Last week, I started wearing snail slime to bed. Okay, so it is actually snail extract, but I don’t see much of a difference between the two. After I wash my face each night, I slather on a cream made from 92 percent snail extract before applying a moisturizer to lock it in and climbing in bed with my favorite book. Although a certain socialite made headlines for wearing snail slime in her hair to the VMAs, my interest in snails as part of my beauty routine started last spring. It all began when I adopted a rigorous skincare regimen inspired by a 10-step Korean routine. Next thing I knew, I had moved from researching my favorite oil cleanser to reading up on the benefits of a popular cream claiming to harness the power of snails to repair skin damage and reduce the appearance of fine lines. As it turns out, this trendy cream is derived from a practice said to have been used in ancient Greece, according to the journal JAMA Dermatology, with its primary use being treatment of inflamed skin. The discovery of the benefits of snail excretions is credited to Hippocrates, and there are rural communities in Italy that have used it to treat warts and calluses, too. Admittedly, it makes sense that some people are skeptical, and I get why they might be grossed out, but I have read some interesting studies, like one published in the British Journal of Biomedical Science, that found antimicrobial properties in snail slime. And to be honest, I’m not above trying something a little “out there” to clear up my skin. Of course, this isn’t the first modern beauty trend to claim ancient roots, and some revived practices have more basis in science and results than others. Keep reading for ancient beauty rituals that you should—and shouldn’t—add to your daily routine.
A Priceless Tradition With Roots in Chinese Medicine
Documentation of the use of pearl powder for cosmetic purposes dates back 2,000 years to ancient China, when women applied it topically to their skin. This practice was rooted in the belief that pearls have unique properties that help moisturize the skin and “reduce toxicity,” according to a study published by the Journal of Cosmetic Science. These days, many have taken this practice a step further. Some people ingest water-soluble pearl powder daily in hopes of slowing down the aging process. And although that might seem unlikely, there is actually some pretty good evidence backing up this practice. In fact, the same Journal of Cosmetic Science study asserts that three different pearl powders demonstrated the ability to moisturize the skin and reduce activation of tyrosinase and free radicals, which are both linked to skin cancer. “Topically, crushed pearls are used in many beauty products from thousands of years ago and even today. Pearls are high in minerals and amino acids which help the skin and works as an anti-inflammatory agent,” explains Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative medicine practitioner who employs many ancient techniques in her practice, including acupuncture.
An Ancient Chinese Practice Known for Rejuvenation
Although it isn’t necessarily mainstream, the practice of placing needles in the skin is widely accepted among naturopaths and chiropractors as one way to promote overall wellness and even address specific ailments such as migraines and depression. According to Trattner, it has been a popular way to promote beauty for thousands of years, too. “Acupuncture is one of the oldest beauty rituals in the world. For 5,000 years, empresses and Chinese women have been using facial acupuncture for beautification and rejuvenation,” she shares. When it comes to using acupuncture to promote beauty, practitioners believe it revives the face, according to an article published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. The main benefits outlined in the article include reduction of the appearance of wrinkles, tightening of the skin, and reduction of acne. “Acupuncture can smooth out wrinkles and bring circulation to the face and neck. It can also treat the underlying conditions that can age a woman, give her acne, dullness to her skin, slack skin, and dry skin,” Trattner explains.
A Bath Suited for a Queen
Many modern beauty products include milk of some kind as a main ingredient, from unexpected DIY breast milk soaps to more conventional goat milk lotion. Next time you reach for a bar of your favorite milk-based soap, remind yourself you’re engaging in a beauty practice fit for a queen. “In ancient times, the Queen of Sheba was looked at as the epitome of beauty. As tradition has it, it has been recorded that she maintained her beauty by bathing in donkey’s milk. This was a regular occurrence for her, so much so that it took the milk of over 5,000 donkeys,” shares health and beauty blogger Daniel Powers. According to Powers, milk is a well-loved beauty product because it is moisturizing. Specifically, milk can replenish the water, fats, and proteins that promote healthy skin. Additionally, milk has exfoliating properties because of the acid it contains. Lactic acid specifically is able to gently remove old skin cells and debris, which leaves the skin looking brighter and healthier.
A Sweet Paste for Younger-Looking Skin
Recently, dates have regained popularity as a natural sweetener that’s high in antioxidants. If you think eating them is the only way to reap the benefits they offer, think again! Add this fruit to the long list of food products naturally minded women are applying right to their skin. “Another ancient ritual is using date paste on the skin. Dates were used in the Middle East for beauty rituals. Dates are rich in minerals which support healthy skin, including the synthesis of collagen and elastin,” shares Trattner. This ancient ritual isn’t without scientific basis, either. A 2017 study published in the journal Cosmetics found convincing evidence that applying date extract to the skin moisturizes it, improves pigmentation, increases elasticity, and reduces redness.
A Fermented Drink From Ancient Greece
When it comes to promoting beautiful skin, it really is what’s on the inside that counts. From staying hydrated to eating healthy foods, the naturally minded health community has long maintained that your skin benefits when you make good choices day in and day out. For instance, switchel—a fermented drink made from apple cider vinegar, ginger, maple syrup, and water—has suddenly become very popular for promoting gut health, according to Jillian Berswick of Rosehive Superfoods. The drink might be trendy, but it definitely isn’t a new recipe. “Some say switchel was influenced by oxymel, an ancient Greek medicinal elixir made from vinegar, honey, and water. Wherever its origins, by the 18th century, switchel was the choice of American farmers during long work days to keep cool and stay hydrated,” says Berswick. So what does a healthy gut have to do with beauty? If your gut isn’t healthy, it can cause a whole host of health issues, acne being just one of them. Pass the apple cider vinegar!
A Sticky Solution for Inflamed Skin
The next time your skin is broken out or irritated, consider heading to your kitchen for a solution. In ancient Egypt, honey was believed to have medicinal properties and was even offered as a sacrifice to certain deities. For 8,000 years, honey has had a place in traditional medicine for good reason. Research has found that honey is high in antioxidants and fights bacteria, according an article in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Science. It makes sense that this powerful, natural commodity is also popular as a beauty product. Because it is a natural exfoliant and has antibacterial properties, many beauty bloggers recommend honey as a face wash or spot treatment for acne.
Ancient Beauty Rituals Worth Skipping
Of course, not all ancient beauty rituals have scientific basis. Personally, when it comes to adopting ancient methods for looking young, I can get behind snails but can’t get on board with anything potentially harmful or outrageously weird. For instance, in the Victorian era, women were instructed by a popular beauty guide to ingest a tapeworm egg as an easy method of losing weight, according to Atlas Obscura. For 10 centuries in China, the pursuit of dainty feet meant many young girls had their feet broken and wrapped to limit their growth. Some 18th-century women had a much higher likelihood of getting lead poisoning thanks to their practice of using white lead to lighten their faces to a ghostly white, according to the University College London’s Department of Museums and Collections. These examples just go to show that jumping on board with a cultural expectation of beauty at all costs is rarely a good idea. So do your research, learn to your love yourself as your are, and for goodness’ sake, think twice before slathering on or ingesting any substance in the name of beauty.