Personal grooming is a huge industry today, but it’s always been big business. Personal grooming rituals have varied wildly across the world and across the ages. Here we’ve gathered together some of the most interesting rituals from all over the globe and throughout history.

Ancient Egyptians

Like so many cultural issues, if you want to find their origins, you might as well start with the Ancient Egyptians. Men and women from every social class took great care in how they looked. Makeup was worn by both men and women and it was thought to have magical and healing powers in addition to improving a person’s overall appearance.

Hair was also an important part of personal grooming, particularly for men. Early periods of Ancient Egypt show men with full beards and mustaches but, as time went on, people began to see excessive body hair as being too close to their “primal” self.

As a result, men and women began to shave their bodies almost completely bare. Many men still kept some amount of facial hair and women retained their head hair but the rest of their body was often completely hairless. Some ancient Egyptians even went as far as to see hair loss and baldness as a sign off sophistication and male virility. This required daily shaving rituals for lower classes but the rich and powerful employed personal shavers who dedicated each of their days to maintaining the hairless state of their bosses.

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Here Comes the Bride

Getting ready for a wedding date is a big production in most countries but the rituals in Mauritania are on whole other level. In Mauritania the idea that Big is Beautiful is taken to the extreme. Brides are sent to fat camps. While this may make most Westerners think of fitness camps it’s a whole different game for Mauritanians. For them, these camps are places where brides can be fattened up – sometimes resorting to force feeding which has flagged the camps as controversial.

Fairness Creams

In India, many people think that the fairer their skin is, the more attractive they are. While there is a growing movement to abandon this stigma against darker skin tones, Fairness Creams still remain a big business in the country and throughout the culture. Both men and women routinely use creams which promise to lighten their skin tone – sometimes leading to serious skin damage.

Masai Men

In Kenya, men from the Masai tribe must be willing to undergo extensive grooming rituals as a part of their transition from childhood into adulthood. At the age of 14, young men are circumcised while sitting on an animal hide. His head is also shaved and ten years later, he is initiated as a senor warrior in the tribe through a ritual where he again sits on that same animal hide and is shaven again. These rituals happen at regular intervals until he is finally allowed to be seen as a junior elder of the tribe. Once again, he is shaved and undergoes a grooming ritual but is now given a special chair where he sits for tribal events and where, one last time, is ceremoniously shaved, this time by his wife.

The Long Look

Women in the Pa Dong tribe believe that beauty is accomplished by having a long and slender neck. In order to become as beautiful as possible young women begin training and stretching their neck starting early. They use brass rings to elongate the neck, sometimes to the point where they become reliant on the rings in order to hold their head up. The rings are often removed on their wedding night so their husband can see their neck but the rings stay in place he rest of the time.

Considering the lengths people have been willing to go to in order to achieve their idea of beauty, it’s no wonder that grooming rituals are so important. They offer insight not only to what people are willing to do in the name of beauty, but also into the inner workings of a given culture. While our perceptions of beauty may differ by geography and time, our dedication to achieving it remains a constant in human nature.

Will is passionate about being healthy, writing about health techniques that can help men and women overcome hair loss over at his blog. When he’s not writing or researching you’ll find him playing tennis or windsurfing.