(image: The New Yorker)
When thinking about beauty icons, it is impossible not to think about Cleopatra. Her beauty is legendary, and rumored to have been a vital part in her ascension to power. It allowed her to have influence over her fellow leaders, most of which were men. Centuries after her reign as queen, she is still recognized as one of the most beautiful and most powerful women in human history. The images that depict the Egyptian icon have since become the definitive symbols of Ancient Egypt.
Passed down from generation to generation, here are the famous queen’s ancient beauty secrets.
Milk and Honey Bath
Cleopatra’s most famous beauty regimen was to keep her skin soft and healthy by bathing in milk and honey. My Beautiness shared this ancient skin care secret and laid out how the queen formulated her bath. In one liter of warm milk, she dissolved a small cup of honey and poured the mixture into her bath. It was vital that the milk wasn’t boiling hot as it would lose its medicinal properties at such a temperature. She is believed to have soaked in it for over 20 minutes to get the luminous glow she has was known for.
Sea Salt Body Scrub
Along with the famous milk bath, there is also a sea salt mixture which was used as a body scrub. The scrub amplifies the effect of the bath. The queen would have rubbed 300 grams of grated sea salt mixed with heavy cream all over her body. It exfoliated and softened her skin even further. However, it was never established whether she scrubbed her body before or after the milk bath. The aforementioned My Beautiness article argues that it’s better to rub it before the bath so that it will be more effective.
Frankincense and Myrrh
Cleopatra used frankincense and myrrh as perfume.
In addition to the sweet smells of milk and honey from her bath, the ancient Egyptian ruler used the frankincense and myrrh to create a more mysterious and attractive aroma around her. It was said that these scents were also used to soothe her strong and powerful men, further seducing them to give into her charms.
Cleopatra’s contribution to beauty is most famously attributed to her makeup. According to Marie Claire’s list of ‘10 Beauty Secrets of Ancient Egypt’, they highlighted red ochre as a common cosmetic item. This natural earth clay pigment was mixed with some water and dabbed on their lips and gently on their cheeks. This mixture was the ancient version of today’s lipsticks and blusher.
The Egyptian queen’s beauty and influence have stood the test of time. Countless films and TV series have adapted her legendary story. The most famous of them was when Elizabeth Taylor played the historical figure in a 1963 feature film. This was where her iconic dark-lined eyes became the unofficial image of her beauty and of Ancient Egypt in general. Many Cleopatra-inspired media productions have since used that look including Katy Perry in her “Dark Horse” music video. This image of Cleopatra is so iconic that it is used outside of the usual media platforms. Slingo in their Cleopatra slot game focus on her famous eyes for the logo of the game. The makeup around the eyes is so globally recognizable that many players would know that the game was instantly about her without looking at the title.
The fascination around Cleopatra shows how important she is to not only human history, but also human culture. Her legacy and beauty continues to be celebrated to this day.