Michaelangelo believed the sculptor was a tool of God, not creating but liberating figures already contained inside the marble. Perhaps our skincare rituals feel similar ~ not inventing characters, but holding space for ourselves to be revealed.
Painting on le masque infini ~ our beautifully rich and regal moon-shadow mask ~ gives you permission to dream. A moment to connect with yourself, acknowledge your inner beauty and listen to your own words ~ warm silver moonlight will guide you.
In this spirit, true beauty remains fascinatingly timeless, and in this article, we take a closer look at some ancient civilisations that have shaped our understanding of beauty and the rich history of what is perhaps the earliest beauty product of all ~ the face mask.
To understand the past is to understand the present
Flawless faces have been revered and since the beginning of time, ancient ingredients employed by the earth’s abundance in an intuitive quest for beauty, balance and harmony.
More than 3,000 years ago in ancient India, Ayurvedic medicine emerged as a system of belief grounded in concepts of universal interconnectedness. Literally translated, Ayurveda means ‘science of life’ ~ the belief that optimal health exists when the mind, body, and spirit are in alignment with the universe.
According to Ayurvedic tradition, the art of applying face masks was known as Lepana. These masks were traditionally made of herbs, oils and natural fibres meant to calm, cleanse, nourish, and enhance the skin’s complexion.
Like other Ayurvedic beauty rituals, masking emphasised the connection between nature, health and beauty.
Beauty, for the ancient Greeks, was a powerful lens. A beautiful body was considered direct evidence of a beautiful mind ~ a gift from the Gods, no less.
Beauty and grace were idolised as everlasting and eternal. Masculine perfection was muscular, glossy, and gleaming, an ideal cast in exquisite statues from the 5th to the 3rd centuries BC. The pinnacle of feminine beauty was defined and worshiped in Aphrodite, Olympian goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and desire.
In Greek mythology, this was also the home of the devastatingly beautiful face that ‘launched a thousand ships’ ~ Helen of Troy, said to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
As great admirers of physical beauty, the ancient Greeks created elaborate skincare rituals to perfect their complexions. In fact, the very word ‘cosmetics’ comes from the Greek ‘kosmētikos’ or ‘beautifying’.
The Greek poet Homer famously called olive oil ‘liquid gold’ ~ a treasured ingredient used in face masks and body ointments to moisturise and protect. Olive oil is still used in modern beauty and skincare products for it’s healing and beautifying benefits.
There is beauty in this symmetry ~ a meaningful connection drawn between the sacred rituals of the classical world and the purposeful practises of today.
Like her Greek counterpart Aphrodite, the Roman goddess Venus was intimately associated with love and beauty. Even now, some consider the energy of Venus to be the nature of attraction ~ the reflection of our desires, our creative urges and the connection to our inner senses within.
Such is the ethereal beauty of Venus. Man’s eternal chase ~ sculpt, write, paint ~ to contain and define the very force that makes the world go round… Love.
Around the first century AD, the Roman Empire was at its peak ~ a time of luxury, indulgence and decadent relaxation. Similar to the Greeks, Romans of this era went to great lengths to accentuate natural beauty with cosmetics, rituals, and skincare regimens.
Opulent bath houses and spas brought beautification to new heights. More than good hygiene, Roman bathing became artistry. Pleasure, relaxation and socialisation were equally as important as beauty and skincare. Treatments often included body oils and scrubs, steam therapy, and massage.
Ingredients of choice were sourced from the furthest reaches of the empire ~ yoghurt, cocoa butter, honey, rose and poppy petals, and other moisturising oils and butters.
Prior to applying cosmetics, Roman women often prepped their skin with beauty masks. Rosewater, cucumber and honey were commonly used, along with less glamorous ingredients like sweat from sheep’s wool (lanolin), animal fat, eggs, placenta and marrow.
Bathing in donkey milk was another expensive treatment wealthy women in ancient Rome believed to preserve the fairness of their skin, a practise they shared with legendary Egyptian beauty, Cleopatra.
Queen of the Nile
Not only did she actively influence Roman politics upon her visit to Rome in 46-45 BC, Cleopatra brought a touch of glamour with her as well.
As legend has it, Cleopatra took quite an elaborate and ritualised approach to skincare. She is said to have used clay on her face to draw out impurities, and Egyptian records also show that she used honey and milk baths to nourish and soften her skin.
Pure gold, known as ‘flesh of the Gods’, was one of the most sought after minerals in ancient Egypt, and another of Cleopatra’s luxurious beauty secrets. She is said to have slept in a face mask made of pure gold nightly in hopes of maintaining a smooth, youthful complexion.
Cleopatra’s famous beauty regimen also included sea salt scrubs (collected from the Dead Sea, naturally), which she used for their intrinsic healing properties. Almond oils and apple cider vinegar appeared regularly in her beautification practises and those of other early Egyptians, whose skincare rituals served to transcend the realm of the living world, bringing them closer to the divine.
Uncovered burials and tombs have taught us that face masks, cosmetics, and other beauty elixirs meant more to this complex culture than physical beauty ~ skincare was sacred and spiritual. By softening, purifying and perfecting their skin, ancient Egyptians enhanced mortal flesh to honor the gods and goddesses they so revered.
Pearls of Wisdom from the ‘Four Beauties’ of Ancient China
Their legendary looks have immortalised these four women ~ Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan, and Yang Guifei ~ as the most beautiful women of ancient China. The scarcity of historical records concerning them means that much of what is known today is folklore, but tales of their porcelain skin have endured for thousands of years.
Yang Guifei, heralded as the Beauty whose ‘face put flowers to shame’, was said to maintain her ageless complexion by mixing a powder of ground materials such as pearl, jadeite, tea leaves, ginger root, and lotus flower with water into a face mask.
Women of ancient China also looked to Empress Wu Zetian, a celebrated beauty known especially for her flawless skin. Like Yang Guifei, Empress Wu is believed to have used specially prepared face masks to preserve her poreless, porcelain skin. The Empress’ masks were made of green tea, mung bean and ground pearl powder. Later, concubine-turned-Empress Dowager Cixi further popularised the beauty benefits of Chinese pearl powder by having sacks of pearls ground into powder for her baths, beauty oils, and face powder.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, skin is the mirror of internal energy. Radiant skin was not only pleasing to the eye, it was synonymous with health, harmony and fertility. A beautiful complexion could not exist without a calm spirit, balanced mentality, and harmonious energy within.
What lies at the heart, through layers revealed, calms your senses ~ as time turns to heal.
To become something new ~ to uncover the truest you
Our stories are not always linear. At times, our circumstances or choices may seem mystifying or unbalanced, like pieces out of place. Even then, know there is beauty in the symmetry of the universe, the pull of the tides, the contours of your face. Allow yourself to experience life unconditionally.
In moments of reflection, you may find that these encounters form a constellation, jagged yet purposeful. Magical moments that take your breath away.
Painting on le masque infini is not about perfection, nor is it about neat, definitive answers. It is simply a path to knowing yourself more intimately ~ to help balance your reflection to its connection within.
In practise, it may be less a matter of searching to find yourself and more an act of remembering. A quest to connect ~ where would you like to go? What would you like to learn? How would you like to feel?
Anything is possible when you let your intuition guide you.
Trailing silver moonlight in your wake
Invite le masque infini to elevate your beauty routine into something meaningful, nurturing, and artistic. You are right to believe in beauty.