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The History of Moisturizer
Hello my honeybees! As I mentioned recently, I will be your go-to for anything moisturizer related for the next few weeks, given that this is the season for needing lotions for dry skin. My first post in this series is going to give you a brief history of moisturizers, because I strongly believe that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And we may want to reconsider repeating some of this.
On record, humans have been using some kind of moisturizing ointment since at least 10,000 B.C. We have been recording the use of skin emollients for centuries, and back when we – as far as we know – first started using them, we used all sorts of products to attempt to keep our skin smooth, slathering on anything from animal fat to plant oils to tar.
Hence my recommendation to reconsider repetition of these products. Or at least some of them. Please do not slather tar on your bodies, honeybees.
Animal fat is an interesting one, because in some circles it is still being used as a moisturizer! Originally used by people such as Native Americans, ancient Sumerians, ancient Egyptians and Australian Aborigines, there is evidence that at one point oils derived from various animals were utilized as an emollient. As the linked article explains, the fairly recent surge in interest in the Paleo diet has led some people to look into living a more complete Paleo lifestyle – including doing things like using tallow as moisturizer. There are various brands that market the product, but while it certainly is moisturizing, it may not be the best moisturizer for combination skin since it can cause already oily-spots to become worse, and overall does not have all the effects that other moisturizers do.
Another previously used product that is making a reappearance in the skincare world is castor oil. While there definitely are benefits to using castor oil, and there is evidence that our ancestors used it on their own skin, it can also cause some negative side effects, so be careful before trying this plant-based oil.
It’s been reported that the Greek physician Galen, who lived from 129 A.D. to around 210 A.D. in the Roman Empire, may have had the right idea. He is attributed with inventing the first cold cream, by a laborious process that involved mixing water with molten beeswax and olive oil. The concoction took quite a while to make and was reported to separate upon standing, but the recipe itself seems to have stuck around since its inception, albeit with some changes made, namely the inclusion of rose hips for their scent.
Speaking of Greek physicians, hundreds of years before Galen was born, Hippocrates felt strongly about using honey on our skin to keep it moisturized. However, the more popular option at the time was to mash up bread and milk and spread it on your face before bed. Either way, ancient Greeks really seemed to like using food for their skin.
Fast forward to modern day. The late 19th century saw the beginning of the manufacturing of moisturizing cream and lip balm, often using products such as petroleum jelly, lanolin and mineral oil. While the three are still commonly used as moisturizing products, we are seeing a bit of a shift back to more natural options, such as various oils – castor, olive, coconut, etc. – and the aforementioned beeswax and animal fat.
Regardless of what you choose to use this season, make sure you do your best to research the ingredients, so you not know if what you’re using is safe, but that your choice will provide the hydro boost you’re looking for.
Happy moisturizing, honeys!