Skincare through the ages

We may think of beauty and skincare as a fairly modern development that has only happened in the last 100 years or so. However, if you go far enough back, you can see that caring for our skin has been around for a long time.   

Ancient civilisations 3000 BC – 650 AD             


For the ancient Egyptians, skincare and beauty routines were an important part of their daily lives. Beauty was seen as a sign of holiness and make up, worn by both men and women, would be used to honor their gods and goddesses. With skincare, the Egyptians were ahead of their time when it came to having an all-natural skincare routine. 

Sesame and castor oils were used to hydrate their skin and keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay. They would also make their own soaps, using a mixture of olive oil and clay and to create a moisturising face mask they would mix a pot of honey and milk. To exfoliate, they would use dead sea salts. So keen on cleansing their skin, Greek historian Herodotus commented that they would bathe in cold water twice a day! Milk baths were also popular as they were very soothing for the skin. 


One of the most popular skincare treatments used in Greece at this time was a mix of milk and fresh berries. A paste would be created from combining the two natural ingredients and then applied to the face. Olive oil was a popular ingredient used to moisturise the skin, as was honey due to its natural antibacterial qualities. It is also thought that it was the Greeks who first developed a recipe for cold creams (an ancient version of our modern-day moisturisers). 


A popular face mask recipe for the ancient romans included using olive oil, animal fat, cucumber, rosewater, almond oil, eggs and even rocket. 


Herbs and spices were popular choices in the skincare routines of Chinese women, they believed that your complexion and healthy glow was related to the health of your body and what was going on inside.  The foundation of ancient Chinese medicine has its roots based on using herbs to cure a wide range of ailments so it no surprise that these herbs and spices came to be heavily used in their skincare routines, including seaweed!   

Medieval era 470 AD – 1400 AD 

To cleanse and soothe the skin, a blend of aloe vera, cucumbers and rosemary would be used and afterwards vinegar would be applied to close pores. To make a face mask they would mix honey or animal fats with leaves, flowers and seeds.  

Renaissance era 1450 AD – 1650 AD 

In many regions, there was a desire to achieve pale white skin, which was achieved by mixing silver mercury, lead powder and chalk into a paste and applied directly to the skin – and that means it was also being absorbed into the body too. These harsh chemicals would irritate the skin, and to combat this, women would use a blend of herbs and honey to soothe it and reduce dryness. To reduce the appearance of puffy eyes, bits of bread would be soaked in rose water and gently applied to the delicate eye area.  

Baroque era 1600 AD – 1750 AD 

During this period, skin cleansing through sweating became increasingly popular. Saunas would open the skins pores and flush their skin of toxins. Heavy, thick make up was used and to remove it, distilled alcohol would be applied. Milk baths were also popular during this time.  

Early 1800’s 

Toners and facial mists grew in popularity, and these would usually be made using herbs and flowers. Originally intended to fragrance the skin, in time they came to be recognised for the refreshing and renewing benefits they have, just like ourHebridean Marine Toner. 

1850’s -1900’s 

Despite the many advances that came with the Victorian era, when it came to skincare, there were still some toxic chemicals being used. Arsenic was a popular ingredient to use on pimples and they also thought it could help to remove freckles. On a more natural note, lotions containing glycerin and cucumber were used while it was thought that using distilled green pineapple held anti-ageing benefits.   

1920’s - Modern day 

Due to advances in technology, more brands were able to mass produce products leading to skincare becoming more popular. Natural and organic skincare is now widely sought-after as we continually learn the benefits of sustainably using the world’s natural resources. This brings us back full circle to the Egyptian times!  

Seaweed is an abundant natural resource, which sits at the heart of ishga. It is incredible for your skin as it promotes skin cell renewal, stimulates collagen and hyaluronic acid production, and is full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. We believe natural is best!