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The role of the cosmetician today originates from a long history of pampering and leisurely self-care, which began centuries ago in the public baths and spas of Asia and Europe. Ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans renewed and invigorated themselves in public baths. Archeological evidence suggests that in ancient Egypt cosmetics were also used to enhance the appearance of the skin. Products included ingredients such as special soils, wax, honey, and oils that were formulated into masks, makeup, and lipsticks. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, contributed to the development of esthetics (scientific skin care). Archaeological remains suggest that Greek women used mixtures of plant roots and yeast to try to eliminate freckles and applied masks made with bread crumbs and milk to prevent wrinkles. Artifacts from ancient Roman society include recipes for creams made from fruit juices, honey, and olive oil. Soothing therapies, still practiced today, from Shiatsu massages to potent herbal treatments, have been passed down from thousand-year-old traditions of the East.

During the Middle Ages, interest in skin care and public baths waned in the Western world. Certain orders of nuns, however, devoted themselves to producing beauty products to support their convents. Perfume oils began to be used and the fragrance market was launched. The Renaissance saw skin care and cosmetics again become popular in large European cities. The manufacture of perfumes became a major industry. From writings of the 16th century, we find that many formulas and mixtures are very similar to modern cosmetic products. By the 17th and 18th centuries spas had gained the support of the medical establishment and once again became popular places. And by the 1800s, Europe's wealthy classes were spending months at a time relaxing and rejuvenating themselves at spas. It was not until the 1920s that spas caught on in the United States, and even then they were considered a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.

Today, due to heightened health awareness, the need for more specialized beauty services, and increasing affordability of spa and salon services in the United States, cosmeticians are more in demand than ever before. Now more than just pamperers, cosmeticians are professionals and consultants, equipped with an awareness of skin conditions and allergies, as well as the scientific knowledge necessary to make recommendations based on biological and chemical analysis. As technical advancements in such areas as chemical peels and wrinkle reduction continue to boom, cosmeticians will become more prevalent and their services will be in greater demand.