History of personal hygiene

From the Egyptians to the Germans – not only did each era have its own culture, but personal hygiene also changed. It has always been an expression of the way the culture sees itself and has certain peculiarities.

Antiquity Egypt

The Egyptians around  3000 to 300 BC . are one of the oldest civilized peoples. Their high level of culture was also reflected in their clothing, artistic hairstyles, and body care and cosmetics. Men wore their hair shaved or short to clean-shaven. Black wool wigs, leather or felt caps were common. In addition to their own hair, the women also wore wigs. In the early days, the pageboy was common, later came long hair with a center parting, many individual braids or curly hanging curls (heated clay curlers can be considered the forerunners of electric curlers), headband with lotus flowers, balm cones. There were artfully coiffed wigs (tresses on a latticework outfit) for elegant Egyptian women. The hair color was worn black or dyed red with henna.
Personal hygiene: Baths and  massages  with scented oils, care with perfumed ointments.
Cosmetics:  Faces with yellowish make-up, strongly accentuated  eye shapes (eyeliner in the corner of the eye), green-colored eyelids, drawn-out lips, palms of the hands and fingernails colored red with henna were considered ideals of beauty.

Antiquity – Greeks

Ancient Greece laid the foundations of Western culture. Around  1500-150 BC. , heyday 5-4 century BC . (classical heyday), architecture, poetry and knowledge were witnesses to the high level of culture in all areas of science. But the measure of all things was man. He strived for harmony and health of body and mind. Clothing and hairstyles, body care and cosmetics, as well as sport were all part of this striving.
Poets and scholars wore long hair and beards at this time.
Athletes and soldiers were seen in short, curly hair and clean-shaven. Young fashionistas had half-length, wavy hair and were also clean-shaven. The women wore during the  archaic period (1500 – 500 BC) long loose, wavy hair with a headband or held by a clip. The  classic period  (from 500 BC) emphasized the back of the head, knot hairstyles with a center parting. The hair was held up with ribbons and nets. Diadems were also on display, as well as calamistrum waves and “blonding attempts” (blonding with  saffron ). In the  Hellenistic period  (from 300 BC), hairstyles were artfully knotted and influenced by the Orient. Body  care  included baths, massages with fragrant oils, gymnastics, plenty of sleep and diet.
It was fashionable to make the face snow-white with white lead  make -up (toxic). and to accentuate the lips in menning red. There was a great fondness for fragrances derived from natural essences.

Antiquity – Romans

About  500 BC – 500 AD : The Romans adopted the culture of the Greeks. Their position of power found expression in strong self-confidence, a lavish lifestyle and luxury. In the Republican period (about 500 to 30 BC), men had a full hairstyle and a full trimmed beard. The women had bun hairstyles with nets. This is just one of the three  hairstyle shapes which women wore in many variations at that time. During the imperial period (from around 30 BC), men had their hair cut short, parted from the pegs, wavy or curled. Also clean-shaven in the “tonstrina” (shaving room). The women wore either a Titus head (short, partless curly hairstyle) or braided hairstyles with snake curls and pinned-up neck hair. The crown of the head formed a diadem of dense calamistrum curls. Blonde was a fashionable color, with attempts at bleaching having little success. Therefore, wigs made of blond Germanic hair were worn. Body care:  Baths in  goat and  donkey mare’s milk should keep the skin soft and supple. You also took sweat baths, had massages and anointed. Superfluous and annoying body hair was removed by the epilator (slave). Cosmetics:  Many valuable recipes for facial care have been handed down. Precious oils,  honey , bran and fruits were used. Powder and lipstick were also used by men.

Medieval Romanesque

About  900 – 1250 AD,  the art style of the early Middle Ages is Romanesque. Its characteristics are the round arch, heavy, massive columns and mighty walls. During this period, men wore cropped hair and mostly had a beardless face. By the 11th century, nobility had a greater influence on fashion. The half-length hair was cut in the form of a pageboy, slightly wavy or curled. The goatee was trimmed round or pointed. Monks wore a tonsure and had their hair cropped short.
Compared to men, women’s hairstyles depended on their status: girls wore loose hair held in a sash (headband or wreath of flowers), and sometimes a veil. There were also differences among married women. Because they braided or twisted their long hair, sometimes colored ribbons were worked in and the braids were pinned up. In the second half of the 12th century the hair was covered. The women wore mural crowns with givers. Body care : Public baths were set up, which at that time were also used for entertainment (music, hospitality, etc.). The barber took care of the haircut,  shave , hair and  nail care , tooth extraction and wound care.

Middle Ages – Gothic

The new “Gothic” architectural style is an expression of the deeply religious attitude of the people. He emphasizes the vertical. Pointed arch, pillars and tracery are its characteristics. In addition to large cathedrals such as those in Freiburg, Ulm and Cologne, town halls, guild houses and town halls were built. The hairstyles shaped at this time about  1250-1450 AD.  her style. Men had semi-long, slightly wavy or curly hair. However, the shape of the hairstyle had hardly changed here since the Romanesque period. The chin was shaved clean. With the  women the hairstyle played a subordinate role. For example, girls wore long, wavy hair or braided hairstyles. In comparison, married women covered their hair with fanciful bonnets such as the hennin, horned bonnet, butterfly bonnet, or turban bonnet. Forehead and bangs were plucked or shaved to emphasize the high, smooth forehead. The most popular hair colors were blonde and black. The color red – as a sign for witches – was frowned upon. At this time the public baths lost their reputation. Due to vicious bathing habits and the spread of diseases, they were partially closed. Thus, in addition to the bathrooms  , barber shops were created  in which shaving, haircuts and wigs were made. Barbers and barbers carried out wound and dental treatments.

Ancient-Medieval Germans

Around  1600 B.C. -800 AD  men and women wore different hairstyles. In the field of body care and cosmetics, there were also some differences compared to today.
Men had long hair as a sign of the free man, while slaves and the dishonored wore their hair shaved bald.
Typical tribal  hairstyles at this time were, for example, plaits, floating knots, and a ponytail hairstyle. In the Bronze Age, men wore a clean-shaven beard and in the Iron Age they wore a full beard. In the Bronze Age  (1600-800 BC) you could recognize the women with plaited wool nets attached to their necks, combs and hanging pigtails  . In the  Iron Age (from about 800 BC) loosely falling hair and center parting were popular. The body  was cleaned with soap in warm or cold baths   and then cared for with lanolin (wool fat from sheep). Annoying body hair was already removed with tweezers back then. Equipment for nail care and ear spoons were also available. Colored means for decorative cosmetics were not known until the time of the encounter with the Romans.


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