The earliest records of cosmetic Substances and their application dates back to circa
2500 and 1550 B.C. to the Indus valley civilization. There is evidence of highly advanced
ideas of self beautification and a large array of various cosmetic usages both by men and
women in ancient India. Many of these practices were subtly interwoven with the seasons
and the normal rituals of life. Significantly the use of cosmetics was directed not only
towards developing an outwardly pleasant and acceptable personality but towards
achieving merit (Punya) longevity and Happiness.
The oriental ideal of beauty remains undiminished and many modern women in India have
begun to research and combine ancient aids to beauty with present day sophistication.
Herbal cosmetics in Ancient India have gleaned various cosmetic formulation contained in
a wide body of literature on subjects as diverse as Dharma (religion) the art of love and
health sciences. The book is thus the result of a multidisciplinary investigation and
constitutes an ethnobotanical contribution to mankind’s constant’s search for eternal
beauty and good health.
The word cosmetics defined as substances of diverse origin scientifically compound and
used 1 to cleanse 2) to allay skin troubles 3) to cover up imperfections and 4) to beautify
(Encyclopedia Britannica 1970) is used in this work in a wider sense to include oral
The ancient science of cosmetology is believed to have originated in China but the earliest
records of cosmetic substances and their application dates back to circa 2500 and 1550
B.C. in the Indus valley civilization. Excavations at Mohenjodaro and Harappa have
revealed a highly developed culture. Barrel shaped terracotta scrubbers to scrub the body
while bathing kohl pots and sticks with collyrium in them and a large number of jars
containing paints for the adornment of the eyes uncovered around the great bath and at
Chanhudaro go to prove that both men and women of ancient India took special care to
Prakrit and Sanskrit records assigned to pre Christian and early Christian era (200 B.C. –
500 B.C.) leave no doubt in one’s mind about the highly advanced ideas of self
beautification and a large array of various cosmetic usages both by men and women in
ancient India. It is also evident that many of these practices were subtly interwoven in
normal rituals of life.
Different Lepas (applications) were recommended for different seasons for body
beautifications. The ingredients used during cold season were quite different from those
used in hot season. In fact Ashtanga Hridaya (Fifteen hundred years old book of Ayurveda)
offers six different formulation to be used for six seasons of the year similarly special
cosmetic oils and Ghritas were used for facial beautification.
Superfluous hair was considered to be a stigma and a large number of depilatories were
recommended to get rid of it. Special ingredients for hair washes were used. Many
remedies have been indicated for hair growth prevention of falling hair and premature
graying. Hair dyes for fragrant hair rinses and fumigants were also in use. Fragrant baht
powders and body deodorants find frequent mention. Oral hygiene in the form of care of
teeth mouth deodorants and coloring of lips were daily chores to be religiously
If appears that the whole of modern cosmetic usages was conceived by the ancient
Indians and were practiced with the help of natural resources then available. Even the
philosophy of usage of cosmetics was directed not only towards developing a pleasant and
acceptable personality in the society but for achieving merit longevity and happiness in
Both men and women used fresh flowers to adorn themselves. The women applied a
variety of perfumes and pastes and painted intricate designs on their breasts. It was
however in the matter of hairdressing that women gave vent to their imagination. They
braided and painted their hair and arranged it in a chignon or top knot over which they
studded ornaments or flowers.
The oriental ideal of beauty remains undiminished and modern women of India have begun
to research and combine ancient aids to beauty with present day sophistication.
In this book with a view to bringing the ancient usages to the notice of researches the
various cosmetic formulations contained in widely strewn literature on Dharma art of love
and health sciences were collected and examined. This was an unfamiliar and uncharted
effort needing a combination of cultural and scientific approach. It turned out to be a
challenging but time consuming task as the references were not readily available. The
more difficult part was the interpretation of the formulation and translation needing expert
consultations. The formulation have been classified in the following categories on the basis
of current concepts (cosmetics and the skin by wells F.V. and Lubowe, I.R. Reinholt N.Y
p. 174, 1964) :-
I. Facial Cosmetics
II. Oral Hygiene
IV. Body Cosmetics
V. Cosmetics for hair
Each formulation is reproduced from its original language and translated in English
followed by its exact reference and textual variations if any. The English translation is
rendered by the authors with the help of several scholars.
The authors have been advised by some well wishers to delete some of the formulations
which may be considered repugnant by contemporary global concepts among users of
cosmetics. However it was felt that even those formulations should be subject to critical
tests and should not be discarded merely on emotional grounds. We have therefore
retained then as part of ancient wisdom and/or experience.
The second part Planta Cosmetica describes each botanical in the form of a monograph
each monograph under the Sanskrit name of the includes the Sanskrit synonyms
(occurring in the formulations only) trade names, English name(s) if any description(s) of
part(s) used observations and notes relation to the scientific identity of the botanical under
references 210 different botanicals have been referred in 314 formulations given in this
work. Of these 151 botanicals are identified 21 are unidentified and 38 remain uncertain.
The scientific name of the plant species is followed by references equating the Sanskrit
name or synonyms and references given in parenthesis relate to the scientific name only.
The nomenclature is followed by a very short description and distribution of the species
and references to the uses of the botanicals as reported in literature on Indian medicinal
plants. The use of botanicals in cosmetics in ancient India is indicated by referring it to the
appropriate formulation(s) in Part I.
It is obvious that this type of investigation is multidisciplinary and copious and it is hoped
that it forms the basis for further chemical, clinical, and allied investigation in the
cosmetics and therapeutic aspects of the Indian botanicals. The non botanicals though
equated with their generally acceptable English or trade names may need a further critical
Art & Culture (745)
Emperor & Queen (484)
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