The desire for gorgeous, healthy skin is not one that has arrived within the twenty first century. Since antiquity, women have sought lovely skin as a sign of their overall beauty and attractiveness. Methods and potions have come and gone since then, but the hunt for luminous skin has remained constant.
The Ancient Egyptians, in approximately 3000 BC, began using products to beautify skin. Beauty was extremely important in Ancient Egypt, and thus the search for the magic ingredient to give lifelong youthful, healthy, skin began. Women in this era bathed in milk and rubbed aloe vera on their skin, as well as using pumice to exfoliate away dead skin and reveal the fresh, smooth flesh beneath.
Ancient Egypt was not the only place skincare was prized in antiquity. The women of ancient China were also deeply concerned with the condition of their skin. Because they wore shapeless robes that showed nothing of their bodies, a woman’s face and feet were the things by which she was judged. Therefore, it was of utmost importance to keep skin soft, smooth, and vital looking. This was primarily achieved for Chinese women through the balance of a healthy diet, good circulation, and herbal mixtures as they were needed.
The ancient Greeks and Romans also sought healthy skin, and had their own ways of acquiring it. In Greece, honey was often applied to the face as a skin conditioner, along with pastes of berries used as masks. In Rome, baths were very popular and the heat and steam helped keep blood circulating well and skin glowing. Both Greece and Rome prized pale skin and applied everything from almond oil to crocodile dung in an attempt to achieve clear, pale skin.
In the Middle Ages, pale, unblemished skin was still considered the height of desirability. Women used wine and herbal treatments on their skin in the early Middle Ages, eventually working more exotic ingredients and oils into the potions and products as the Middle Ages progressed and new items were brought back from abroad. Some women were so desperate for pale skin that they went so far as to apply arsenic to their flesh to lighten it.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, heavy makeup came into fashion. Diseases had run rampant and often left scars and marks on skin that women sought to cover up with heavy cream makeup. Makeup in the 17th century was particularly dramatic, reflecting society as a whole. The 18th century brought back the popularity of using milk as a beauty product, and saw the fall of heavy makeup as current fashion. When worn, rouge suggested a member of the lowest classes of society.
The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century ushered in another era of clean, healthy skin. Makeup was not heavily worn and a natural look was prized. This era also saw the first mass production of skin care products.
In the first 3 decades of the 20th century, the Golden Age of Hollywood, women began to use makeup more heavily again. They set out to create the looks they saw on their favorite film actresses, which were often heavy handed and dramatic. Female shaving also began in this time, with visible skin now expected to be smooth and feminine.
The Great Depression and the war years saw a dramatic change in the availability of skincare products. Most women could no longer afford them, if they were available at all, and went back to using homemade concoctions and cold cream to care for their skin during these lean years.
By the 1960s, the skin care industry had recovered and skin care systems became popular. These typically consisted of a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. New ingredients such as vitamins began to be used in the mass made products. The 1970s showed no signs of slowing in the skin care world. All-natural ingredients began to be prized in products to feed the growing market for organic goods among women.
The 1980s and 1990s brought many more ingredients into skincare. Scientists began to develop anti-aging products and skincare beautifiers containing ingredients like collagen and alpha-hydroxy acids. The world of skincare products grew rapidly with a plethora of new potions and creams on the shelves of drugstores and department stores.
Skincare from the 2000s through present day has continued the trend of science-backed products. Several new ingredients have come into use such as hyaluronic acid, and the proof of the dangers of skin exposure have seen sunscreen added to everything from moisturizer to lip gloss. Many products are now targeted to specific skin concerns, and women have more options than ever to find a skincare regimen that works best for them.
Many aspects of beauty have changed over the years and things that were once considered important to a woman’s beauty are no longer focused on. One thing that has remained consistent throughout time is the hunt for beautiful skin. Beautiful skin today implies youth, vitality, and good health. I have heard it said that radiant skin is the accessory that goes with everything, and I believe that is so. A good, consistent skincare routine is the closest a woman can get to the Fountain Of Youth.