Human beings have been beautifying their bodies since Stone Age times.
Here are the key milestones in the history of beauty, hair care and grooming.
Stone Age men didn’t really go in for shaving and hair care – they were too busy clubbing mammoths and fending off sabre-tooth tigers. There is archeological evidence, however, that early humans in southern Africa used ground-up, red-coloured rock as make-up. Whether it was intended to make them look attractive to the opposite sex or to intimidate enemies is not known.
During the Ice Age, a heavy beard often caused frostbite when water vapour from a man’s breath froze in facial hair. Men used sharp rocks and shells to shave off the longer hairs. Cave drawings from the period found in modern-day Ukraine depict men with short stubble.
Ancient Egyptians used scented oils to soften their skin, cover up body odour and protect themselves from the desert sun and sand. Ingredients included almond oil, aloe, cedar, chamomile, lavender, lily, marjoram, myrrh, olive oil, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sesame oil and thyme. To remove unwanted body hair, women used pumice stones, beeswax and tweezers made of seashells.
Babylonians first started using chewing sticks to clean their teeth. One end was frayed so as to brush the teeth, while the other non-frayed end was used as a toothpick.
Ancient Chinese started using gum, gelatin, beeswax and egg to stain their fingernails, with the colour representing their social class. Ancient Egyptians began using a mineral called kohl to colour their eyelids.
1st Century AD
Ancient Roman men and women used pumice stones to remove unwanted body hair. They also made toothpaste out of baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and volcanic rock.
Ancient Romans used sheep fat and blood as fingernail polish.
The Middle Ages
Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, there were very few technological advances in beauty, hair care or grooming. However, around 1200, perfumes were first imported to Europe from the Middle East by soldiers returning from the Crusades. Among women, blonde hair was much sought after, with saffron, onion skins and sheep’s urine used to colour it. However, most women covered their hair as revealing it was considered overtly sexual. It was common to tie hair back to show a large forehead, with some women even shaving the hairline to accentuate this. Around the 11th Century, the Holy Roman Empire began to consider heavy beards and long hair a sign of paganism, encouraging good Christians to be clean-shaven and short-haired.
Women in Elizabethan England started using egg white to make their complexions paler. Tanned skin was avoided at all costs as it was the sign of a peasant who had been working in the fields.
The world’s first straight razor was manufactured in the British steel city of Sheffield.
William Addis manufactured toothbrushes from cattle bones, and the hair of horses and wild boars. He had stumbled upon the idea while incarcerated in prison for rioting. Using a leftover bone and animal bristles, he was determined to improve the usual method of cleaning teeth which was to rub salt and soot into the teeth with a rag.
Marcel Grateau invented the first heated hair-styling tongs. While styling the hair of prostitutes in Parisian slums, he introduced a hairstyle called the Marcel Wave which became very popular with women of all ages and social standing.
Commercial toothpaste, called Dr Sheffield’s Creme Dentifrice, first appeared in a collapsible tube. The inventor, Dr Washington Sheffield, was inspired after seeing French painters squeezing paint from tubes.
The world’s first anti-bacterial underarm deodorant was invented by American brand Mum. Although the inventor’s name has not been recorded, the product name derived from the nickname of his childhood nanny.
Alexandre Godefroy invented the first salon hair dryer, which cost $5 – the equivalent of $130 in 2015.
American salesman King Camp Gillette started producing safety razors. They were extremely expensive – about half of an average man’s weekly pay – but proved enormously popular. By 1915, he had sold 70 million blades worldwide.
Isaac Shero patented a hair-straightener made of two irons that were heated.
Gabriel Kazanjian patented the first portable blow dryer for hair. It was quite heavy, weighing over 2 pounds.
Max Factor, a visionary make-up artist, wig maker and inventor, started selling eye shadow and eyebrow pencils. This was the first time such products were available outside the movie industry. Four years later he launched a full range of cosmetics, calling it ''make-up'' – a phrase he coined.
Leo Wahl patented the first electric hair clipper with an integral motor. Before that most clippers were connected to their motors through a flexible shaft.
Lt Col Jacob Schick started selling the first electric shaver.
French chemist Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal, introduced the first commercial sunscreen.
Braun launched its first dry foil shaver, the S50. It provided a closer shave than its rivals from Remington and Schick.
New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich performed the first successful hair transplant. Less than 15 years later, around 10,000 men worldwide had undergone his treatment.
Dr Philippe-Guy Woog invented the world’s first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent. In the same year, American manufacturer Crest marketed the first fluoride toothpaste using a substance called stannous fluoride.
Bic launched the disposable razor. It featured a single blade, a plastic handle, and weighed less than 15 grams.
Braun launched the PGC 1000 hairdryer. This was the world’s first hairdryer with a handle angled forwards, making it much easier to use.
The micron plus deluxe shaver by Braun was developed, and featured 500 soft protrusions that covered the surface of the shaver. This made it easy to wield, and stopped it sliding off bathroom surfaces.
Braun began producing epilators for the first time, launching the Braun Silk-epil EE1 which removed hair via multiple motor-powered tweezers.
The world’s first electric toothbrush with a rotating-oscillating brush head, the D5 Plak Control, was developed by Braun.
Braun Syncro System 7680. Braun introduced the Syncro System 7680, the world’s first self-cleaning electric shaver.
Oral-B launched the world’s first electric toothbrush with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity - designed to revolutionise the way humans care for their teeth in the ‘Internet of Caring Things’ era.
A new manufacturer called Skarp are developing a razor that uses lasers instead of traditional blades to cut facial hairs.
Technology will ensure we see many innovations over the next few years in beauty, hair care and grooming products. Panasonic, for instance, has developed a hair-washing machine with 24 robotic fingers which could reduce the need for so many staff in hairdressing salons. JeNu has a skincare product that uses an ultrasound applicator to penetrate the skin more deeply. Scientists at Durham University in the UK believe they are a few years away from being able to guarantee hair growth on men’s heads by cloning hair cells. Japanese company Aderans is planning similar technology.
[Sources: Braun Collection, National Art Library Victoria & Albert Museum, Los Angeles Times, Artis, timeline.com, timetoast.com, the Art of Shaving, History of Hair by Robin Bryer, Fashions in Hair by Richard Corson, One Thousand Beards by Allan Peterkin.]