You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Colonial American Cosmetics, A Deadly Vanity

Lady Dawlrymple by Gainsborough (an example of pale skin,
rouged cheeks and lips, and dark eyebrows)

         The average colonial American woman, whether due to a lack of money, time, incentive, or religious reasons and cultural mores, wore little or no makeup. European women who visited America from places where makeup was common among the upper classes, often commented in their letters and diaries about this.
       Colonial women did apply skin treatments that were intended to be washed off.
       Here’s one concoction for a cleanser made of a paste of dried almonds:
       Beat any quantity you please of Sweet and Bitter Almonds in a marble mortar, and while beating, pour on them a little Vinegar in a small stream to prevent their turning oily; then add 2 drachms of storax in fine powder, 2 drachms of white Honey, and 2 Yolks of Eggs boiled hard; mix the whole into a paste.
        Women, mostly wealthy, who were attentive to their looks did the following:
• For pale, waifish skin  -- apply rice powder or powder made from lead paint; trace the veins with a blue pencil
• Glistening eyes -- belladonna eye drops
• Lip Color -- mix beet juice with lard; use carmine red, a color derived from cochineal beetles imported from Central America (these beetles are used in lipstick today!)

cochineal beetle

vermillion powder made from
the cochineal beetle
• Blush -- pinch your cheeks or mix beet juice with talc or cornstarch;  puncture one’s finger and use the blood for rouge (Ee-ew!);  safflower, wood resin, sandalwood, and brazilwood mixed with greases, creams, or vinegars to create a paste
• Mascara/Eyeliner -- moisten eyelashes with your fingers or line eyes with coal tar (could cause blindness)
• Anti-aging skin creams --  rub bacon grease on your face or egg whites for a “glaze.”
• Lip Plumpers -- bite your lip several times throughout the day

 In 1767, Kitty Fisher, a famous English beauty,
died at age 23 from lead poisoning.
• Perfume/Scents -- no essential oils like sandalwood, but plenty of rose petals and potpourri were used to mask the smells of the streets
• Acne Products -- lemon-juice, rosewater, or concoctions of mercury, alum, honey, and eggshells (which is not advisable)
        The French physician Deshais-Gendron believed in 1760 that pulmonary lung disease among high-born ladies was associated with frequent use of lead face paint and rouge.


You Want My Fur for What?!!! 

          During the third quarter of the 18th century, dark eyebrows became all the rage.
         Over time, lead-based cosmetics caused hair loss at the forehead and over the brows, resulting in a receding hairline and a bare brow.
         It became the custom as early as 1703 to trap mice and use their fur for artificial eyebrows, which were glued on. 
        Sometimes, the glue did not always adhere well. Wouldn't that make a wonderful scene in a book -- a runaway eyebrow!
        In 1718, Matthew Prior wrote a poem about eyebrows. Here’s the last stanza:

On little things, as sages write,
Depends our human joy or sorrow;
If we don’t catch a mouse to-night,
Alas! no eyebrows for to-morrow.