Columbus Sailed the Ocean, But He Didn’t Make These Discoveries

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Columbus, imma let you finish, but the first guy to figure out how to shave his face made a pretty amazing discovery, too. In fact, innovations in hygiene are some of the most important discoveries, well, everjust imagine a world without teeth brushing, body scrubbing and nail clipping: It would probably stink.

And so, in the spirit of Columbus Day, we’re celebrating the people who first set foot in a new world of grooming:

Discovery: Shaving
First Swipe of A Sharp Metal Object Against Flesh: 3100 B.C.
While the act of removing body hair predates the history books, the Ancient Egyptians get credit for implementing the “shaving routine.” And thanks to their belief that body hair was primitive and uncivilized, their shaving routine was a strict one. Egyptian priests would shave their entire bodies—including their heads and eyebrows—every other day, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. If that wasn’t hardcore enough, they often used rusty blades crafted from stone, copper or bronze.

Discovery: Nail Clipping
First Nail Cut: 800 B.C.
Because humans spent most of the ancient era laboring away with their hands, fingernails actually trimmed themselves for centuries. It wasn’t until the arrival of more civilized societies—i.e., Ancient Greecethat specialized tools for clipping nails were invented or even necessary. Even then, cutting your nails was still a luxury left for those who had the cash to hire a barber to keep them trim for you.

Discovery: Soap
First Soapy Scrub Down: 2800 B.C.
Nobody really knows why someone decided to invent soap. A nasty case of B.O.? Serious grime on a Roman bath? We do know, however, how they did itthanks to the directions on an Ancient Babylonian tablet. It’s simple: Combine cassia oil, ashes and water. And if you really want to get ancient, use it as the Babylonians did—as an all-in-one cleaner for your hair, body and even your laundry.

Discover: Teeth Brushing
First Tooth Brushed: 3500 B.C.
The first toothbrush actually wasn’t a brush at all. It was a stick called the “miswak,” and its discovery also can be credited to the Ancient Babylonians. Carved from branches of the salvadora persica tree, which is best-known for its antibiotic and antifungal properties, this teeth-cleaning twig is still commonly used today throughout the Muslim world. But don’t toss out your toothbrush just yet: Overuse of the miswak is known to cause gum recession as well as wear down your teeth.