Cleopatra — queen of Egypt, lover of Julius Caesar, and later, Mark Antony’s wife, was, and still is considered to be one of the most powerful, beautiful and beguiling women of all time.
She was famed not only for her enthralling beauty but also for her intellect. She spoke a dozen languages, was well educated and was gifted with a charming voice. The secrets to her beauty rituals and the products she used over two millennia ago, are highly sought after even today. Cleopatra’s beauty regimen–at times unconventional–have withstood the test of time, and are used in many skincare products today. From using saffron as an aphrodisiac to sleeping with a gold mask, Cleopatra did it all.
Egyptian beauty secrets that are relevant even today
The legendary queen’s best-known secret was her milk bath that kept her skin soft and supple. It is said Cleopatra added milk, honey, rose petals and almond oil. She used donkey milk in her daily bathing routine since it was considered rich in lactic acid. The latter helps break down dead skin cells, allowing the skin to regenerate. It delays the onset of wrinkles too.
Therefore, the next time you indulge in a tub bath, add half a cup of milk powder, three cups of fresh cow milk (substitute for donkey milk), one tablespoon of almond oil, three tablespoons of honey and a handful of rose petals. Soak yourself in these luxurious waters and let it work its magic.
Honey was used for a lot of treatments in Egyptian times
Honey contains a plethora of antibacterial ingredients and is laden with antioxidants. These help slow the ageing process, boost complexion and prevent acne. Honey is also a soothing moisturiser and imparts a natural glow to your skin.
Here’s one of my favourite recipes that I call the Cleopatra mask. For a gorgeous glow, combine one tablespoon of honey and one teaspoon of milk powder with four finely ground almonds. Make a paste by adding some fresh milk and apply to your face. Wash off after 20 minutes and simply observe the change.
Sea salts, aloe vera and moringa oil
Known for their natural healing properties that replenish essential minerals, sea salts work as natural exfoliators and help absorb toxins from the skin. They were widely used by ancient Egyptians in their traditional bathing rituals, body scrubs and facials. Today, sea salt scrubs are a hot selling treatment in most wellness spas worldwide.
Meanwhile, aloe vera was used on hair and body by Egyptian men and women alike. It was used to treat burns, wounds and sunburns too. Interestingly, ancient Egyptian women used fresh aloe vera gel as a hair straightening agent even. Well, they sure were way ahead of our times. Aloe vera currently is used extensively in beauty products, health juices and diet supplements.
Ancient Egyptians used moringa oil to fight signs of ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles. Today, moringa oil is used in the formulation of various skin care products and cosmetics; chosen for its skin rejuvenating properties and antioxidants which work wonders for our ageing and nutrient depleted skin. When purchasing, do remember to choose pure and cold pressed moringa oil for better results.
Cleopatra used sweet almond oil as a part of her daily skincare regimen
Another staple from Cleopatra’s beauty secrets is sweet almond oil; a popular ingredient used in ancient Egyptian cosmetics. It was believed to be a good vitamin E source.
Sweet almond oil can be used in in a variety of ways in daily life. It is light enough to be used directly on the skin which helps in fighting wrinkles. You could also mix it into a protein drink, drizzle it on salads, veggies or boiled potatoes. Eating almonds that have been soaked overnight is also thought to stimulate brain cells.
The quintessential devotee of perfume, mistress of aromatics
Cleopatra was always scented from head to toe; she anointed her hands with rose oil, bathed in pure rose water and even her ship was made of cedar. So well known was her affinity for rose water that Shakespeare mentioned it in his famous play–Antony and Cleopatra–when he wrote that her cedarwood ship had perfumed sails.
To make your own rose water pick some fresh fragrant red roses, wash them clean and deptal until you have a cup full. Add one teaspoon of vodka to two cups of filtered water and simmer along with the petals on low flame for about 20 minutes. Strain this rose water and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Natural makeup and cosmetics
The most striking feature in all of Cleopatras pictures have always been her eyes. Cleopatra wore dark kohl and eyeliner defining her almond shaped eyes. In fact, the use of kohl as a cosmetic can be traced back to Egyptian times. Even more, she made a paste from red ochre powder by mixing it with water and used it as lipstick, a cheek stain and as eye shadow. A paste of burnt almonds was used to paint and fill the eyebrows and henna was used as a natural dye for fingernails. The Egyptians were first to introduce a natural method for hair removal. Waxing, as we call it today, was performed by using a sugar, lemon and water solution.
I have been a beauty and skin care professional for almost 20 years now and the bulk of my treatments are influenced by ancient Egyptian ones. I extensively use their beauty regimens in my daily practice with proven results, both for my clients as well as for me.
I always believe that taking care of your skin is an investment towards your well-being and not simply on beauty or vanity. My own journey of understanding skin care has made me a believer of how much it can boost your confidence.