The Hygiene Habits Of The Ancient Egyptians Will Make You Feel Favored

Thankfully, we live in a world where a good amount of the population has access to the necessities. Locating fresh water isn’t too painful, you can get food for a dollar, and we don’t have to brush our teeth with a stick bound with strips of plants as bristles. The latter, however, was something the ancient Egyptians had to deal with in their lives. For that era, inventions like that were common, as they took pride in keeping clean. The ancient Egyptians figured out all kinds of ways to keep their hygiene as efficient as possible.

Shaving Their Heads

ancient thebes
DEA / M. SEEMULLER/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / M. SEEMULLER/De Agostini via Getty Images

These days, we don’t have to rely on losing all of our hair to prevent lice. Some products can do that for us, but during ancient times, they had to go another way.

Lice used to torment the Egyptians a ton, so they took drastic measures to get rid of them. They would remove all their hair using knives, tweezers, and razors. In return, they would sport wigs made from real human hair or horsehair.

They Used A Special Deodorant

ancient egyptians
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images

Forgetting to put on deodorant can ruin anyone’s day. Who wants to walk around with sweaty and smelly underarms? The ancient Egyptians didn’t want to, that’s for sure. As a result, they came up with their own deodorant.

These wise people would ground flowers, herbs, and roots to make a paste, which they mixed with oil that would turn it into a cream. That cream would then get applied to their underarms. Some of them would use this formula all over their bodies.

How Else Would They Keep Their Breath Fresh?

egyptians
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Thankfully, we have gum or Altoids to rely on when it comes to keeping our breath as fresh as it can be. The Egyptians didn’t have those luxuries, so they discovered something to chew on to keep their mouths fresh.

The ancient Egyptians took pride in having clean breath, so they made sure they had ways to relieve bad breath. One of their tactics was to chew herbs like parsley after meals or anytime during the day.

Only The Rich Had Toilets

giant statues
Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Unless you were wealthy during ancient Egyptian times, chances are you did your business outdoors. It doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, especially if you had to go number two, but that’s how it went.

Many of the rich had toilets made of limestone, and the stone would sit on top of a box full of sand. Sadly, it was a person’s job to empty that box. If you didn’t have the funds for this, you more than likely dug up holes and relieved yourself that way.

People Used Cosmetics Daily

from egypt
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

In ancient Egyptian times, cosmetics provided benefits outside of beauty, so both men and women would use them. An item that proved to be very beneficial was eyeliner. Not only was it a popular beauty statement, but Egyptians would also use it to protect from the sun’s glare and repel flies.

They would make products like mascara and eyeshadow by grounding natural elements (galena and malachite) into powder and mix them with fat to make a cream.

What Did They Use To Cleanse Their Bodies?

ancient art
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images

The Egyptians cared a lot about the body and wanted to know as much as they could about it. The doctors not only helped in medicine, but they were priests as well.

Thanks to all this, the doctors would suggest using laxatives to help clean the intestines. Many Egyptians would use this product three days a month, as they believed laxatives would rid the body of disease. As a bonus move, they used castor oil to force waste from the body.

Indoor Bathing Wasn’t For Everyone

for the wealthy
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Unless you had some money to your name, chances are you weren’t going to bathe indoors. While average Egyptians would take a bath every day, how they did it was dependent on their social class.

If you had money, you had somewhere to clean yourself at your home. Those in the higher social class would have jugs of water carried from the Nile poured on them while standing on a stone slab. The less fortunate had to clean themselves in the Nile.

Perfumes Were Around

egypt
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

As we mentioned earlier, the ancient Egyptians valued the way they smell. That included their breath and their body, so they created different perfumes to help with this matter.

The base of the creation were oils and then they added fragrant spices and herbs ranging from mint and juniper to cardamom. Sometimes, they would have scents imported from foreign areas. The most prized scent became a fragrance called kyphi, as it was an indicator of wealth.

Cleaning Their Clothes In Suspect Water

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DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

You’re probably going to scratch your head after reading this, but it’s true. They might have worn very little clothing during the ancient Egyptian times, but those in the later periods started donning more extensive wardrobes.

They demanded their clothes be clean, and the material they used often was linen. They had to beat, rinse, twist, and soak by hand in order to eliminate dirt. The lower classes had to use the Nile River, a body of water others would dump garbage in and relieve themselves.

