The desire to flaunt beautiful and radiant skin has been persistent among mankind since time immemorial. Although the principle and basic goal has remained consistent through the generations, the practices used to achieve it have radically changed. The products and routines that were adopted and used widely in the ancient times have been replaced, and rightfully so, in the present day. With the tide of time, people have resorted to smarter and more efficient tools of skincare, that are easier to use and are time-saving, which is extremely crucial for the modern-day human being.
Let’s take a look at how skincare has changed over generations.
In the medieval times, around the 12th and 13th centuries, people relied heavily on entirely natural resources such as animal fats and herbs to rid their skin of any ailments. Animal fats used to be a major constituent of ointments and were effective as well. Plant-based products like honey, beeswax, milk, aloe vera, seeds, flowers, and leaves were used as components of skincare in order to cleanse, moisturise skin as well as treat pimples and improve texture and complexion. As we can see, since the beginning of time, the reliance on vegan products has served the purpose of taking care of skin health and that pattern has been perpetuated even in the 21st century.
The obsession with light skin is not something that dawned upon our generation overnight; it has been greatly present since the ancient times. Across Europe, components such as chalk powder, white lead powder and crocodile dung were extensively used in ointments and creams as natural lightening agents.
Skincare during the Renaissance
There wasn’t much of a noticeable change in the beauty practices among women of the Renaissance era as compared to that of the ancient era, except a few new additions. Besides the use of herbs, oils and other plant products, women started relying on products containing toxic components like lead, arsenic, silver, mercury and chalk, to do their makeup and add tint to their skin. In the long run, however, these products were harmful as they could not be easily cleansed with water and soap, and also owing to their expensiveness, people did not desire to remove them frequently. This resulted in blemishes and scars on women’s faces. There was a clear disregard for the safety of beauty products and the effect they could have on health. Besides these extremes, women also used bread soaked in rose water as a means to get rid of puffiness around the eyes, broom stalks to cleanse skin and oatmeal boiled in vinegar to treat pimples.
This era was characterised by the invention of new skincare and lifestyle products like Vaseline, Chapstick and baby powder. Natural ingredients like honey, egg yolks and oatmeal were as much used as were newly created cleansers. These ingredients not only helped in achieving a well-cleansed skin, but also removed blemishes and helped soften the skin. The preference for fair skin was still prevalent, which prompted women to use lemon juice as a natural skin-lightening agent. Zinc oxide came into the spotlight for lightening skin but given the allergic reactions it used to often produce, it did not become as popular.
The advent of the multi-step skincare process happened in the 20th century. The production of carefully crafted products like cold creams, soaps, serums and oils saw the light of day during this time, and became hugely popular. The revolutionary skincare product, sunscreen, was invented in 1944. Big brands like Ponds, Clinique, Clearasil were all launched during the 1950s. The cold cream by Ponds became a bestseller as women loved using it to remove oil and dirt from their skin rather than using cleansers.
Modern-day, science-based skincare
Today's skincare is heavily dependent on science, and has come to fruition after extensive research. Components of each skincare product have been carefully curated and studied in depth to explore their therapeutic and beneficial properties. Today’s multi-step skincare routine involves several steps which cater to different requirements of your skin. For instance, a Vitamin C serum is used for reducing dark spots and getting more radiant looking skin, while Salicylic acid serum is used for preventing acne. Another novel aspect of today’s skincare routine is the usage of facial tools like the derma roller, Gua sha, jade roller, ice roller, to name a few.
No matter how diverse the skincare routine of people has been across different generations, the ultimate principle of working of all products, manufactured or natural, have remained the same. Skincare has become more accessible for people of all levels of society, and hence, there are more and more skincare trends emerging with every passing year.
This women’s day, try to reflect on how far beauty and skincare has come, and how women have persevered through tough times, yet managed to look and feel flawless through their timely skincare routines.
1. Is using chemicals bad for your skin?
Not if they have been carefully researched and they do not have any established harmful effects.
2. Did people in the past not use skincare products?
Natural ingredients were more predominant in ancient times than chemicals. But with time, as people realised the power of chemicals, they were gradually incorporated in skincare products.
- Srishti Chakraborty