10 Ancient beauty secrets of the Romans

The Roman Empire was one of the largest empires in history and it stretched throughout Europe and into Africa and the Middle East. That meant the ladies of ancient Rome had access to beauty products and beauty ideas from all around the world and many of the wives of senior Roman officials travelled the world with their Roman men and saw women of other cultures with different ideas of beauty. So what did the women of ancient Rome discover that perhaps we have forgotten today? Read on, and find out some of the beauty secrets of the Romans.

1. They loved a pale complexion

It was vitally important to a well to do lady of Rome that she didn’t look like she had been working out in the fields all day, so she would go to great lengths to look pale and delicate. A Roman lady would use chalk in her skin, to whiten it, and draw blue lines with mineral powder on her arms, to suggest a hint of the veins showing through from beneath the skin.

2. They adored a monobrow

Every woman in ancient Rome wanted a thick set of eyebrows that met in the middle. The thicker, the better and, if a lady were unfortunate enough not to have an unruly brow, she would pencil it in with charcoal to make sure that she stayed at the height of fashion. There were no makeup brushes in those days either, so the charcoal would have been applied with a stick or a splinter of bone.

3. The Roman ladies blush

They also liked to have rosy cheeks, to set off against their pale skin, and for this, they used a variety of natural ingredients. For those that could afford it, there was red ochre, imported from Belgium and, for those who could not, there were red rose petals and red chalk. They might also use red wine left over from the night before, or red lead, which of course, was poisonous.

4. They used face masks too

Roman women frequently used face masks too, and some of the ingredients will be familiar to you, but not all of them. They used oils, fennel seeds, vinegar and basil juice, to name just a few of the natural ingredients that we might well use ourselves today. They also used goose grease, kingfisher poo and placenta, and gladiator sweat on their skin too. Yuk!

5. They didn’t like body hair

Smooth, hairless skin was also a must for a Roman beauty, and their methods for removing hair were not too dissimilar from our own today. They shaved their legs and under their arms, they used a resin paste, as we would use wax today, and they also used a pumice stone to smooth away the hairs from their body.

6. How they cleaned and cared for their hair?

To keep their hair glossy and clean, the roman girls would use a mixture of eggs and vinegar and, to treat dry hair they would use olive oil. Mind you, the very wealthy Roman woman wouldn’t have to bother herself with any of these details, because she would have had her very own ‘hair slave’ dedicated solely to caring for her hair.

7. They really did bathe in asses’ milk

You may have heard that Cleopatra bathed in asses’ milk, but it was also very popular with the ladies of ancient Rome. They believed that asses’ milk made the skin more delicate and soft, and it helped to fight wrinkles. It turns out that they might have had a good point, because asses’ milk contains retinol, which we now use in anti-ageing treatments.

8. Roman nail polish

The Roman idea of nail polish was definitely not an appealing one. To achieve a bright red nail, they would paint their nails with a mixture of sheep fat and blood.

9. They took care of their lashes

Roman women believed that, if you had sparse eyelashes, then that was a sign that you had been indulging in too much lovemaking, so they did what they could to keep their lashes as thick and as long as possible! They used kohl to line their eyes and to blacken their lashes, a technique that they had copied from the ladies of the East.

10. They did like to smell good

Given that the ingredients of some their beauty treatments included gladiators sweat, excrements and blood, it will come as no surprise that the ladies of ancient Rome were also fond of perfume too. Scents were made with flowers, herbs and spices, and used on the skin or added to beauty lotions and creams. The very best perfumes, though, were imported from the East, so they were only available to very rich women.

Do you know other ancient beauty secrets?

Stay pretty!

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