Top 5 Face Masks

Nugg Deep Cleansing Face Mask

$11.25


Suitable for all Skin Types



Sephora Honey Face Mask

$7.49


Suitable for Dry Skin


Talika Bio Enzyme Face Mask

$10


Suitable for Oily Skin

Used by Justin Bieber


SALE!

GlamGlow Mud Face Mask

$46.76


Suitable for all Skin Types


Chantecaille Gold Face Mask

$1,270


Suitable for All Skin Types

Used by Kate Hudson


History of the Face Mask

Face masks have a long and rich history. Of all the cosmetic products that have become a norm in this day and age, the face mask is the earliest type. This is especially true if you zero in on Asia and how prevalent the face mask has been there.

The reason why they have stood the test of time is due to the multitude of benefits and functions they provide to the human body. They can be used for skin toning, nourishing, revitalising, calming / soothing and even purifying the skin. A face mask is typically left on the skin for 10 – 20 minutes.

This holds true whether the mask is obtained from a store or created at home using natural ingredients.

Ancient Egypt

Speaking of natural ingredients, Cleopatra (69BC – 30BC) was famous for using several different combinations to create the ultimate face masks. Historians are in agreement that the beauty ritual of applying facial masks is thought to have begun in Ancient Egypt. Given that the Egyptians were also big on makeup; it comes as no surprise that the origins of the face mask are traced back to this region.

While there are quite a few masks that Cleopatra was famous for, none are as famous as her use of white clay. White Clay which when applied for 10 -15 minutes makes the skin refreshed and soft. Other face masks created by her included an antiseptic nourishing mask made of egg yolk, almond oil and honey. Using eggs leads to the formation of a short film on the face when the eggs have dried up which then needs to be washed.

However, the effort was worth it for Cleopatra and is still being practiced all around the globe as it gives the user a smooth finish to the skin.

Ancient China

Ancient China is rife with stories about women and their beauty. For the purpose of the face mask we need to focus on one dynasty in particular.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) is cited as the greatest imperial dynasty in ancient Chinese history. Under the Tang Dynasty, China observed unprecedented levels of growth and reform. This time period is also considered as the golden age of reform and cultural advancement.

Practices here laid down the ground work for the policies that are still observed in China today. Taizong (598-649 CE, r. 626-649 CE) was the second emperor of the dynasty.

He is considered one of the greatest rulers the region has ever produced. He was also instrumental in bringing changes to the government and social structure. Taizong  was also known for his acumen towards military, education and religious practices.

When speaking of the Tang Dynasty, it is important to note the contribution that Yang Guifei played when it comes to beauty and cosmetics. Considered as one of the ‘four great beauties’ of Ancient China, Guifei fell in love with the emperor Xuanzong and moved into the imperial palace with him.

Here she would use her position to create face masks from materials all over the country. She would often apply her own almond cream concoction. This was done to lighten, brighten and tighten her skin. There are also accounts of her facial masks being made out of white jade, ginseng and pearls.

It is said that Yang Guiefi would let the face mask dry on her face. She would then wash it away in its pastey form, very similar to how modern day face masks are applied and removed.

Wu Zetian,  the sole female emperor of China is also worth mentioning from the Tang Dynasty .  As a Taoist, she took time out every day to clear her mind and think about nothing. She was a strong believer in both the physical and spiritual well being of the human body.

This could be one of the main reasons why historical records compliment her with a great complexion at 80 years old.  She was known for washing her face every morning with cold water. This was combined with ‘fairy powder’ which was made of harvested Chinese motherwort.

Victorian Era

Often dubbed as the ‘Golden Years’ for Britain, this was a time of prosperity.  Prosperity was brought up by increased industrialisation in textiles and machinery. This also meant that the hard labour that the workers put into the factories led to their complexion becoming darker and tanned.

Unfortunately for them, the weathered skin was considered inferior to the white skin. As a result, face masks were created specifically for the purpose of maintaining the complexion albeit using dangerous means.

One such method involved the use of white lead added with honey and olive oil.

Nicknamed the ‘Mask of Youth’, it even had Queen Elisabeth 1 as a fan. It was only inevitable that these homemade face masks would be deemed  hazardous and were no longer used.

18th century

Marie Antoinette was one of the most controversial figures in France. A monarch who was executed to complete the French revolution. Apart from the many stories that surround Marie Antoinette, this one particularly sticks out for the purpose of this blog.

Marie Antoinette had her own signature face mask made of egg whites. This is believable as the French women today still use this trick to tighten pores and repair the skin.

19th century

The 19th century saw such pioneers as Helen Rowley to come up with the Madame Rowley Toilet Mask. The milliner and dressmaker had even patented the face mask for medical use. In the patent she describes the face mask as “my invention consists in the application, as a medical agent, to the face of a person suffering with certain forms of disease, or afflicted with a bad complexion,”.

The mask itself was made of soft Indian rubber. Rubber was used to mold the mask into the shape of its wearer. As per Helen Rowley, the mask was meant to be worn at night. It was used to address issues with “freckles, fugitive discolorations and for clogged pores and capillary congestion”

Exactly how did this miracle mask work you ask? Rowley explains it in the following way “the perspiration excited by covering the face with a medium which prevents the escape by evaporation of the cutaneous transpiration, acts as a bleaching agent, and to relieve the loaded pores and congested capillary vessels. But for affections requiring specific remedies the medical agent adapted to the particular ailment may be applied in the shape of an ointment or plastic preparation spread lipon the interior surface of the mask. The mask should be made so flexible as to apply itself readily and closely to the face of the wearer.”

Despite having noble intentions, the Madame Rowley Toilet Mask was uncomfortable at best and suffocating at its very worst. It was near impossible to put this mask on night and get sleep. While the next few years saw modifications made to the mask to make it more useable, they too fell out of favour.

Other prominent figures that used face masks in the 19th century included the Empress Elisabeth of Austria known as Sisi. To say that she was obsessed with beauty routines would be an understatement. She spent two hours on her alone and chose not wear makeup at all to preserve her natural beauty.

Skin care was of great importance to her and used Crème Celeste, a concoction made of white wax, rosewater, spermaceti and sweet almond oil. Evening rituals for the Empress were equally bizarre as she placed raw veal or crushed strawberries covered by a leather face mask. It was at the age of thirty-two that she decided to stop sitting in for royal portraits.

The decision to not sit for portraits coupled with these elaborate beauty regimes actually makes one question how effective these beauty treatments were to begin with.

Today

Fast forward to today and there a ton of face masks available for every rhyme and reason for every conceivable price. They come in entertaining packages, in the form of pods, pots or sheets.

Bloggers and Instagram celebrities have also played a vital role in spreading the popularity of these products. This is why I have decided to dedicate an entire website purely for the phenomenon known as FACE MASK….enjoy 😊