Skin Care: How it all started

A woman looking her best has always been a priority that dates back to biblical times. Whether its to gain attention, intimidate the competition, increase social status or improve her chances of attracting the opposite sex there is lots of evidence to show that skin care along with cosmetics has been with us for centuries.

Skin care practices date back to the biblical days starting with moisturizers. The most abundant and commonly used was aloe vera, olive oil and milk. Due to extreme heat and weather conditions, the Egyptians used oils all over their bodies to moisturize their skin and protect it from the sun. Initially skin care was used more as a medical treatment than as a cosmetic. Herbs and other natural scrubs such as sand, clay, pumice, seeds and salts were added to the moisturizers to exfoliate and soften the skin.

The Egyptian women were vain to say the least. They were obsessed with being beautiful. Even today, Cleopatra is known as one of the most beautiful Egyptian women who ever lived. Her beauty secrets included bathing in milk and moisturizing with aloe vera and plant oils. Egyptian queens were buried with their vials of oils, lotions and potions. However,  there was no correlation between being beautiful and being healthy.

In Chinese culture, however, if you were beautiful you were considered to be healthy. Chinese women strived to achieve the perfect balance of herbal medicine, good nutrition and good circulation. Having sun tanned skinned was undesirable because it symbolized those who worked outside in the fields as being field workers. Having pale skin was a symbol of wealth and status because these women did not do manual labor in the fields. Many women attempted to achieve pale skin and this was the beginning of skin lightening systems.

Similar to the Chinese, the Greeks viewed those with sun tanned  skin as lower class. If you were well educated and/or wealthy you did not have to work outdoors. In Greece, the climate was perfect for growing fruits, nuts and vegetables that were often used to make oils and skin care creams. It is believed the Greeks developed the first facial mask using fruit. Eventually they would be the first to associated skincare with physical fitness especially among men. Hence, the Olympic games.

During the era of Queen Elizabeth I, white powder made from lead was applied to the face. Red paint was used on the lips and cheeks. Since these ingredients were toxic, diseases quickly became associated with makeup and skin care. During this time women would go for several days without cleansing their face because the lead and paint was so hard to remove.

By the end of the 1700s a more clean, natural faced look was becoming more acceptable. and popular. Heavy makeup was only worn by prostitutes. The alternative to using white lead powder was skin bleaching with lemon juice.

In the 1920s Max Factor was one of the first to sell face powder to the masses to help women achieve the desired no makeup look. Women began to imitate the look of their favorite Hollywood star (sounds familiar doesn't it) and homes were even being built with special rooms used for applying skincare and makeup. Following Max Factor was Palmolive, Ivory, Ponds, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden and Revlon.

And suddenly...the stock market crashed and it had a major impact on the skin care industry.

Women became more conscious and fragile about how they spent their money. Skin care, makeup and fashion was no longer at the top of their list of priorities even though they still wanted to have the look of their favorite movie star. In order to save money, women began making products at home. They were determined to look their best. Even during the Great Depression!

Even after the Great Depression ended, some women continued to make their own skin care and hair care products at home and they became very successful but some were unable to compete with the big brand names. 

Currently the existing law in place for the skin care and cosmetics industry is The Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938 with no authority to require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments, or even require product recalls. The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (H.R. 1385), was introduced on March 21, 2013.

This Act would give the FDA authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients and that ingredients are fully disclosed. Let's keep our fingers crossed.