Natural Cosmetics – A brief history
Cosmetics have been around for ages, we have read that Cleopatra used various beauty products to maintain her youth and nourish her skin. Of course, some of her beauty treatments were very elaborate and are rumoured to use many exotic ingredients. But some of them used easily available ingredients like honey, aloe vera, milk (said to be young donkey’s milk) and various oils like almond oil and olive oil. Indian also used several naturally occurring ingredients, coconut oil, for example, as cosmetics. Several manuscripts are available that detail the properties of natural ingredients in improving the natural beauty. Fragrances and scents have been used since ages and throughout the geographical breadth of the world. Several traditions use scents and fragrances. The Chinese and the Japanese were also well versed in the use of naturally occurring ingredients to enhance the beauty.
A common thread among all these recipes of natural cosmetics was the reliance of naturally occurring products. Several plant and plant extracts were used to derive natural colours or essences. Some of them were used for their therapeutic, medicinal as well as antiseptic properties. Rose was used to provide fragrance; its oil was used for other reasons as well. Aloe Vera was used extensively for its properties. Some of the oils and fragrances were used for massaging either the body or the scalp. Coconut oil is used even today in many parts of India for massaging the scalp.
Milk and honey were also used extensively. Milk was thought to give the youthful look to the body. Cleopatra used to bathe in fresh milk to maintain her looks. Honey was used in various preparations and for different body areas. Facials were derived using honey. Among natural ingredients, henna was used for its colour. It is used even today in many parts of the world. It is said to give a lustrous feel when applied to the hair. It was also used for tattoos, yes; tattoos have been popular since ages. Henna was used to colour hands and feet with various designs particularly during weddings and other religious ceremonies. Pumice stones were used extensively as a body scrub. Turmeric powder is a well-known antiseptic and finds usage among several cultures today.
Not all such natural cosmetics are considered as safe. Lead found application in eyeliners. A mixture of lead ore and copper was used as an eyeliner as well as eye shadow. However, modern science has found that excess lead content can lead to lead poisoning. It is now out of favour as there are severe repercussions on account of lead. Several ingredients have been found to have adverse reactions and not all of them are suitable for all body types. On account of these concerns, natural cosmetics gained notoriety during the industrial ages and artificial chemicals replaced several of them. Research has found that these chemicals also lead to adverse reactions and natural ones were far superior to these artificial ones.
A simple test can determine if a particular type of cosmetic is suitable for your body type. However, the harmful effects are only discovered over a period of time and what is today considered as safe may not retain its label tomorrow.