Beauty History: The Toilet Of Flora

Beauty books are nothing new. They’ve been around at least since the middle of the 18th century. One of the most popular was The Toilet Of Flora, written by Pierre-Joseph Buc’hoz, a French doctor, and published around 1772. The book was so successful that it was reprinted in numerous editions and was still in print in the 19th century!

The Toilet Of Flora contains more than 300 recipes for everything you can think of beauty-wise: perfumes, lip salves, hand creams, face creams, baths, concoctions to remove hair or make it grow, perfumed gloves and even toothpaste! I though it’d be interesting to share a few:

A Cosmetic Bath

Take two pounds of cleansed Barley, a pound of Rice, three pounds of Lupines, all finely powdered; eight pounds of Bran, and ten handfuls of Borrage and Violet Leaves. Boil these ingredients in a sufficient quantity of spring water. Nothing cleanses and softens the skin like this bath.

Receipt to thicken the Hair, and make it grow again on a bald part

Take Roots of a Maiden Vine, Roots of Hemp, and Cores of soft Cabbages, of each two handfuls; dry and burn them; afterwards make a lye with the ashes; Before you wash your head with this lye, the part should be rubbed well with Honey, and this method persisted in for three days together.

An approved Depilatory Fluid

Take Polypody of the Oak, cut into very small pieces put them into a glass cucurbit (an oblong vessel); pour thereon as much Lisbon, or French White Wine, as will rise about ah inch above the ingredients, and digest in-balneo marise (or a bath of hot water) for twenty-four hours; then distil off the liquor by the heat of boiling water, till the whole has come over the helm. A linen cloth wetted with this fluid, may be applied to the forehead, back of the hand, wrists, nostrils, or any other part, and kept thereon all night. This application must be repeated every night till the hair falls off.

 A Powder to clean the Teeth

Take Dragon’s-Blood and Cinnamon, of each one ounce and an half, Burnt Alum, one ounce; beat all together into a very fine powder, and rub a little on the teeth every other day..

Imperial Water

Take five quarts of Brandy, dissolve therein an ounce of Frankincense, Mastic, Benjamin, and Gum Arabic; add half an ounce of Cloves and Nutmegs; an ounce and an half of Pine-nut kernels, and sweet Almonds; and three grains of Musk ; bruise these ingredients in a marble mortar, distill in a vapour bath and keep the water that is drawn off in a glass bottle close stopped. This water takes away wrinkles, and renders the skin extremely delicate; it also, whitens the Teeth and cures the toothache, sweetens the breath, and strengthens the gums. Foreign ladies prize-it highly.

A Preservative from Tanning

Infuse in clean Water Jar for three days a pound of Lupines, then take them ,out of the Water, and boil them in a copper vessel with five quarts of fresh Water. When the Lupines are boiled tender, and the Water grows rather ropy, press out the Liquor, and keep for use.. Whenever you are under a necessity of exposing yourself to the sun, wash the face and neck with this preparation.

An excellent Perfume for Gloves

Take Ambergrease a drachm, the same quantity of Civet, Orange-Flower Butter a quarter of an ounce, mix these ingredients well, and rub into the gloves with fine Cotton Wool, and so press, the perfume into them.

A Cosmetic Oil

Take a quarter of a pint of Oil of Sweet Almonds fresh drawn, two ounces of Oil of Tartar per Deliquium, and four drops of Oil of Rhodium; mix the whole together, and make use of it to cleanse and soften the skin.

Common perfumed powder

Take Florentine Orrice a pound, dried Rose Leaves a pound, Gum Benjamin two ounces, Storax an ounce, Yellow Sanders an ounce and an half, Cloves two drachms, and a little Lemon Peel; reduce the whole to a fine powder, and mix with it twenty pounds of Starch, or rather of grey or white powder, incorporate them well, and colour them as you like, then fire through a lawn sieve.