Keeping Their Teeth Cleaned

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Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

The ancient Egyptians were very resourceful when it came to creating things that kept them clean. For their teeth, they ground up mint, salt, and flowers into a powder. Using their fingers to rub this substance on their teeth, it would mix with their saliva and form a paste.

Soon enough, they stopped using their fingers and made a toothbrush from a stick bound with strips of plants as bristles. Keeping fresh was a big priority for them.

Getting In Those Manicures

for the wealthy
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

As it turns out, even the ancient Egyptians liked to keep their hands looking top-notch. That’s why the wealthy hired others to come and keep their fingernails looking nice and clean.

The manicurists would use small knives and files to clean and trim fingernails and toenails. Manicurists secured a special place in this ancient society and even made sure they had their titles engraved on their tombs after they passed so others could show them respect.

Moisturizing After Bathing

egyptians
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

As you would imagine, Egypt is a sunny and hot place. The Egyptians had to take care of their skin, much like we do today. As a result, they applied animal products like tallow, something that helped keep the skin moisturized thanks to the fat in it.

They even managed to find a way to make their skin look younger when they used linseed or castor oil added with honey. Many of the ingredients in the creams worked as sunscreen as well.

How Did They Prepare Their Food?

egypt
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images

The Nile River was a major resource for the Egyptians. Not only was it important for bathing and drinking water, but it helped create fertile soil for growing their food.

Since others would use the Nile to go to the restroom, the soil would also become contaminated with disease. The lower class would further this contamination by having to prep their food on the floor. To make matters even worse, they would clean their dishes with the dirty Nile water.

Towers To Escape

egypt
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

No one appreciates mosquitoes. The Egyptians didn’t like them so much that they had towers built just to escape them. That’s next-level hatred, but an effective tactic if you think about it.

Mosquitoes plagued the area so the people had to take matters into their own hands to prevent the bites. Those in the “upper parts of the marshes” made towers around their sleeping rooms because the wind would stop the pesky bugs from flying that high to get inside.

Pregnancy Testing With Ember

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Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

During ancient times, civilizations had to get creative to test fertility. As a result, early pregnancy tests consisted of women relieving themselves on a combination of barley and ember. If none of those materials grew, then she wasn’t carrying.

If it barely grew, she was going to have a baby. It’s interesting because this test is fairly accurate. Researchers studied the effectiveness of this method in the late 20th century and found that it is an effective test.

Looking Their Best

egypt
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

The ancient Egyptians spent a lot of time working on their appearance. We’ve discussed some of their methods, but haven’t touched on their grooming methods. When it came to their hair, they had ornate hairpins and wide-tooth combs constructed from silver and ivory.

They also had bronze tweezers to help shape their eyebrows. Researchers also found gold razors in abundance in the tombs. The ancient Egyptians wanted to look nice and there’s nothing we see wrong with that.

Men Kept Clean Through Circumcision

ancient Egyptians
DEA / G. SIOEN/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / G. SIOEN/De Agostini via Getty Images

For men and their private areas, Egyptians practiced a technique that gets used quite a lot in circumcision. The historical evidence of this technique exists on the sculptures and images on the walls of tombs.

Many historians believe it started as a means to gain cleanliness. Inscription on the temples indicates that uncircumcised men couldn’t enter because they were impure. That would be one reason for the guys to have this procedure done to them.

How They Prevented Sickness

rare painting
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

As much as appearance was a big deal, preventative medicine also a priority in their culture. Egyptians found ways to help ward off disease and maintain optimum health, like paying attention to what they ate.

Laborers ate a diet heavy in garlic, onion, and radish. These vegetables are rich in allicin, raphanin, and allistatin, which are powerful antibiotics that helped with the prevention of disease. They also ate powdered liver to help with night blindness. That’s heavy in Vitamin A, a nutrient for vision.

Forming Ancient Soaps

Egypt
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

According to the Ebers Medical Papyrus (dating back to 1500 BC), the Egyptians again found a smart way to create something essential: soap. They used alkaline salts and fats from vegetables and animals to make a soap-like material.

Not only did they use this substance for cleaning, but it also helped with skin diseases. The skills of the Egyptians, when it came to medical areas, was world-renowned. Homer said in The Odyssey, “The Egyptians were skilled on medicine more than any other art.”

Beetle Lips?

egypt
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

The dye called carmine is something that exists in plenty of products today like cosmetics, food coloring, and even candy. It’s a red dye that’s created by crushing up the shells of beetles.

