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Ancient Egyptian Beauty Secrets

In ancient Egypt, beauty practices had spiritual and ritualistic significance for all social classes.

Ancient Egyptians often are depicted wearing so-called 'head cones' in artwork depicting banquets and worship.

Recently it has been discovered that the primary constituent of the cones was a plant or animal wax infused with perfume. The cones dripped oil which served to scent and cleanse the body, literally and spiritually. The cones would have "purified the individual, placing them in an appropriate state to participate in rituals."

A mirror was used to apply makeup as we do today.

Polished bronze or copper was the most common material for ancient mirrors. Mirrors were not only associated with self-awareness but also religion and magic.

Pictured here is a mirror from the New Kingdom, ca. 1479–1425 B.C. On the handle, the Egyptian goddess Bat is depicted with cow horns. The use of gold foil for the handle and a silver disc indicates that this mirror belonged to a member of the elite. (The Metropolitan Museum)

They applied black kohl in veneration of the duties. Kohl was also considered to have magical powers against eye disease and protect the eyes from the sun's glare.

The mineral galena would be ground and mixed with animal fat or oils to make kohl. It would be applied around the eyes using a small stick.

Pictured here is a kohl jar with its wooden applicator from the New Kingdom, ca. 1492–1473 B.C. The jar had a crusty residue inside that was identified as galena. (The Metropolitan Museum)

Works cited:

Pendergrast, Mark. Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. New York, Basic Books, 2004.

James, Peter, and I J Thorpe. Ancient Inventions. New York, Ballantine Books, 2006.

Stevens, Anna. "From Representation to Reality: Ancient Egyptian Wax Head Cones from Amarna." Antiquity, vol. 93, no. 372, 10 Dec. 2019, pp. 1515–1533.

"Ophthalmology of the Pharaohs: Antimicrobial Kohl Eyeliner in Ancient Egypt." Discover Magazine,


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