The History of Skin Care

Humans have a rich history, and looking back to see how people lived before us and how we live now can offer us insight into the way we live. For instance, before television, how did people entertain themselves? How was travel accomplished without horses? What did our ancestors eat? Anthropologists dedicate their lives to studying ancient societies and cultures and how they developed. Luckily, we don’t have to spend a lifetime studying our ancestors to learn from them.

MDPen, a supplier to micro needling practitioners of micro needling pens and numbing cream, will take a brief look at how our ancestors cared for their skin in this blog post. Contact us today!


Ancient Egyptians

Much of skin care in the earliest times was driven by the climate. Let’s look at ancient Egypt for example. Egypt lies in the desert. They just happen to have the longest river on earth, the Nile River, running through their civilization. This was enough to support growth and grow food. But a desert is dry, hot, and windy. It also has a lot of sand, which gets blown everywhere and gets everywhere. Cleaning their skin of all the dust and sand was important, so they made a soap out of clay and olive oil. Women wore cosmetics, the first society archaeologists have evidence of doing so. These served two purposes: to protect their skin from the sun and insects and for aesthetics.

Makeup was also used to honor the gods, with eye-shadows made by crushing metal ore, copper, and semi-precious stones and mixing them with water, oil, or animal fat. Because of what has been found in tombs, archaeologists know that kohl, pumice stones, and special hennas were also used by royal women of Egypt. There is evidence they were concerned with aging (although the average age of ancient Egyptians was only nineteen years old), the first we know of to create an anti-aging cream. All natural ingredients were used such as aloe, sodium bicarbonate, myrrh, and frankincense. Ancient Egyptian women indulged in honey and milk facial masks as well as milk baths, using rough sea salts to exfoliate, rejuvenate, and heal any wounds in their skin. Ostrich eggs and dough were used, and essential oils from plants and herbs were created.

Ancient China

Archaeologists know from writings during the Shang Dynasty in 1760 BC that a pale face was the desired look. Skin lighteners were popular as was powder. One empress during the Qin Dynasty recorded her skin care regimen: natural cleansers made from seaweed and jellyfish, indulgences in facial massages, and use of exercise to improve the circulation in her cheeks and forehead. She was also one of the first to make the connection between diet and skin care, believing that black beans, sesame seeds, and Chinese yam would improve the skin.

Powdered face and smooth skin continued to be popular up until the Middle Ages in China. Courtesans used white powders made from lead, as well as natural gels and lotions to remove pigments and permanently bleach their skin. One skin lightener, songyi mushrooms, is still in use today. The Chinese were more concerned about healthy living than what they looked like. Skin care was for nutrition, health, and circulation.

Ancient Greeks and Romans

The ancient Greeks used nature as their inspiration for skin care, usually whatever grew naturally. Olive oil was a favorite moisturizer as well as and ingredient in exfoliates. Berries mixed with milk was used for facial treatments. Honey, milk, and yogurt were popular to fight the signs of aging. Ancient Greek women also cared how they looked, using oils, perfumes, powders, eye shadows, skin glosses, and paints in their cosmetic products. Ancient Greek women also liked to dye their hair and lighten their skin, in keeping with the fact the lower classes had tan skin from working in the fields. They indulged in chalk and lead as well to lighten the skin. Let’s not forget the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, lived during this time. He came up with the first treatment methods for skin diseases, some of which are still used today by dermatologists.

The Romans brought back baths, holding the belief that their skin needed to be clean. After a dip in a bath, a slave would rub them with olive oil and then use a scraping tool called a strigil to scrape off all the dirt and grime from the skin. Galen, a Roman physician, was believed to have developed the first cream by using rose oil and water. The mineral alum was used on oily skin to treat scabs and abrasions.

Medieval Ages

Also known as the Dark Ages, skin care took a step back in time during the Medieval age. Cosmetics had made their way to mainland Europe. The feudal system was the dominant way of living, which led to white skin being a mark of beauty (because women who worked the fields were tan). Nature once again provided all the ingredients for skin care products. Aloe vera, rosemary, and cucumbers cleansed the skin. Seeds, leaves, and flowers were added to honey for facial masks. Vinegar was used on oily skin. Ointments incorporated animal fats.


