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Cleopatra's Beauty Routine

At times, we tend to think that the preoccupation with beauty, cosmetics, and everything else to do with our appearance is a thoroughly modern thing – and let’s not even mention Instagram. Well, here’s a newsflash for you (actually it’s old news): in ancient times, in Greece, Egypt, Japan and even England, women were very busy with beauty care, searching for tips, investing hours in regimens for the body and hair. Because even then, they understood: beauty is made up of layers, some that can be seen, and others that are hidden.

Without a doubt, one of the women who knew this well was none other than Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Legend has it she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and even Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, one of the most powerful rulers of the period, could not resist her. Although born in Greece, Cleopatra was immersed in Egyptian culture, which, at the time, put great importance on beauty and the various rituals surrounding it, for example, applying olive oil to the skin to prevent dryness and aging (and by the way, some say that in those times, even poor families received a free bottle of olive oil once a month).

Rumor has it that Cleopatra herself wrote a book about beauty, in which she shared her knowledge about the composition of cosmetic substances. Much research was done in centuries past to try to prove the existence of these writings. For example, historians found that in the 17th century, Thomas Bonham, an English doctor, gave credit to Cleopatra as “one of the authors” of his work about hair loss, and Thomas Moffet, who wrote a book on insects, mentioned Cleopatra’s writings on flies as an effective treatment for balding.

Apart from advice about hair care, Cleopatra’s book provided tips about how to keep facial skin looking young (gold masks, for example), and how to revitalize the body (bathing in sour milk baths rich in lactic acid).

One of the places Cleopatra loved and, according to legend, visited often was the Dead Sea. She believed (and with good reason) that the region and its natural treasures had various healing properties, and there she established the world’s first “spa”. So, what did she do there? Skin peels for the body and face using Dead Sea salts rich in ingredients that regenerate and hydrate the skin, and then, she would spread black mud all over her face and body (what a shame there were no selfies back then!), which was known to have medicinal properties that calm the skin and maintain its youthful appearance.

And, if the skin is happy – everything’s good. To complete her refreshed, ‘glam’ look, Cleopatra would make a quick trip to nearby persimmon plantations, which she received as a flattering gift from the Roman emperor, and which were located at Ein Gedi adjacent to the Dead Sea. What has persimmon got to do with beauty care? At that time, persimmon oil was twice as expensive as gold. It was used to extract a unique perfume, which made its way to the vanity tables of only the most famous and affluent women, including Cleopatra of course. With an intoxicating scent, and enviable skin, she would make the long journey back to her kingdom, returning home tired – and completely satisfied.

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