Cold Creamy or Pomatum for the Complexion

Take White Wax and Sperma Ceti, of each a drachm; Oil of Sweet Almonds two ounces; Spring Water an ounce and an half; melt the Wax and Sperma Ceti together in the Oil of Almonds, in a glazed earthen pipkin, over hot ashes, or in a vapour bath; pour the solution into a marble mortar, and stir it about with a wooden pestle, till it grows cold, and ferns quite smooth, then mix in the Water by little and little, and keep stirring the mixture, till the Water is thoroughly incorporated. This pomatum becomes extremely white and light by the agitation, and very much resembles cream, from its similitude to which it has obtained its name. This pomatum is an excellent cosmetic, it admirably nourishes the skin, renders it supple and smooth, and causes the wrinkles to disappear that proceed from its dryness.

A Scarlet Lip Salve

Take half a pound of fresh Butter, a quarter of a pound of Bees Wax, four or five ounces of cleansed Black Grapes, and about an ounce of bruised Alkanet Root; simmer them together over a slow fire till the Wax is wholly dissolved, and the mixture becomes of a bright red colour, then strain it, and set it by for use.

Pomatum for a red or pimpled Face

Take two pared Apples, Celery, and Fennel, of each an handful, and Parley Meal a quarter of an ounce, simmer the whole together a quarter of an hour in a gill of Rose-water, then add an ounce of fine Barley Meal, the Whites of four new laid Eggs, and an ounce of Deer’s Suer, strain through a canvas bag into a dish that contains a little Rose-water, with the pomatum well in the Rose-water, and then beat it in a mortar perfectly smooth. This pomatum is to be applied as often, as possible, to remove redness of the face, pimples, and even freckles, but to answer this last purpose must be continued till they are entirely effaced; to prevent their return, the person must avoid the intense heat of the sun, and hot drying winds for some time.

If you’re interested in reading The Toilet Of Flora, you’ll be happy to know that it is available for free at Google Books. What do you think of these recipes?

9 Comment

    • Ana, oh thank you! :oops:

      Alkanet is a plant with bright blue flowers from which a red tint can be derived. I think it would be interesting to try and recreate some of these recipes (those without dangerous ingredients obviously). A few of them may actually work quite nicely.

  1. Fun! I do believe I will go have a look at this book myself. Recently I wrote an entry about Queen Isabelle of Hungary’s elixir of youth (some call her Elisabeth) in relation to Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir. I love to learn about the “origins” of things. May I add that I’m very happy to have found your blog. I knew I couldn’t be the only one interested about these subjects. :D
    Icaria´s last blog post ..Cargo Mascara & SmokeyEye Eye liner Duo in BudapestMy Profile

    • Icaria, yay! Another beauty history lover! It’s a fascinating topic, isn’t it? I’ll go check out your post now. ;) And thank you. I’m glad you like my blog, thanks for your support. :)

  2. Interesting to see how things were done then! But some ingredients are wholly unnecessary for certain uses today…

    Dragon’s Blood is a great incense (don’t know about dye efficacy, since I’ve never done it), but why put red dye on your teeth? And cloves by themselves cure toothaches- grind them, wet a Q-tip, dip it in the ground cloves, and hold it to the wound; or make a tiny compress by cutting a coffee filter and wrapping a pinch of cloves in it, then tie it shut with dental floss and hold in the side of your mouth. The brandy would certainly work, if you aren’t driving, I suppose. ^_~

    As well, ambergris has been replaced by much cheaper, more effective synthetic stabilizers in perfume. You can maybe get a hold of some of the real thing, but it’ll cost you- ambergris is produced by a sperm whale’s intestinal tract, and isn’t exactly easily obtained. Maybe stick with lab-created stuff, there, yeah?
    BebeTaian´s last blog post ..Some Changes to BebeTaianMy Profile

    • BebeTaian, I agree. Some of the ingredients are a bit weird and not really necessary, but that just makes these recipes even more interesting. It’s fascinating to see what they used back then indeed.

      Thanks for the tips about cloves and I agree, better use synthetic ingredients. They’re effective, safe and cheaper. :)

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