One of the things I had to research for my “cozy” mystery, The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery, was women’s make-up. In an image drenched society (both now and in the Regency), the use of or lack of cosmetics to enhance a woman’s appearance played daily. As 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 are some 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.
* White skin indicated wealth and gentility. Women often “bleached” their skin. These products were made of white lead and mercury. George IV (the Prince Regent) used a variety of creams on his skin.
*A known poison, Belladonna, was often used on the eyes.
*Some makeup contained nitric acid, and coal tar was used in hair dye.
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.