Beauty has always been an important ritual for women, even in ancient times they relied on techniques for an illustrious glow with natural oils, herbs, milk and honey just some of the products used to keep youthful. The Spa at Borgo Santo Pietro, located on a centuries old healing site used by Franciscan monks, is inspired by these techniques offering treatments using fresh herbs and raw ingredients from our gardens to relax and rejuvenate both body and mind.
BEAUTIFUL SKIN: to maintain soft, smooth skin Ancient Egyptians would use the oil of olives, sesame seeds and almonds mixed with cardamom to massage and moisturize the body. Honey was also used as treatment for skin; it is said Cleopatra bathed in milk, honey and olive oil to maintain her flawless complexion. The Egyptians also added salt from the Dead Sea to their bath water as a skin tonic, a treatment that is still used today. All these ingredients are found in many beauty treatments around the world and as active ingredients in cosmetics.
FACE TONICS: Rose water was used in many ancients cultures to hydrate skin and keep it smooth. It was believed roses had the power to rejuvenate plus freshen and tone. Rose water can also reduce wrinkles plus be used as a natural cleanser to remove dirt and oil. France’s Marie Antoinette would wear gloves during sleep lined with wax, rose water and almond oil to soften her hands in order to keep age spots – often the first signs of ageing – at bay. In Italy, boil oatmeal and vinegar was used to remove freckles and cucumber juice was a medieval tonic to eradicate redness.
SHINY HAIR: Ancient Roman women used oils to nourish and style their hair with cocoa and shea butter popular components in their hair care products. Coconut oil was common in India, used to promote strong and glossy tresses. In China, washing hair in rice water (left after boiling rice) was a technique to maintain colour into old age. In Italy, it was fashionable to have lighter locks with many women using the juice of lemons to bleach their hair. Just look at paintings from the Renaissance to see women with light, even strawberry blond coloured hair, which was revered in this time.
MAKE-UP: Ancient Roman women would also rub seaweed on the cheeks to act as rouge and in Renaissance times, Italian women would create red lips and cheeks with a concoction of cochineal, sandalwood or cinnabar mixed with wax to stain their skin for up to a week. The book, Secrets of Don Alessio Piemontese, written by the 16th-century Italian physician and alchemist of the same name includes a recipe for a balm of suet, marjoram and wine to create a “sweet smelling grease that will keep the lips and hands from chapping and make them moist and soft.”