During this time, devastating diseases claimed millions of lives, and those who lived through them were often left physically scarred. Smallpox was one of those diseases, which did turn men off from marrying women who bore such scars. Queen Elizabeth I was one of those who was left permanently scarred from smallpox. To cover her scars, she covered her face in white makeup made of white lead and vinegar, which was known as ceruse. Many of the upper class women in England (and in Europe) put ceruse on their faces, necks, and chests. It gave the wearer a milky, porcelain complexion, which is exactly what these upper-class women wanted. However, what no one knew was that lead is a poison and when placed on the skin, it is absorbed into the body. Lead poisoning leads to hair loss, muscle paralysis, and a deteriorating mental condition. Ceruse use also corrodes the skin, leaving it unattractive; so, thicker and thicker layers had to be applied over time. Many women died from its use, and it is believed to have helped contribute to Queen Elizabeth I’s death.



Skin care practices remained unchanged from the Medieval Ages to the Renaissance. More remedies that we know include oatmeal to treat pimples and bread soaked in rose water to soothe puffy eyes. Dangerous metals were used in most cosmetics of the day. In addition to lead, silver and mercury were popular ingredients. Lead was used as an early chemical peel to remove freckles, which were not considered to be signs of beauty. Herbs and honey once again rounded out the cleansers used for the skin. The Roman cleanliness had become forgotten as the rise of Christianity forbade public bathing, and the belief that water could transmit illness took root as well. Bathing was infrequent to say the least in the Middle Ages.

The Enlightenment Era

The Enlightenment is known for its profound advancement in sciences, mathematics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. As life eased, people had more free time for experimenting. This held true for skin care products as well. Saunas and sweat cleansing became popular. Milk baths remained standard for smoother, clearer skin. The ingredients did change in this time period, but only because white faces were no longer in vogue. Color was in, and the heavier the makeup you wore and the brighter, the better. Red lips and cheeks became the fashion, leading to an uptick in rouge sales and the predominance of alcohol or vinegar for the lips.


Cosmetics began to be used more by the lower classes and not just the upper classes in the 1800s. Women cared how they looked and how they smelled. Exercise became a thing then as well as cleanliness (baths), and skin care. Still, metals were being used in cosmetics that caused more damage, such as zinc oxide. It was believed the harsher the better when it came to cleaning, so scrubs emerged for skin care. Other ingredients began to be mixed in as well such as egg yolks, honey and oatmeal in facials. Lemon juice was popular to lighten the skin. The late 1800s saw a multitude of skin care companies come out with new products. Some of these were Chapstick, Vaseline, and baby powder, which all quickly became used in skin care routines.


Skin care exploded during this time period. As globalization ensued after both World Wars, new ideas were exchanged across continents that fueled the growth in skin care. Sunscreen was invented in 1944. Estee Lauder began her cosmetics company in 1946, followed in the 1950s by Clearasil, Ponds, Oil of Olay, and Clinique. The 1980s saw a return to all natural skin care products.


The advances in skin care made in the last two decades has surpassed almost the entire 2000 years. Botox was approved by the FDA in 2002 and facelifts became acceptable in society. Non invasive cosmetic procedures have taken the skin care industry to previous unseen possibilities, as well as the advancement in skin care products and ingredients for all types of skin and all types of skin care conditions. This is exciting news for those suffering from skin pigmentations, chronic acne, and other skin conditions such as eczema.


Looking good has always been in the forefront of our minds no matter what time period you lived in. Human ingenuity used what was available at the time to achieve desired results. The skin care industry has definitely evolved over time, just like every other industry. Technology has made things possible that had never been possible, and the future looks to be even brighter.

MDPen is on the forefront of skin care technology and micro needling, which is a non invasive cosmetic procedure that uses tiny micro-injuries to induce your body to produce collagen to heal your wounds, which strengthens the skin and eliminates signs of aging. We are a leading provider of micro needling pens. We offer training courses in micro needling to those wishing to become a practitioner, such as nurses, physicians, spa owners, and aestheticians. We offer a myriad of products to serve the micro needling practitioner, such as BTL cream, replacement heads for micro needling pens, and a marketing packet for your use. In order to make micro needling a bit more affordable for our clients, we offer financing on all of our micro needling pens, which allows you to, in effect, pay as you go by performing micro needling on patients and then using that money to pay for the pen.

In addition, MDPen’s skin care products are top-of-the-line for high quality and all-natural ingredients that yield amazing results. We have products with human growth factors as well as pure hyaluronic acid. We cover the spectrum for your skin care routine from cleansers to serums. Our skin care products can either be used in conjunction with micro needling before and after treatments or as a complement to your regular skin care routine.

MDPen believes powerfully in skin care and micro needling as a component to your overall skin care routine. Using all-natural ingredients, some of which have been around for millennia, is the key to radiant, youthful skin for ages to come. Visit our website today for more information!

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