The history of skincare – Ancient China


The second part to my history of skincare series takes us to ancient China. I’ve always associated China with beauty because of the known fact that eastern countries have excellent skincare regiments, especially northern Asia where they strive to look as youthful and bright as possible. They are very big on a simple and regular routine; exfoliate, brighten and moisturize are the essential steps. This love affair is nothing new and I hope with this article you can get a small idea of where it came from.

The Qin dynasty, the first imperial dynasty of China, can be attributed to starting the evolution of skincare in China because the emperor believed in the importance of cleanliness, herbal medicine, nutrition and good circulation. All of which we now know to be important factors in maintaining healthy skin. The empress herself going as far as to cleanse her face with jelly fish, which isn’t shocking anymore considering that we know jelly fish has antimicrobial properties. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this as a skincare treatment. Another common practise of this time was eating black beans and sesame seeds to clear the skin up.

The obsession with skincare in China further flourished during the Tang and Ming dynasty’s, when it became a marker of class to have a pale complexion. This then descended into a huge interest in makeup especially in the upper class ‘Samurai society’ where having an even, light skin tone and rosy cheeks became important.

Their makeup regimes were rigours, consisting of powder, ‘rouge, shaving their brows off and drawing in new eyebrows much higher than the originals. Red lip stains and intricate hair styles further added to the immense detail in their looks. Some even managed to turn their hair into orchids!


Some of the tools used to make and apply makeup in ancient China

More recently Asian beauty has been taking over again, namely Korea. There obsession with young looking skin remains and is key into their skincare innovations and numerous skincare shops including shops dedicated to sheet mask! Below are a few of the ancient routines I have found that you may want to try with your discretion (Make sure you’re not allergic to anything).

The Ideas you can try:
o Herb, it up! Herbs were the key for ancient China and you can still pop into a Chinese pharmacy and grab one of many popular, topical herbs such as; Bei Qu, Huang Qi and Goji. Each one possess different qualities for different things and therefore it is important to go into store and figure out which one is for you.
o Turmeric masks, you may want to be a little careful with this one because some people can be very irritated by turmeric. In ancient China turmeric was used to reduce wrinkles. You can make a mask by mixing a little with some almond milk and honey.
o Mung bean mask! To heal acne and de puff the face. You can make your own by mushing mung beans into a paste.
o Steep herbs in hot water to make an extremely effective/not very tasty herbal tea that are brimming with antioxidants, minerals, amino acids and carotenoids.

For this particular blog post I decided to visit the British museum for some authentic images of the kind of tools that would have been used at this time. I saw some really interesting things and have included some images of these below:



The Jade collection in the Chinese galleries.


*All images were taken by me at the British Museum

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