It sounds gross to know that you’ve been potentially consuming that, but Cleopatra was one of the first women to use this tactic. She would use crushed shells and ants to make her lipstick. The ants were the base, and the carmine gave the pigmentation.

Preventing Pregnancy

worshiping the crocodile, symbol of fertility.
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

People really have it comparatively easy today when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies. Back in ancient Egypt, one common method of contraception came from the dung of crocodiles, which were a symbol of fertility.

The dung would be dried and then inserted internally. Once it reached body temperature it formed into an impenetrable barrier. The excrement of other types of animals was also used, but crocodile dung was preferred.

They Invented Breath Mints

ancient breath mints
EliGurevich/Pinterest
EliGurevich/Pinterest

We already discussed the way that the ancients kept their teeth clean: by chewing certain herbs or by brushing with strips of plants as bristles. It turns out that the Egyptians had another weapon in the fight against ad breath.

They made mints, but they weren’t anything like the Certs you’d pop into your mouth today. No, mints in the olden days were made with a concoction of boiled herbs and spices mixed in with honey and then formed into pellets which were hardened.

A Natural Dye That’s Still Used Today

Wall painting. Western Thebes, a
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Not everything about ancient Egyptian hygiene is old-fashioned, dangerous, or just downright distasteful to our modern sensibilities. Back then, people would use Henna to dye their hair, skin, and nails — something that many people around the world still do.

Henna is a mixture of natural extracts from shrubs and flowers that can be used to make a variety of different colors. It was about more than beauty. The Egyptians valued henna for its nutritious contents that helped to enhance healthy hair.

Keeping The Mice Away

Cat mummy, 332-330 b.C.
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images

In addition to keeping mosquitos away, ancient Egyptians also had a method to keep mice at bay. Would you ever consider using the fat from a cat for anything around the house? Probably not, but that’s exactly what they used to do.

To keep mice from eating their clothing, people would smear the lard (or fat) from cats all over the place! Pictured is the mummy of a cat, dating back to 332-330 B.C.

The World’s Oldest Toothpaste Recipe

Painting depicting  plants.
DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images

If you’re curious to see exactly what ancient Egyptian toothpaste was like, then you’re in luck. The National Library of Vienna, Austria possesses what is thought to be the oldest recipe for toothpaste in the world.

It’s a mixture of salt, pepper granules, mint, and dried iris flower. Surprisingly, modern researchers have discovered that iris is very helpful in combating gum disease! The Egyptians were onto something here, as they were in many areas.

They Had Dentists And Gynecologists On Deck

ancient egypt
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Some might find this surprising, but it shouldn’t be at all. The ancient Egyptians had surprisingly advanced medicine, including specialized fields such as dentistry, surgery, autopsy, and gynecology. Religious ceremonies usually accompanied medical treatments.

Something that should be a shocker is that everyone had access to healthcare — even slaves could get treated. This evidence comes from the Edwin Smith and Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 3000 BCE. Researchers found early mentions of them having dentists.

Kids Wouldn’t Wear Clothes Until They Reached Six

ancient
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

Have you ever met a child who doesn’t like to wear clothes or even enjoys taking them off and running around naked? Their ancestors must’ve been from ancient Egypt, because kids wouldn’t wear clothes until they were about six.

They weren’t completely nude, as they would wear jewelry such as anklets and necklaces. Once they reached the appropriate age, then the kids would wear clothes similar to their parents’. The styles depended on their place in the social hierarchy.

Garlic Tests For Fertility

egypt
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

The ancient Egyptians knew that intercourse led to pregnancy, but they didn’t know exactly how it was all connected. They figured that a woman’s womb was attached to the alimentary canal, the route your food takes from your mouth to your derrière.

They decided to place a clove of garlic in a woman’s private area to test her fertility. If you could smell the fragrance from the garlic, then she could have kids. If not, that meant there was a blockage in the canal, so no babies.

Specific Ingredients In Their Makeup

egypt
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

We touched on makeup a bit earlier but didn’t dive in too deep. While they used makeup to help protect from the sun, and some of their cosmetics were from grounding natural elements (galena and malachite) into powder, they also had another base.

The men weren’t shy about wearing makeup, either. They usually would wear eyeliner with a lead base. Even though it’s now widely accepted that lead is toxic to humans, the research indicates that the lead makeup had a heavy concentration of nitric oxide. This was a component that boosted the immune system.

