A Brief History of Skincare

7 Historical Periods and Their Beauty Secrets

Skincare and beauty trends change with the times. Ever wonder what was considered beautiful in ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy? Travel back in time and learn how women cared for their skin.

How people took care of their skin in centuries past

Ancient Egypt

Did you know that the first archaeological evidence of cosmetics is from Ancient Egypt roughly 6,000 years ago? But cosmetics weren’t just for looks; they also protected wearers from the the sun and insects.

Makeup was also used to honor gods and goddesses. In terms of skincare, the Ancient Egyptians used castor, sesame, and moringa oils to fight wrinkles and preserve their youth. Ancient Egyptians also made a soap paste out of clay and olive oil to cleanse their skin. "Honey was a popular beauty product for it's sweet smell and hydrating capabilities," Marie Claire reports. "Egyptian women often mixed milk and honey to create moisturizing face masks." They also took milk baths and used Dead Sea salts to exfoliate, rejuvenate, and heal their skin.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, precious oils, perfumes, cosmetic powders, eye shadows, skin glosses, paints, beauty unguents, and hair dyes were in universal use. The Greeks made their own skincare products using local, natural ingredients. One of the most widely used skincare treatments was mixing fresh berries with milk, and then applying the paste on the facial area.

The Greeks also used olives and olive oil to exfoliate and moisturize. And they used honey, milk, and yogurt as anti-aging preparations.

The Middle Ages

During the 12th century, cosmetics were regularly used in medieval Europe. "Hair should be blond and fine like gold wire," the Washington Post reports, "and if nature didn't provide the proper color, it could be produced by dyes imported from the East." Ointments consisted of animal fats. Smooth, white skin was highly regarded, and many women used herbal remedies to promote fair skin and diminish pimples.

Aloe vera, rosemary, and cucumbers were used to cleanse the skin. Seeds, leaves, and flowers were also mixed with honey to create face masks, and vinegar was used as an astringent.

The Renaissance

Women in the Renaissance used silver mercury, lead, and chalk to color their faces. Most of the skin care practices were the same as the medieval period, and women primarily relied on herbs and honey to cleanse and rejuvenate their skin.

Some other skin care remedies included using broom stalks to cleanse the skin and oatmeal boiled in vinegar to treat pimples. Bread soaked in rose water was also used to soothe puffy eyes.

The Baroque Era

During the 1700s, women believed in saunas and sweat cleansing. Milk baths were also used for smoother, clearer skin.

Makeup during this time was intended to look like paint, and heavy makeup was considered more respectable. Rouge was very popular. In the 1780s, French women used two million pots of rogue per year. Women’s lips were reddened with distilled alcohol or vinegar.

The 19th Century

Exercise, cleanliness, and skincare were all held in high regard during the 1800s. Zinc oxide was used to lighten skin, but it often caused allergic reactions. Hygiene products became less expensive and more accessible.

Harsh cleansers were often used, as were egg yolks, honey, and oatmeal to often the skin and help diminish blemishes. Lemon juice was also used to naturally bleach the skin a few shades lighter. During this time, too, lip balm, petroleum jelly, and baby powder were invented, all of which were used in skincare regimes.

The 20th Century

The 1900s saw an explosion in terms of accessible skincare for women. Carmex lip balm was invented in 1937, and sunscreen in 1944. In 1946, Estée Lauder launched their cosmetics line in NYC, and then in the 1950s Clearasil, Ponds, Oil of Olay, and Clinique were all launched, too.

The 1980s saw a rise in all-natural skincare products. Dr. Howard Murad’s line was launched in 1980s, as was the Burt’s Bees line.

The 21st Century: A Beautiful Future

Neuromodulators and Fillers

In 2002, the FDA approved Botox for frown lines. In 2006, the FDA approved the Juvéderm line of hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, which smooth and add volume to facial areas.

Body Contouring

In 2007 came VelaShape, the first and only FDA–cleared, noninvasive medical treatment for circumferential and cellulite reduction. Then in 2010 came CoolSculpting, a device that reduces cellulite by controlled cooling of fat cells.


In 2011 came laser facials with Clear + Brilliant, a safe fractional laser technology that helps to erase moderate wrinkles and fine lines by resurfacing skin and simulating collagen production. In 2013, the world saw nearly 1.5 million laser hair removal procedures since the technology's approval in 1995.

A beautiful future, indeed!

Aesthetic Treatments