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7 Shocking Things About Hygiene in Ancient Egypt

Did you know these facts about Egyptian hygiene in ancient times?

All research made by archeologists, historians, and anthropologists has proven over the years just how advanced the Ancient Egyptians were. And this also included their approach to personal hygiene! Not only did their society function in a way that was extremely modern for the time, but they also put a heavy emphasis on medical and personal hygiene. What’s more, a lot of the things they were already doing back in 3000 BC would shock you when we take into consideration the poor health practices of the medieval era.

To show you just how advanced a society they had, we have gathered all the ways the Egyptians made sure to not only treat but also maintain and prevent diseases of all kinds, with a heavy accent on clean bodies and advanced hygiene practices. From inventions we wouldn’t have thought possible back then to innovative practices, these are just some of the surprising things you will find on our list!

Let us know which one of these things surprised you the most in the comments!

Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

#7 Hygiene was important even in the tomb!

Egyptians have always paid a lot of attention to their appearance, along with their body hygiene, and this is even more evident when we take a look at the items that were added to the tombs. When we look at hygiene and body grooming, people were buried alongside cosmetic sets and other hair care items, as the Egyptians thought they would also serve an important part of the afterlife, much like they did while they were alive.

Other accessories that could be found in tombs were different types of combs made of silver or ivory, as well as ornate hair clips and pins, bronze tweezers, and even golden razors! They were also buried with copper mirrors that were highly decorated and expensive. If this doesn’t demonstrate how important personal hygiene was to the Egyptians, we don’t know what will!

#6 No vermins allowed

And when we talk about vermin, we aren’t talking about mice or rats, but rather the vermin that are sometimes a sign of poor hygiene or just being very unlucky. You may have heard that a lot of Egyptians were actually shaving their heads to be bald. This was not an aesthetic choice, but rather one made out of convenience. In order to get rid of head lice, everyone would shave their heads, from adults to children, no matter their age or gender. To them, living without pests was more important than having hair.

Not to mention, it was temporary. The hair would grow back, and if they no longer had problems with lice, they would just keep their hair long. However, they had some other questionable practices as well. In order to keep fleas and lice away, they made a date meal and a water potion, believing they would keep them away, which is a bit questionable as there is nothing to prove that it worked.

One such potion that does actually work was the formula they devised that resulted in a solution of “natron water,”  which contained salt! This one actually worked well to repel and eliminate fleas.

PEbers_c41.jpg: Einsamer Schützederivative work: Photohound, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

#5 Medical papers with interesting hygiene facts!

The Ebers Medical Papyrus, which was created in 1500 BC, has revealed many important facts about how important hygiene was in Ancient Egypt.It even let us know that they also made something akin to soap by combining vegetable and animal fat with alkaline salts. Not only was that used for bathing, but it was also made into topical medicines to treat skin conditions too!

The Ebers Medical Papyrus actually contains about 877 prescriptions given by doctors in those times, as well as the first documented sign that people were aware of tumors!

Yet, this information should not surprise anyone, since Egyptians have been known for decades and centuries for being the best and oldest people to hold medical records and findings. In 800 BC, Homer wrote in The Odyssey that “the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art.”

#4 Preventive medicine?

Part of body hygiene is preventive medicine. And Egyptians were extremely preoccupied with making sure they were maintaining their bodies’ health and finding ways to keep disease away. They believe that a big factor in people’s well-being is what they eat. That’s why they made sure that people who did hard labor had a diet that included high amounts of radishes, onions, and garlic. And as we know today, these vegetables do wonders for your health, and they play a huge role in preventive medicine!

The vegetables are rich in allicin, raphanin, and allistatin, which are natural antibiotics that help prevent various diseases that one can get from crowded and harsh working conditions. Egyptian doctors also made sure to feed their patients powdered liver, which is high in Vitamin A, in order to help them with their vision issues or keep them from having any of them.

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

#3 They had breath mints

Did you know that the Egyptians had the first dentist in the world? His name was Hesi-Re, and he lived in Egypt’s Third Dynasty around 1600 BC under Pharaoh Djoser. Yet he was not the first to work in an ancient field of dentistry. On a papyrus dating back to 3000 BC, they have found a detailed manual that instructs people how to cure wounds inside the mouth.

It was also during that time that we know that small dental surgeries were being performed, slowly paving the way for the first-ever cavity drillings and other more complex tasks such as teeth pulling.

They even took care of mouth hygiene and found a way to keep their breath from smelling horrible by inventing breath mints! They used to mix together boiled herbs, myrrh, and cinnamon with honey, then let them dry out to form pellets. After that, they were given to people who had stinky breath to help them. Genius.

#2 Eye care was important!

If there is anyone over the course of history who loved black eye makeup more than the emos of the 2000s, it is the Egyptians. What most people do not know is that their makeup was also a big part of eye hygiene and health, besides being a fashion and glamour statement. Scientists have taken 52 makeup containers preserved in the Louvre museum and analyzed the substances that were inside this ancient makeup.

Aside from lead (which was a common base for makeup until people realized it was poisonous), they discovered that all of those cosmetics contained nitric oxide in quantities that were increased “by up to 240% in cultured human cells.” This oxide is important as it is one of the agents in the body, enhancing the immune system and aiding in the fight against diseases.

Not only were the Egyptians aware of the fact that people were getting tons of eye infections because of the water in the Nile, but they went out of their way to create a remedy for it. This compound cannot be found naturally, so in order to maintain hygiene and prevent eye disease, or even to treat any eye infections, the Egyptians invented these eye cosmetics. The fact that it also became a fashion statement was just an added plus!

#1 Did anyone say deodorant?

Since there are people who struggle with personal hygiene even in the 21st century, a lot of us wouldn’t expect people in ancient times to have this good hygiene. Yet, we are going to blow your minds again and let you know that Egyptians are credited with having invented the first-ever deodorant, or at least the first version of it. What is definitely clear is that they did invent something to get rid of bad body odors, using a combination of various spices, the most common of which were cinnamon and citrus.

They didn’t stop there, though, because they ground up and mixed other fragrances, eventually adding in part of the carob tree’s evergreen shrubs and making natural deodorant pellets. After they got those, they would place them and hold them in their armpits to get rid of the unpleasant smell.

Do you know why there are no drawings of Egyptians with armpit hair? It is because they figured out that if they had hair on their armpits, then the sweat smell would be more pungent, so they decided to shave it off.

The ancient Greeks are thought to have actually copied the Egyptians when they started to put perfume on their armpits to combat the smell. And until the 18th century, when medicine discovered the sweat glands and realized the link between perspiration and body odor, we did not understand why we smelled when we sweat! Truly, the Egyptians were pioneers in a lot of hygiene areas!

If ancient civilizations are up your alley, we are sure you are going to love these other fascinating facts about how life went in Ancient Egypt!


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2 Responses

  1. The Egyptian‘s were way, advanced in their care of their bodies, in comparison to the Europeans, who rarely bathed and forget your mouth smells, and your body smells.

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