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Skincare 101

History of Skincare 101

History of Skincare 101

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Obsessing over skincare is hardly a new phenomenon. Records show complex, multi-step skincare regimens dating back thousands of years. In fact, ancient Egyptians were often entombed alongside their fave serums to help ease their transition into the afterlife. We know what you’re thinking – suddenly, that evening face mask you treat yourself to doesn’t seem so extravagant. While the science of skincare has changed drastically in the last thousand (even ten!) years, some ingredients and concepts have come full circle.  


Ancient Egypt Skincare


Ancient Egypt

The first recorded proof of a skincare regimen was found in Egypt in 3000 BCE. Natural, readily available items like olive oil, ostrich eggs, dough and essential oils made from herbs and plants were used to address skin concerns of all types. Cleopatra was known to bathe in sour milk to smooth her skin. While it’s unclear how the ancients happened upon the connection, sour milk contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that’s commonly used in chemical peels today to improve skin tone and texture. Other notable skincare combos used in ancient Egypt included sand and aloe vera to exfoliate, honey and milk baths to hydrate, and a clay and olive oil paste to deep clean.


Pre-Modern Europe

The medieval era was all about pungent herbal remedies and ointments based in animal fat. Face masks were made by grinding up seeds, leaves and flowers and mixing with honey to create a paste consistency. Next, during the renaissance, people relied on easily accessible remedies like bread soaked in rose water to soothe puffy eyes and oatmeal boiled in vinegar to banish breakouts. The baroque period gave rise to saunas and sweat cleansing as a way to purge toxins and maintain skin health.  



In the 1800s, exercise and cleanliness became more important to society than ever before. At a time in which light skin was ideal, women were known to apply mixtures of zinc oxide and lemon juice to their skin to brighten their complexions. Ingredients such as egg yolks, honey and oatmeal were also used to soften texture and spot treat blemishes. The 1800s also marked the beginning of mass-produced skincare products, such as Chapstick, Vaseline and baby powder.



Skincare as we know it emerged in the 1900s. In 1935, the first sunscreen, called “Ambre Solaire” was created using benzyl salicylate, a UV ray-absorber. Next came laser treatments in the 1960s. In these early versions, rubies were zapped with high-energy flashes of intense light to target unwanted hair, acne scars and pigmentation. Chemical peels were the must-have procedure in the 1970s, when they were finally perfected enough to become a safe, widely used skin resurfacing treatment. Originally, chemical peels contained phenol and trichloroacetic acid, which were later replaced in the 1990s by gentler exfoliants like glycolic and lactic acids.


History 2000s Skincare



The 2000s have seen a huge cross pollination between the tech and beauty industries, creating a wave of in-office and at-home devices people can use to yield immediate and dramatic results. This includes rolling needles across the skin to create bouncy, new skin cells, aka microneedling. While microneedling is a relatively new concept to most, the origins of the concept can be traced back to acupuncture in ancient Asia. First mentioned as early as 100 BCE, acupuncture applies tiny needles to the skin to open “life force” channels and promote the natural self-healing process. Fast-forward to 1905, modern microneedling was conceptualized by a German dermatologist, who used dental burs powered by motor-driven cord equipment to treat scars. In 1995, a new, more effective technique was discovered by a dermatologist in Philadelphia using hypodermic needles and a small needle stamp to induce collagen production. In 20ll, a new chapter in microneedling history began with the creation of GloPRO®, the first and only patented at-home microneedling device. As microneedling technology has advanced, so have the results. Today, microneedling is known to successfully address wrinkles, scars, uneven texture and sun spots.