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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cosmetics in the Past


Makeup, in one form or another, has been used since before the dawn of Christianity. In ancient tombs, archaeologists have found evidence of the use of unguents to hydrate the skin in the hot, dry climate of Egypt. In addition, Egyptians colored the underlid of their eyes with dark green, and blackened their lashes and upper lids with kohl. The ancient Greeks used mulberry juice to color their cheeks and lips, while other civilizations used concoctions made from beet juice or other berries.
In Rome, during the 1st century AD, citizens used kohl, too, along with chalk to whiten their faces, rouge to color lips and cheeks, and pumice to clean their teeth. Persians preferred henna to stain their hair and faces.
During the Victorian era, it was considered vulgar for women to use coloring on their faces, so when a young lady wanted to make a favorable impression on a suitor, she was inclined to pinch her cheeks and dab a little grease on her lips to make them shine.
Ladies were not the only ones to use makeup. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, men wore rouge, and of course used talcum to whiten their wigs, when those hairpieces were in fashion.
George IV is said to have spent a small fortune on cosmetics, unguents and cologne.
Here are a few cosmetic recipes used in the late 1800s:
For freckle removal, squeeze the juice of chickweed, and add three times that amount of water to the chickweed juice, then bathe the skin ten minutes morning and evening.
To wash the complexion: Take one teaspoon flour of sulphur, and to that, add a wine glass of lime water well shaken. Mix in one-half glass glycerin and a full glass of rose water. Rub on face nightly before bedtime.

12 comments:

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Flour of sulphur? Yikes! I love learning what folks did in the name of beauty. I have a similar article ("The Dirt on Cleopatra's Make-up") on my blog as well, if you're interested: http://historywithatwist.blogspot.com/2010/09/dirt-on-cleopatras-makeup.html

Rosemary Gemmell said...

This is a great blog and I'm so pleased to have discovered it. I'll definitely be following it from now on since I love history and my first Regency novel comes out in May!
http://romygemmell.blogspot.com

MarySimonsen said...

I wasn't allowed to wear makeup until I was 16, so I too used to pinch my cheeks and wear vaseline instead of lipstick. Some things never change. Thanks.

catslady said...

Seems like man has always been vain lol. I enjoyed hearing about the different products and how they used them.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Vicky: Love the title of your post. Women would do anything to be beautiful, woldn't they? But so do we. Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Rosemary: I'm glad you like our blog. We try to post things of interest, so thanks! Also, big congrats on your Regency novel. It's a popular era, so you should have lots of readers.

Joyce Moore said...

Mary: How interesting! I'm not sure what age I was, but I remember our first lipsticks (I had 3 sisters). They were so pale they made very little difference, but it's like a badge of passage. Thanks for sharing.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi catslady: What I found interesting was that men powdered their wigs and wore rouge. Glad you stopped by our blog.

Kaydee said...

Sulphur, my word doesn't that stuff burn? But then again if you what they put in some of today's cosmetics sulphur might not be so bad. lol

Keena Kincaid said...

Flour of sulphur? Woe to us with sensitive skin. I didn't know about the grease to make the lips shiny. I can't imagine kissing those lips would be much fun, though. "Mmm," said Count Escobar. "You taste like duck fat."

Winona said...

Fantastic information! I've often wondered about the habits for skin care and make-up. My WIP takes place in 1845 on the Oregon Trail. I want my main character's mother to have some sort of cream or something to protect her skin.

To Vicky--I'll check out your blog.

To Rosemary--Congrats on the publication.

Thanks for the great post!

Susan Macatee said...

Interesting post! As a Civil War reenactor, I wasn't allowed to wear any makeup while in my CW persona in camp, not that I wear makeup anyway. But that's my choice. Back then, it was definitely a no-no for proper ladies.