While traveling I have seen some incredible natural ways in which you can look after yourself, one of these is skin care. Here is more from Randa Zaid, Hayaty Natural on summer skin care from the ancient Egyptians.
SUMMER SKIN CARE TIPS COURTESY OF ANCIENT EGYPT
By Randa Zaid, Hayaty Natural
Recently, we had a taste of just how fierce sunshine can be. Hopefully, the rest of the summer will be much more bearable than July’s heatwave, but we still need to look after our skin: always use a high factor SPF on your face; have a night ritual, maybe something spiritual to help the body relax before bed, such as a few minutes meditation; get enough sleep; and look for skincare products that are wholly natural, organic, cruelty-free and contain some of the wonderful ingredients favoured by the ancient Egyptians.
The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with health and beauty—many of the skin care rituals we practice today are thought to have originated in Egypt more than 5,000 years ago—and here are a few summer skincare tips based on the knowledge of people who knew a thing or two about protecting skin from the sun.
Egyptian queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti were known for their love of milk and honey baths and the combination does make a great cleanser, leaving the skin soft and silky. However, that’s not practical, or environmentally sound in today’s world. You could use a substitute like coconut milk mixed with warm water but better still check out cleansing products containing hydroxy and lactic acid. Milk is rich in lactic acid and listed in many skin care products (AHA). It helps remove dead skin cells and stimulates new cell growth.
Olive oil was also a favourite of the ancient Egyptians who spread it all over their skin to stick to the dirt before scraping it off. The Ebers Papyrus instructed people to mix animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts for washing and the olive oil soap we buy today is known for its lower pH than mainstream soaps that can dry and irritate the skin. It’s deeply nourishing, moisturising and anti-oxidant rich. A very gentle cleanser that can be used on the face without stripping out its natural oils.
Credited with the first exfoliation techniques, the Egyptians used a combination of pumice stones and scrubs made from sand or plants such as aloe vera. Natron (sodium carbonate) mixed with water was used as a scrub. A gentle substitute for Natron is modern baking soda. It’s a mild exfoliator but shouldn’t be done more than once a week. You could also try many of the mineral sea salt scrubs on the market or alternatively, look out for a good Egyptian organic loofah. It’s not too hard or soft, the perfect texture for a good scrub. Be warned, it has an earthy, muddy smell but you get used to it and those who use them for the first time say they feel like they have never showered before. They are sold by men with carts on the street all over Egypt, but they are just as easily found online or in good, organic health shops.
Summer is the time for exposing our bodies and one of the first things on the self-care list is a good de-fuzz of our winter coat. The natural method of hair removal, sugaring, was invented by the ancient Egyptians. For them being hairless was the gold standard of cleanliness as they had no access to hygiene products such as deodorants, So, living in the soaring temperatures of the hot desert made hair removal a must for comfort. Alexander the Great always charged into battle clean-shaven and hairless.
The ancient Egyptians made their paste out of balls of a honey mixture (moum). Sugaring has gained popularity over the world in recent years. It’s better for the environment and less painful than waxing as it binds directly to the hair not the skin. Some Egyptian women today still use sugar and lime juice instead of honey.
The nourishing effects of aloe vera were documented in the Eber Papyrus as far back as 1550 BC. But its reference as the ‘plant of immortality’ was not because it makes you live for ever, but its multiple uses. Cleopatra and Nefertiti were believed to have used it on their faces as a nourishing and tightening mask.
The plant has more than 75 nutrients including Vitamins A, C and E and B12 and amnio acids. As well as being anti-inflammatory, it is super hydrating, reduces swelling, stimulates collagen production and increases the rate of healing, especially after sunburn. The Egyptians depicted the plant all over their temple walls.
There are myriad products on the market containing aloe vera but the simplest thing is to get a plant from any garden centre, cut open the leaf, scoop out the sticky gel inside and apply to the face. Rinse off with warm water after around 10 minutes for firm, smooth and beautifully moisturised skin. Alternatively for very dry skin, Shea butter was a big part of ancient Egyptian civilisation. Anthropologists discovered it was the go-to for skin disease. It contains huge amounts of fatty acids to moisturise and soothe and it also protects against short waves of blue light.
Dark circles and puffy eyes are not a modern phenomenon. The ancient Egyptians were using slices of nutrient rich avocado under their eyes way back then. They believed avocados were the food of the gods. Rich in potassium, vitamins, fats and protein, whether you slap it on your skin or eat it, the avocado is the health supplement that really does grow on trees.
Feed your skin from the inside
The ancient Egyptians firmly believed that if you eat well, you look well. Hieroglyphics on ancient Egyptian walls left behind a record of what they ate and drank. Beekeeping began there as early as 2400 BC. They loved their honey.
In 450 BC Greek historian Herodotus wrote that ‘Egypt was a gift of the Nile.’ When this great river used to burst its banks annually, the receding waters left a black, fertile mud, rich in minerals. An abundance of pomegranate, dates, grapes, watermelon, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, celery and peas grew, as did dates. With a diet like that, the ancient Egyptians were feeding their bodies and their skin with a rich source of antioxidants, protein and fibre.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Randa Zaid is founder of Hayaty Natural, a genderless skincare brand inspired by the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians. Using medicinal botanicals like Black Seed (so beloved of the Ancient Egyptians they called it the ‘blessed seed’) and a combination of plant-based ingredients sourced from local communities in Randa’s homelands of Egypt and Italy, each formulation follows ancient recipes developed by the Pharaohs to provide a holistic approach to self-care. Hayaty is Organic, Vegan, Fairtrade, Cruelty- and GMO-free. Packaged in recyclable glass and card, each bottle comes with a hand-made Egyptian papyrus to inspire us to love ourselves and our environment.
· Ebers Papyrus circa 1550 BC
· Edwin Smith Papyrus
· Bitter almonds are banned in the UK due to their cyanide content but sweet almond oil is used widely today to improve the complexion
· Heredotus. Historian and philosopher