and black. The green was originally made from malachite, an oxide of copper. In the Old Kingdom it was applied liberally from the eyebrow to the base of the nose. In the Middle Kingdom, green eye paint continued to be used for the brows and the corners of the eyes, but by the New Kingdom it had been superseded by black. Black eye paint, kohl, was usually made of a sulfide of lead called galena. Its use continued to the Coptic period. By that time, soot was the basis for the black pigment. Both malachite and galena were ground on a palette with either gum and/or water to make a paste. Round-ended sticks made of wood, bronze, haematite, obsidian or glass were used to apply the eye make-up.

Red ochre mixed with fat or gum resin was thought to be used a lipstick or face paint. Mixtures of chalk and oil were possibly used as cleansing creams. Henna was used as hair dye and is still in use today.

Tattooing was known and practiced. Mummies of dancers and concubines, from the Middle Kingdom, have geometric designs tattooed on their chests, shoulders and arms. In the New Kingdom, tattoos of the god Bes could be found on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls.

Wigs and hairpieces were also quite popular. They were quite elaborate and usually made of human hair. Other tools used in the beauty ritual that have been found include short fine tooth combs, hair pins, and a small bronze implement with a pivoting blade thought to be a hair curler.

Egyptian Cosmetics
By Lauren Wetula

The Egyptians believed beauty and fashion were very important. The word 'Nefer, means beautiful, so many people had names like 'Nefetar', 'Nefret' and 'Nefertiti'. Men and women both wore makeup.

The Egyptians used oils to protect their skin from the sun and to perfume themselves. Their breath was also perfumed by carrying an aromatic liquid in the mouth, which was later spit out and refilled. Before 4,000 b.c., the Egyptians wore eye makeup. The makeup was usually black or green to signify fertility and rebirth in the next life. They painted their lips red or blueblack. The red paints were made from red ochre, a type of clay, which was ground and mixed with water. Their eye makeup was made from Malachite, copper ore, or Galeha, lead ore, which was ground-up and mixed with oils. Their eye paint, called Kohl, was applied heavily to the eyelids and under the eye. Henna, a reddish color, was used to dye hair, paint nails (3,000 b.c.), and the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. The Egyptians also crushed beetle shells and mixed it with their eye paints to make the first known glitter. Their mirrors (3,500 b.c.) were made from polished silver and/or copper. The handles were made from wood, ivory or gold.

Egyptian commanders would paint their nails and lacquer and curl their hair before going off to battle. Only kings and queens were allowed to wear red on their lips and nails, while others, could only use pale hues. Noonewould dare flaunt the color worn by their ruler's. Manicuring was also invented in Egypt. The early Egyptians also had Manicuring sets to maintain beautiful nails. The shape and condition of their nails separated peasants from royalty.

Approximately 4,000 b.c., Egyptian beauty shops and factories were everywhere. The art of makeup use was highly skilled and widely practiced.

The ancient cosmetic pots and applicators we uncovered, were made of clay and wood; they were beautifully decorated. The tall pot we found, probably contained perfume. The short, wide pots most likely contained powders used for the face, such as henna. The small cylinder may have contained eye makeup and carved sticks were used to apply it. The mirror was used to reflect their natural and enhanced beauty. The small box or chest was used to hold cosmetic items.

Bibliography
Stead, Miriam. Egyptian Life. British Museum Publications, London, England, 1986
Ruffle, John. The Egyptians. Cornell University Press, Ithica, NY, 1977


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