The Many Cosmetics used by Egyptians

The Egyptians used a surprisingly large number of makeup and skin care products. Rouge colored their lips and cheeks, while dyes and paints hued their body and facial skin. There is enough evidence to show that the Egyptians even colored their hair.

Perhaps best known of all is their extravagant use of kohl to accentuate the eyes. This dark colored powder was made with many different naturally occurring substances that gave different hues and different textures.

Some of these are crushed antimony, lead, copper, burnt almonds, ash, malachite, copper ore, ochre and many others. Both the upper and lower lids were heavily accented with kohl and a line extended to the side of the face too. The use of kohl protected the eyes from excessive sunlight and the Egyptians believed that it cured eye infections as well.

The use of aromatic oils, unguents and lotions to improve skin tone and color while giving the wearer a pleasant fragrance was quite common. In fact, the Egyptians even used cleansers (animal fat mixed with powdered lime and perfume). We still follow many of the skin care and makeup techniques the Egyptians used in these ancient times.


The Egyptians believed that to be accepted by the Gods in their afterlife they needed to look good. This explains why we find beautifully painted faces on the sarcophagi unearthed from Egyptian pyramids. Busts and friezes of reigning pharaohs and his consort were also artistically decorated so that facial features were heavily highlighted to match the real person’s regular makeup. The religious connotation attached to one’s appearance ensured that perfect makeup and skin care was a very important activity in daily Egyptian life.

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