Historic Housewife- Get Ready With Me Ancient Egypt Edition

Em hotep! I’m Nedjem and today we will be doing a get ready with me.

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As you may know makeup is important to both men and women in ancient Egypt and today we will be going through the steps I go through to get ready for the day.

Why do men and women use makeup I hear you ask? Well it’s more than just making ourselves look pretty! We like to depict ourselves like the gods, as you know our Pharaohs are close to the gods and who doesn’t like to follow the example of a celebrity?

But makeup also serves another purpose. It helps to protect us from the harsh rays of the sun and even from the insects that are found in our climate. And it protects us from evil spirits, an unmade eye is susceptible to the Evil Eye! That’s why one of the most common items that we put into the tombs of our loved ones is makeup.

Now onto the tutorial!

Step 1:

First Step- washing. Keeping the skin clean is very important to us ancient Egyptians. We like to wash our hands, face and feet both morning and night as well as washing our hands and face before and after eating.

Once we have cleansed ourselves it is time to prepare for the day. After washing we apply a cream that acts in a similar way to that of sunscreen keeping us protected from the sun. But if you really want to push the boat out you could even use a honey and milk face mask before we start with the makeup. 

Step 2: 

Eye makeup is one of the most important aspects of our makeup. We use it to accentuate the eyes making them appear larger while the ingredients used protect us from both the sun as well as eye infections.

A common ingredient in makeup used on the eyes is Malachite, copper ore which provided the green colour that is most popular. Kohl was also used to draw the thick, distinctive lines which was used to give the almond shape seen on many of our drawings. I know your modern day scientists have taken samples of kohl and found it to contain lead which is toxic but beauty is pain as they say.

Here you can see a bust of Nefertiti sporting our signature Kohl eye look

Step 3:

The lips are next. Red ochre is often used on the lips to give a distinctive red colouring. Queen Cleopatra herself wore a unique red lipstick created from a mixture of flowers, red ochre, fish scales, crushed ants, carmine and beeswax. It was her use of this popular shade that made the use of red a popular choice. What can I say, we love our celebrities! 

Step 4:

Perfume. We like to always smell out best! Kyphi is the most well known perfume in ancient Egypt. It was also the most expensive! It is made up of frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, juniper, mint as well as other herbs and spices. It has a distinctive smell but not everyone can afford it. If you find that Kyphi is a little too expensive for you then less expensive options can be found by crushing herbs, flowers and roots into a paste that can be combined with animal fat or oil.

An ancient Egyptian cosmetic set, dating to ca. 1550-1458 BCE.,From left to right- a kohl tube, a razor, a whetstone, a pair of tweezers, and a mirror.

Step 5:

The final step before we are ready to head out for the day is our hair. Wigs are currently the popular trend, those in the know shave their heads to help prevent lice and it also means that we can use a different wigs for every occasion. (Talk about a time saver!) For the more wealthy in society, jewels could be stitched into hair braids on the wig really adding that extra wow factor!

When you’re all done you will be presentable enough for the goddess Isis herself so get out there and walk like an Egyptian!

Queen Nefertari being led by Isis
ca. 1279–1213 BCE https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/557811



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