Combine ancient secrets of the pharaohs with some of nature’s best beauty ingredients for goddess-like glowing skin.
Cleopatra has long been a beauty icon. Famed for her milk baths, heavily made-up eyes and alluring fragrance, the Queen of the Nile, like most Ancient Egyptians, was hugely interested in her appearance.
Both men and women wore cosmetics: malachite (copper ore) was used to paint eyes green; black kohl used to accentuate them; red ochre boosted lips and henna was used to paint nails yellow.
While an Egyptian medical text reported the use of copper to retain beauty, Cleopatra also favoured another mineral: gold. She is reported to have slept in a gold facemask every night.
The Ancient Egyptians also highly prized skin cleanliness and fragrance. Bathing rituals would occur in canals or rivers, and the Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC, documented cleansing bars made up of animal fats, vegetable oils and scent.
Aromatherapy was used to honour the gods in the burning of incense; in baths, which featured heady concoctions of jasmine, myrrh and rose; and post bathing when skin, hair and nails would be lavished with scented oils to hydrate and to bring the wearer ‘closer to God’.
Be a glow getter
Today, Egyptian women are looking for a different type of illumination. ‘Egyptian women are always seeking a natural glow,’ explains Lydia Schoonderbeek, founder of Source Beauty (sourcebeauty.me), an insider’s guide to Egyptian beauty products.
‘In terms of make-up, our most requested item is the No Make-up Glow by Osvaldo’s, a tint for lips and cheeks that gives a lightweight shimmer and fresh sun-kissed look.
‘The brand’s founder, Sandra Osvaldo, has a beauty routine that includes mostly natural products to cleanse and tone, including tea tree oil or rose floral water, as well as natural scrubs, especially body scrubs, to clear the skin of any impurities and boost cell renewal and blood circulation.’ Find her on Instagram @osvaldos_natural_beauty for more inspiration.
‘Egyptian brands have the benefit of utilising high-quality, homegrown ingredients. This has always been the Egyptian beauty industry’s natural, organic and cruelty free USP,’ says Lydia. You’ll find the following at the heart of most products:
Egyptian geranium: This fresh, uplifting floral is used in perfumes. The oil, which is antiseptic and astringent, can be used to tone skin.
Sea salt: Salt, sourced from the lakes of the Nile delta and the Mediterranean Sea, were regarded as an important purifying agent.
Beeswax: A popular ingredient in ancient Egyptian cosmetics, today beeswax is used as a water-resistant barrier to lock in moisture.
Floral waters: Cleopatra favoured rose floral water but now other flowers, include geranium, jasmine, neroli and chamomile, are found in waters to cool, moisturise and refresh.
Vegetable oils: Ancient Egyptians used moringa oil and black castor oil to strengthen and condition their hair.
Brands to watch
For a line-up of at least 30 Egyptian beauty and lifestyle brands, head to Source Beauty (sourcebeauty.me). where you’ll find the likes of Urban Ducks – a natural, vegan, cruelty-free skincare brand whose products, including Shea and Jasmine Body Lotion and a Coffee Scrub, are all made in Egypt.
There’s also Cairo-based Osvaldo’s, which harnesses the power of natural oils in its Magical Hair Oil Mix and Nail and Cuticle Care; Bubblzz is a range of bath and body care products containing organic oils, from Herbal Moisture Lock Shampoo to handmade soaps containing coconut oil, glycerin and castor oil.
Also check out Areej Aromatherapy (areejaromatherapy.com) – a family-run company aiming to restore Egypt’s essential oils industry back to its heyday.
5 to try
Become an Egyptian queen with these hard-working hero products:
1 Cleopatra may have slept in gold but you only need to leave on Peter Roth 24K Gold Mask (£62, cultbeauty.co.uk) for 5-10 minutes to receive the benefits. The 24K gold and colloidal gold leave your skin looking radiant.
2 The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian Anti-Breakage & Repair Antidote Oil (£16.99, naturalistproducts.co.uk) draws on the use of natural oils, in this case the exotic-sounding kalahari, oleaster, mongongo and baobab to strengthen and repair hair and add shine.
3 Celebrity favourite, Egyptian Magic (£29, boots.com) contains only six ingredients – olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and bee propolis – and is inspired by cream found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Use it as a lip balm, primer, or for treating minor burns.
4 The Organic Pharmacy Cleopatra’s Body Scrub (£45, theorganicpharmacy.com) contains a sugar and salt to gently slough away dead skin, plus honey, rose, rose geranium and olive oil to hydrate and fragrance your limbs.
5 Add a few drops of Absolute Aromas Egyptian Geranium (£7.50, absolute-aromas.com) to your bath and be uplifted by the fresh, green, rose-like scent.