Through the ages & beyond

Shahnaz Husain revisits some of the ancient secrets that have shaped our idea of beauty from time immemorial
Last Updated : 24 August 2020, 19:15 IST
Last Updated : 24 August 2020, 19:15 IST

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Centuries ago, people relied on nature and natural ingredients to beautify themselves. During ancient times, women borrowed from nature to enhance the beauty of their skin and hair. They followed Ayurveda, the ancient Indian herbal heritage, which uses plant ingredients and other natural substances for beauty and health. Ayurvedic beauty care not only provides the means for general beauty care but also the treatment of specific skin and hair problems.

In India, during the ancient times, women used henna that has its basis in Ayurvedic healing, where henna was applied as a cooling paste to bring down fevers or cure heat rashes. Gradually, it began to be used to colour hair and paint intricate patterns on the hands and feet, a tradition that exists till today. Henna is so much in use today and has its basis in the ancient dyeing method when chemical dyes were unknown.

Apart from imparting colour, henna is also an effective natural hair conditioner. Similarly, ingredients for lip colour were those that cured stomach ailments. The bark of the missee tree yielded a red colour, which was used for the lips, or as rouge on the cheeks.

The Mughal queens were known to use the powder of emerald, turquoise and pearls as make-up for the eyes, the way we use eye-shadow. Of course, such trends do not exist now, but, we still make kajal and surma the way it was done during the ancient times.

In India, kajal and surma were used, while the ancient Egyptians, both men and women, had their eyes heavily lined with kohl. Today, with the “back to nature” trend sweeping the world, we have gone back to the ancient times when plant extracts were used for skin and hair care as plant and herbal extracts have shown a lack of harmful after-effects.

Many herbs help to soothe the skin and cure skin irritation. The use of plant ingredients is, therefore, a way of ensuring safety from harmful effects. In some civilisations like India, herbal medicines flourished and became a part of our heritage.

Natural substances like metals, minerals, shells, precious and semi-precious stones, honey, yoghurt and so on are still used in the Ayurvedic healing system. Plant products are most popular in Ayurvedic remedies. One of the most popular trees in India is neem. It has a history which goes back thousands of years.

Over the centuries neem has been highly valued in India for its healing and purifying properties and it is probably the most widely used among plant products. Like the ancient times, we still use every part of the neem tree for healing purposes.

One of the most common uses of neem in India is for cleaning and brushing teeth, for which the tender twigs are used. Ancient Ayurvedic prescriptions record that neem is ideal for preserving and protecting the teeth and the gums from disease and decay.

Pastes, infusions and decoctions are made from the leaves for local applications on the skin and scalp. The oil obtained from the seeds has been applied as a dressing in chronic skin and scalp problems.

Today, it is used in many skin and hair products, like hair oils, shampoos, rinses, conditioners, toners, creams and ointments.

Other plant ingredients like turmeric, ashwagandha, brahmi, amla, trifala, basil, mint and many others are used for skin and hair care. Sandalwood is also one of the most popular cosmetic ingredients used in India. It has been mentioned in ancient Indian texts as far back as the 5th century BC. It has powerful germicidal and antiseptic properties. It soothes the skin and heals inflammatory conditions. Sandalwood paste has been used since the ancient times for beauty care and its fragrance. Today, its oil and extracts are used in many cosmetic preparations. Indeed, the natural beauty aids of the ancient times have been tested by the most exacting test of all……they have been tested by time.

Let's make it up

In this unprecedented situation, we have accepted the fact that wearing a mask is mandatory and also life-saving. A mask has become one of our main accessories. Most women feel reluctant to wear too much make-up when they are wearing masks. They feel it would look totally out of place. They also feel that wearing heavy make-up when the world is suffering from such a terrible pandemic, shows a lack of sensitivity to the situation. Naturally, make-up and the way we look has changed. The changes are reflected in the beauty industry itself where supply chains of several make-up items are disrupted. Lipstick sales are supposed to be showing a downward trend.

With half the face covered by a mask, the use of lipstick and also foundations has become less. With a mask on, a foundation can make matters worse, by making it feel heavy under the mask, and making it more difficult to breathe. Many have stopped using foundation and use powder compact, or a highlighter on certain areas of the face, like the cheekbones. If you must use foundation, make it a light, water-based one. Oil-free formulations would be preferable to the usual creamy products so that it is not too heavy under the mask. Waterproof and smudge-proof products would be more suitable to wear under a mask.
Another major change is that there is less emphasis on lipstick and more emphasis on eye make-up. The trend is now to accentuate eye make-up. Kajal, eyeliner and eye shadow are becoming more popular. The prediction is that various shades of eye shadow will become the trend. Since the emphasis is on eyes, one must pay more attention to grooming the eyebrows on one’s own, by plucking and shaping them. According to an expert, smoky eye, glitter and pastel hues are 2020’s best picks for eye shadow. Be playful and experiment!

Coloured mascaras and eyeliners should make a comeback. Many are also predicting that transparent masks will become the trend so that women can wear bright lipstick, which will be visible under the mask. You may not be wearing your lipstick, but continue taking care of the skin on the lips, so that the skin of the lips does not suffer under the mask. Apply a lip balm or apply almond oil on the lips at night and leave it on overnight.

Wearing a mask for long hours while you are outdoors in the sun can lead to partial tanning of the skin. The area outside the mask becomes tanned. So, carry out treatments that help to produce an even colour tone. Apply sunscreen on the exposed area before going out in the sun. If your skin is oily, use a sunscreen gel.
The ‘no-makeup look’ is ideal for the monsoon season. Loads of make-up and a painted face can be most uncomfortable during the hot and humid season. Use fewer colours and go for neutral shades. The keyword in the art of no-makeup is “natural”. Make-up should have a translucent look, with subtle use of foundation and bases. Select a foundation that gives a flawless look. Use as little colour as possible.

The colours that you use should be closest to the natural colour tone of your skin. The blusher should be one that provides a natural glow and lip colour should reflect the “no lipstick” look. The eye make-up can have eyeliner and mascara, or the smokey eyed look. All said and done, make-up will never go out of fashion. Make-up not only makes one look good but also feels good. It is said that wearing lipstick actually lifts the look immediately and also lifts the mood. Therefore, we are all looking forward to the time when the pandemic will end and make-up will be popular again.

Published 24 August 2020, 19:08 IST

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