Cleopatra Had An Interesting Beauty Regimen…

stone
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

It isn’t easy to stay looking young and beautiful for as long as possible. Cleopatra knew this, so she had an interesting way to go about this that many wouldn’t dare to try today.

To keep herself looking young and glowing, rumors have it that she regularly took baths in donkey milk! The wild part is that she would need about 700 of the beasts milked to provide enough for her daily baths. How did she have so many?!

Living The Vegetarian Life

life
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

The ancient Egyptians might’ve lived on the Nile River, but that didn’t mean they ate a ton of fish. According to scientific studies published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, they mainly had a vegetarian diet.

After testing carbon isotopes in a decent amount of mummies, researchers found that their meals were heavy in barley and wheat. Fruits and vegetables were a part of their diets as well, including garlic, pomegranates, dates, and celery. They would still have meat every once in a while.

Cooling Linen Made From Flax

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Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

Flax plants weren’t hard to find in Egypt thanks to them growing naturally along the Nile. It only takes about 100 days to mature from seed to full-grown plant, so that was a bonus as well.

After harvesting the fibers, they would spin them into thread and weave them into cloth. The whiter the fabric and the more precise the weave indicated a higher social status of whoever donned the look. The linen would help out in the desert climate as well.

Pillows Made Of Stone

headrest
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

How does resting your head on a stone or wooden pillow sound? Toss out your memory foam one and give this a try. The ancient Egyptians made the stone headrests popular with dead bodies.

Since they figured the head was the essence of life and it was sacred, these specific pillows had various benefits. They thought they would uphold body vigor, ward away demons, and keep blood circulating. Now, do you want to give them a try?

Shaving Eyebrows?

shaved
CM Dixon/Heritage Images/Getty Images
CM Dixon/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Some people have interesting traditions when it comes to eyebrows. There are cultures that have brides shave them off before getting married, which sounds very unlucky for those poor ladies.

In ancient Egypt, they had obsessions with cats. Whenever one died, people would shave off their eyebrows to mourn the death. The mourning would continue until all of the hair above their eyes grew back. That is a long time to be sad over a cat.

Being Overweight Was Common

ancient temple
Prisma/UIG/Getty Images
Prisma/UIG/Getty Images

It would appear that the ancient Egyptians had something in common with many in society today. Many of the pharaohs were overweight due to their diets. They would consume a lot of bread, honey, and alcohol.

Computer X-rays have shown signs of damaged arteries, bad teeth, and heart disease. The interesting part is that their drawings and sculptures portrayed their leaders as thin and trim. This was probably because thinness was a cultural norm at that time.

The Poultry

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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Both the peasants and the rich enjoyed poultry in ancient Egypt. The most common included ducks, quails, pigeons, cranes, and geese. The most popular poultry among the rich were ducks, geese, and pigeons. The poor wound up having eating birds such as swans and cranes.

Goose, duck, and swan eggs were also widely consumed. The Egyptians would season these goods to preserve them if they didn’t eat it right away.

Dairy Products

man on knees
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Once agriculture came around, ancient Egyptian culture saw an increase in cattle farming. Bulls were exclusively for farming, but sheep, goats, and cows had been used for the milk inside them.

The size of your herd would represent your level of prestige as an owner. Other than milk, dairy products like whey, curd, and cream also became popular delicacies. The only down part is that depending on which temple you followed, certain types of dairy were off-limits.

Many Different Juices

many different
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

It may not have been as popular as some of the other products like beer and wine, but fruit juice was something many enjoyed during this era. Citrus fruits were primarily used for fruit juices, thanks to their sweet taste.

The most cherished types were figs and grapes, which the ancient Egyptians would press until the last drop of juice came out. Honey would also help ferment the grape juice and others like dates, and raisins.

Sipping On Adult Beverages

ancient
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

One of the most popular staples during ancient Egyptian times was beer. They would drink it on a daily basis, as it was the preferred beverage among the rich, the powerful, and the children as well.

With so much of it in their diet, they lived life on a high. Whether it was with the first meal or with the last, you can bet beer was added into the mix. What a time to be alive!

They Loved To Eat Bread

ancient egypt
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Much like with beer, bread was another staple in their diet. The type they ate differed in many ways from the kind we enjoy today. Thanks to the untreated utensils used to make the products, there would often be unwanted things such as mica and quartz mixed into the flour.

After making the flour, they would mix the dough and knead it with their hands and feet! They added flavoring with spices, milk, yeast, and salt right before cutting the bread into baking pieces.