Since ancient times, it has been generally understood that exfoliation, the process of removing the dead skin cells that build up on the outer layer of the skin, is the key to healthy skin. From the Ancient Egyptians to the American Indians, OROGOLD takes a look at the history of skin exfoliation.
Mechanical exfoliation, the process of scrubbing the skin by hand with the use of something abrasive, was the most common form of exfoliation through the ages. In Ancient Egypt, one popular exfoliant, as documented in the Ebers Papyrus, consisted of one part each of the following ingredients: sea salt, natron, powdered alabastor and honey. Cleopatra was also known to bathe in the milk of donkeys on a regular basis, but, what many do not realize is, the milk was actually quite sour and fermented. This means that it had a high concentration of lactic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid, also known as AHA, that is used frequently in modern day exfoliants. The Ancient Egyptians also had their own early version of a gommage exfoliator, a gel that is rich in enzymes. Theirs was made from a plant-based thickener that was dissolved in honey and vegetable oil, and was used frequently by men who wanted a more youthful appearance.
In the Middle Ages, old wine was commonly used as a chemical exfoliant, and it was extremely effective due to the high concentration of tartaric acid that is found in old wine. Until the early 1800s, many ingredients that naturally contained a high level of AHAs were used as chemical exfoliants. The popularity of this died down once a German dermatologist devised an early form of the chemical peel we know today.
Exfoliation was widely recognized in many Native American tribes. The most commonly used exfoliant for them was dried corn cobs, which they would rub over their body, similar to the way in which we would use a dry brush today. The Comanche tribe was also known to use sand that had been collected from the bottom of a river to scrub their skin.
The early 1900s saw many scientists formulating chemical peels with the use of phenol, the strongest possible chemical peel solution. However, the combination that they came up with not only resulted in severe facial scarring, but also introduced toxins to the bloodstream, which proved to be fatal for many people. The huge need for an alternative led scientists to continue developing new and safer formulas for chemical peels, but it was not until the 1950s that these became widely available.
The benefits that exfoliation brings to the skin have been known for centuries, and it was all of those developments that have led to the wide choice of exfoliating products that we can enjoy today, as well as the many recipes available for homemade exfoliants. If you are carrying out a mechanical exfoliation, OROGOLD recommends that you only do this once a week, as over-exfoliation will end up doing more damage than good.