Skincare Through Time

From the 1800s to 2000s, here’s how skincare emerged one decade at a time.

We’ve been looking at skincare from a different lens through our ‘Roots and Rituals’ episodes. We release at least once a month, check them out to learn about all things skincare across multiple decades, cultures, genders, and more! As a result, we decided to dive deeper, as we always do.

Skincare conversations have become commonplace in most settings, from lunches and dinners with friends to online channels with influencers, dermatologists, and the like. Yes, many dermatologists are now on social media, to give their audience a chance to chat with them even if they are across the globe. Years, well, years and years ago, when someone said skincare, it meant using ingredients available to you at home to cure skincare concerns like acne, eczema, freckles, pigmentation et cetera. On the contrary today, it is an industry that is comprised of much more than that. Ingredients are key, as these are in the products you use every day, but there are also beauty devices, in-clinic treatments, and the like, all of which are designed to treat specific concerns.

It seems, however, there is a lot of buzz today - despite the fast-evolving speed at which the industry is moving - on clean beauty, and all things natural. Yes, this tells us, we are going back to nature, where skincare treatments were born - which tells us in turn that nature’s ability to heal is infinite and boundless - which is exactly what we believe at Founders Beauty.

Having said that, while we may be circling back, we are circling back with the support of thousands of clean beauty brands, who are able to afford us, the consumers, access to thousands of natural ingredients through the products that they create. We are no longer forced to use only what we have at home but we have infinite access to multiple ingredients that would otherwise not be available to us.

So, now that we’ve established that we are circling back but doing it with the support of the clean beauty industry, let’s take a closer look at what we are circling back to.

Skincare Through Time in Short

Ancient Egypt

It seems that the first archaeological evidence of ‘cosmetics’ were found in ancient Egypt, and was estimated to have been created 6,000 years ago. Yes, 6,000! During this time cosmetics were highly regarded, they were used for function - as a form of protection from the sun, and insects - in rituals, and had symbolic meanings.

Their skincare is comprised of multiple natural ingredients. Castor, sesame, and moringa oils were used to prevent wrinkles and fine lines - these were the anti-aging heroes of this era.

Soaps in this time or cleansers rather were made with clay, and olive oil, this was both cleansing and detoxifying, and as we know today, a great way to draw out impurities as well. In order to moisturize their skin, women used ingredients such as honey, and milk - this was used in the form of a pack or mask. No body scrubs? No problem, dead sea salts were their exfoliation ingredient of choice. With regards to hair removal, sugaring is a commonly used method so as to get rid of excess hair.

Ancient Greece

Similar to the Egyptians, self-care was paramount, in Ancient Greece, beauty was highly regarded. It was said that a “beautiful body, was a direct reflection of a beautiful mind”. Hence, a lot of time was spent looking after oneself.

A popular healing and antibacterial mask were made using olive oil and honey. This was and still does give instant results, due to its hydro retentive properties, and its ability to improve skin elasticity. A plethora of clinical research has shown that honey is not only antimicrobial but also helps regulate the skin’s immune system. It has also shown that honey has been efficacious in the treatment of multiple skin disorders, healing of wounds, and treatment of rosacea. While they probably didn’t know this then, as a result of trial and error they somehow figured out that honey was good for the skin just as the Egyptians did.

Other ingredients they used included sea salts for exfoliation, just as the Egyptians did. Interestingly, the infamous greek yogurt was something they used as an AHA peel as well - we can only imagine, using a face pack of yogurt and honey - whilst indulging in a bowl of delicious greek yogurt and honey. Unlike the Egyptians, the Greeks took tea baths, with mixed herbs to relax the mind, the muscles, and their bodies as a whole. Green tea was a popular tea used in their baths and one that was known to rejuvenate the mind, body, and skin. They also used pomegranate extract in the form of a serum - did you know that this ingredient has three times the amount of antioxidant properties that wine or green tea has? Moreover, pomegranates and the breaking of it was and still is today a tradition that celebrates life and passion - so the application of this was associated with that as well.

Skincare across the Medieval and Renaissance Eras

In both these Eras, beauty standards were very specific, women had to be of a certain size, had to have certain hair colour, and for reasons we do not understand, gray eyes were put above all other eye colours. With this in mind, women worked to achieve these standards, if their hair wasn’t a specific colour they would import dyes from the east to be able to dye it that colour. Women used ingredients such as aloe vera, cucumbers, and rosemary to cleanse the skin. Oatmeal boiled in vinegar was used as an acne remedy, and then they had remedies such as bread soaked in cold rosewater to treat eye puffiness.

Skincare in the 1800s

In this era, Skincare was known to be a privilege. Very often, for those who didn’t have access to ‘product’ women were seen exercising outdoors to obtain flushed skin. Skincare products in the 1800s weren’t easily accessible and were priced exorbitantly. More so, knowledge around skincare was limited so a lot of ingredients put on the face were done on a trial and error basis, it was an experimental treatment if you will. Women would use zinc oxide or natural bleaching ingredients like lemon at home so as to have brighter skin. Having said that Zinc Oxide did trigger allergic reactions quite often amongst those who used it. It is suggested that women desired to look ‘fair’ and wanted a smooth white finish on their faces. Hence, baby powders were invented. Women began to realize that powders drew moisture from their faces as well, and so they would use powder for this purpose too. Because products weren’t mass-marketed, women would usually make their own products on the basis of recipes that were passed on to them by their mothers or grandmothers.

Having said that, it was in the latter part of this Era, that people began formulating products and where it all started. Prior to this DIYs were all you could do for skincare.

The 1900s and how Skincare Evolved

With the gradual emergence of advertising and the increase in dialogue around skincare and beauty, it was in this era that skincare products truly emerged. The rise of modern skincare also started with the formation of the FDA in 1906 to regulate the industry which gave rise to several beauty and skincare brands. For instance, Caramex was invented in 1937, shortly after that in 1944, sunscreen hit the market, and thereafter in 1946, Estee Lauder launched their first cosmetics line. Not too much later in the 1950s, brands such as Clearasil, as well as Clinique hit the market as well. like acne concerns, aid skin lightening, moisturizing and detoxifying products. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that we saw the launch of Murad, and other brands such as Burt’s and Bees. It was after this that clean beauty started to reemerge as well.

The 2000s

With information and research within the industry on the rise, the 2000s is where skincare progressed tenfold. From all-natural skincare to beauty devices, it is in this era that skincare truly evolved. Skincare became easily available, It was in this decade that organic skincare emerged and boomed. It is also in the 2000s that face oils with potent elements like jojoba, tea tree, peppermint, and the like have been introduced to address multiple skin concerns. From face masks to red and blue light techniques, the last 20 years have witnessed significant growth in the skincare world. We at Founders Beauty too strive to create products that are backed by education and research.

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