More than 5,000 years ago, India invented Ayurveda, a lifestyle-focused form of medicine, using plants for to promote good health and prevent aging.
In China, beauty rituals started around 1760 BC. The must-have look was a healthy and natural pale face, using powders and skin lighteners. An Empress developed her skincare routine, based on products, facial massages, and a specific diet, which she documented in writing. She used cleansers made from seaweed and jellyfish and believed that eating black beans, sesame seeds, and Chinese yams were beneficial for her skin. Later, courtesans would go to great lengths to have clear and smooth skin, using white lead-based powders and lotions to remove pigments and bleach their skin.
In Ancient Greece, precious oils, perfumes, cosmetic powders, eye shadows, skin glosses, paints, beauty unguents, and hair dyes were in universal use. Ancient Greeks made their skincare products using fresh berries, milk, olive oil, honey, and yogurt. They also prized clear smooth skin, and we owe them the recipe for a skincare staple—cold cream. In Ancient Rome,
face masks were made of olive oil, rosewater, animal fat, arugula, cucumber, almond oil, and eggs.
The same desire for clear and smooth skin lasted through Medieval times and the Renaissance in Europe, promoting the use of toxic substances like lead or arsenic in powders. The ingredients used were expensive so products were not often removed, so instead, they were layered over. Removal of those layered powders was dicult, so people used acidic substances like wine or vinegar. To remove blemishes, people employed even harsher and dangerous ingredients such as mercury.