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Ancient Greece: The Archaic Period, 750 BC-500 BC


Learning from the Egyptian Masters
Even before the Classical period of Greek history, Ancient Greece boasted one of the most advanced societies in the world. Archaic Greece produced such legends as the great bard Homer, whose Odyssey and Iliad continue to inspire artists today, and was the birthplace of the philosophies that would eventually lead to the first democratic society. Grecian women rivaled their Egyptian and Chinese counterparts in the fields of skin care and beauty. In fact, their close proximity to Egypt meant that trading routes developed between the countries. Unlike the dry Egyptian desert, Greece's Mediterranean climate was perfect for cultivating the fruits, nuts and vegetables used to make body oils and lotions. As Egypt imported these valuable ingredients, they shared their recipes for skin care treatments and techniques, sewing the seeds that would develop into centuries of Greek cosmetic expertise.

While the Greeks may have based many of their skin care traditions on Egyptian techniques, however, they soon made them their own. After all, heavy body oils and shaved heads were unnecessary in the temperate Greek climate. Instead, the Greeks used only the basic principles of Egyptian cosmetics. They adapted their own methods for distilling the oils and essences from herbs and other plants. Like the Egyptians, their goal was smooth, supple skin. Greek men did not wear the heavy eyeliner worn by both Egyptian men and women, but many Greek women did emphasize their eyes with a light lining of kohl.

The Ideal Grecian Woman
Like so many cultures throughout history, the Greeks associated tanned skin with the lower classes, because only the most wealthy and educated did not have to work outdoors. The ideal Grecian woman had pale skin, offset by dark hair, done up in an elaborate style that often featured curls. Her lips and cheeks were berry red. While not all women could afford the materials to achieve this appearance, those that could went to great pains to live up to the ideal.

The Mediterranean sun combined with the naturally dark complexion of many Greek women meant that extra steps had to be taken to achieve a pale faced look. Although they did not have access to the harsh facial bleaches used by Chinese women, they did coat their faces with white powder to give themselves a lighter appearance. This powder make up was made from either white lead or chalk. Although wigs were not as common in Greece as they were in Egypt, they were worn by some women to help give them the thick, black hair they desired. Other women would darken their hair using dyes made out of henna. Henna was one of the many substances borrowed from Egypt and was also a major component in the rouge that women used to stain their lips and cheeks. Some Greek women also wore perfumes, similar to those worn in Egypt, to give themselves a fresh and alluring scent. (You can read more about Greek make up here: http://www.localhistories.org/cosmetics.html ).

Shopping Local and Organic
Unlike the Egyptians, who imported most of their skin care products, the Greeks grew many of their own and developed many of their own treatments using local, natural ingredients. It was not uncommon for men and women to rub their skin with moisturizing honey. They would also make their own skin-softening lotions from a combination of oils and herbs. Grecian women may have even invented the concept of the facial mask. One of the most popular treatments involved mashing up a paste of fresh berries and mixing it with milk. This paste was massaged into the face and left to soak in for several hours before being wiped clean. (You can read more about Greek berry masks here: http://divinerevolutionmag.com/thehistoryofnaturalandorganicskincare.aspx )

The Archaic period was a developmental period of Greek culture. During this developing era, skin care was still a budding art form that used plants, herbs and natural compounds to achieve a striking look and a soft feel. When Greece entered the Classical period, however, the Greek concept of skin care would change, becoming increasingly associated with physical fitness and the latest medical discoveries.


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