How the Ancients Treated Skin Problems

woman with well taken care of face

As you look in the mirror to start your daily facial routine (exfoliating, toning, moisturizing, peeling, and hydrating), you might wonder: What did your ancestors do to give their skin the glow you’ve always wanted to achieve? What were their treatments against acne or any skin infection when there were no antibiotics?  The ancients valued clear skin as we do, and they had their treatments though they did not have dermatologists or skin specialists.

There are records from ancient Egypt and Rome about skin treatments, and though our modern minds might question some of them, some remedies are still used as a basis for treating skin problems.


The ancient Chinese believed that nutrition is still the basis for healthy skin. They categorized fruits such as bananas, tomatoes, watermelon, and cucumber as cooling foods, or as yin foods. They believed that skin problems such as acne were a result of overstimulation and excessive heat. Eating these yin foods would restore your skin’s balance and result in a healthier complexion. These days nutritionists encourage a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as they could improve your overall health.

Sour Milk

The ancient Egyptians used several natural remedies for skin problems, and sour milk was one of them. They put sour milk on acne breakouts along with other treatments such as patchouli and moldy bread. Egyptians knew of the antiseptic properties of these ingredients along with the exfoliating properties of sour milk, giving skin a youthful and smoother appearance. Milk is still used as an ingredient for smoother skin, often incorporating it in bath soaps and cleansers.

Woman touching her face


The Romans loved to go to public baths, but they often did not use soap to lather up. They often used oil to smoothen their skin, but little to disinfect wounds and skin issues. The Romans relied on sulfur in their hot baths for its disinfecting properties, which explains why natural hot springs became popular Roman attractions during the heyday of the empire. Sulfur is now used to clear up fungal infections and other bacterial rashes.

Bird Poop

From the Middle Ages to the 1100s, Koreans used nightingale poop to treat pimples. Bird poop has chemicals that are rich in nitrogen and amino acids, which could make skin brighter and clear up spots.

Rice Bran

The Japanese use rice bran with bird poop to achieve a fairer and brighter complexion. The paste is applied to the skin for a few minutes and then washed off with water. This is still a facial that people get in many facial spas and salons.

As time marched on, our ancestors found other ways to improve their skin and even hide imperfections. There was a time when radium was a popular remedy, along with mercury, shooting stars, and laxatives. But if you think we have it better, think again! Some people are using snail scum, blood, mayonnaise, caviar, and even gold to get clearer skin! Which only goes to show how far people would go to achieve a smoother and younger look.

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