The Price of Beauty

In my latest novel, one of the things I had to research was women’s makeup. I wrote a “cozy” mystery entitled The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery. One of the characteristics of a cozy is poison is often used to commit the crime. I used poison in the form of makeup.

Here is some of the facts I discovered in researching makeup:
* Pale skin from the Middle Ages to the early 1900s was a sign of wealth.
* To achieve the look of pale skin, women sometimes actually let blood.
* Lead paint was used to lighten the skin.
* Arsenic was used in face powder during the Italian Renaissance.
* Women during the time of Queen Elizabeth wore egg whites for a “glazed” look on their faces.
* By the time of the French Restoration of the 1700s, red rouge and lipstick were popular.
* However, the “French” ways were not so acceptable with the Napoleonic era, and many other countries shunned the heavier makup.
* In the Regency era (the one I address most often in my books), a little rouge was still acceptable.
* Hair dyes were used. To prevent a low hairline, a forehead bandage dipped in vinegar in which cats dung had been steeped was worn.(“The History of Makeup”)
* White skin was still preferred as an indication of wealth. Women used whiteners and blemish removers.
* These products were made from white lead and mercury.
* Belladonna (a known poison) was used on the eyes.
* Some makeup contained nitric acid, and coal tar was used in hair dye.
* George IV was known to use an extensive number of creams for his skin.

From “The History of Makeup” come these recipes.
Here are some beauty-tip recipes utilized during the late 1800’s:
*For freckle removal: bruise and squeeze the juice out of chick-weed, add three times its quantity of soft water, then bathe the skin for five to ten minutes morning and evening.
*As a wash for the complexion: one teaspoon of flour of sulphur and a wine glassful of lime water, well shaken and mixed with half a wine-glass of glycerine and a wine-glass of rose-water. Rub on the face every night before going to bed.
*To keep hair from turning gray: four ounces of hulls of butternuts were infused with a quart of water, to which half an ounce of copperas was added. This was to be applied with a soft brush every two to three days.
*For wrinkle removal: melt one ounce of white wax, add two ounces of juice of lily-bulbs, two ounces of honey, two drams of rose-water, and a drop or two of ottar of roses and use twice a day.

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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