How To Make Rouge

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Rouge was one of the most popular cosmetics used in the past. Worn by both women and men to add colour to their cheeks and lips, it was said to give a youthful look to the complexion and make you more attractive. That’s because its reddish hue mimicked the colour of cheeks and lips during sexual arousal.

The Toilette of Health, Beauty, and Fashion, published in 1834, gave readers a few tips and recipes to help them make their own at home:

It would be well were those ladies whose taste may lead them to relieve the deficiency of their complexion by means of rouge, were they to compose the articles themselves. They would not then run the risk of using those dangerous reds in which deleterious minerals are ingredients, of spoiling the skin, and of exposing themselves to the inconveniences which we have alluded to, as liable to result from the use of metallic paints.

The more dangerous reds are those compounded with minium, which is a calx of lead, or cinnabar, otherwise called vermilion, produced by sulphur and mercury. Vegetable red therefore should alone be used. These are attended with little danger, especially when used with moderation.

The vegetable substances which furnish rouge, are red sanders wood, root of orchanet, cochineal, Brazil wood, and especially the bastard saffron, which yields a very beautiful color, that is, mixed with a sufficient quantity of French chalk or talc.

Some perfumers compose vegetable rouges, for which they take vinegar as the excipient. These reds are liable to injure the beauty of the skin. It is more advisable to compound them with oleaginous or unctuous substances, and to form salves. For this purpose, balm of Mecca, butter of cacao, oil of ben, &c. may, for instance, be employed.

There are females whose skin cannot be reconciled to unctuous bodies; such, therefore, may use the following:

1. Take Briancon chalk, and reduce it to a very fine powder — add to it carmine in proportion to the vividness of the red which you intend to produce; and carefully triturate this mixture, which may be applied to the skin, without danger; or

2. Take French chalk prepared, four ounces; oil of almonds, two drachms; carmine, one ounce.

Obs. — The makers of rouge, from motives of economy, sometimes substitute cinnabar for carmine. It may be ascertained if carmine be genuine, as in this case it is not altered either by the mixture of oxalid acid, or volatile alkali. The rouge of which we have just given the composition, may likewise be made up with salves; it then produces a superior effect, being a better imitation of the natural colors.

3. A liquid rouge to produce a perfect imitation of the colors of nature may be made as follows: — Add to a pint of French brandy, half an ounce of benzoin, an ounce of red sandal wood, half an ounce of Brazil wood, and the same quantity of rock alum. Cork the bottle with care, shake it well once a day, and at the end of twelve days it will be fit for use. The cheeks are to be lightly touched with it.

4. Take Brazil wood and rock alum; pound and add them to a bottle of red wine, and boil it till it is reduced to one fourth part. To use this, dip a piece of cotton wool into it, and rub the cheeks.

5. Take half an ounce of red sandal wood, half an ounce of cloves, and five pounds of sweet almonds. Pound the whole together. Upon this paste pour two ounces of white wine, and an ounce and a half of rosewater. Let the whole be stirred up well together. In about eight or nine days, strain this paste in the same manner as is done to extract the oil of sweet almonds, and a very good red oil will be obtained.

6. Alkanet root strikes a beautiful red when mixed with oils or pomatums. A scarlet or rose-colored ribbon, wetted with water or brandy, gives the cheeks if rubbed with it a beautiful bloom, that can scarcely be distinguished from the natural color. Others only use a red sponge, which tinges the cheeks of a fine carnation color.

Would you have used rouge back then?

Were Fire Screens Really Used To Prevent Wax-based Makeup From Melting?

fire screens

Once upon a time, if women wanted to wear makeup on cold winter days, they were doomed to shivering. If they attempted to come close to the fire to warm themselves up, their waxy makeup would melt away. The horror! Something had to be done, and fire screens were invented. Placed near the fire, they allowed women to finally “save face” (that’s were this expression allegedly came from).

If you have ever visited an old historic house, especially in the United States, you have probably heard this tale. It’s a nice one, isn’t it? Too bad there isn’t any truth in it.

Makeup was rarely made of wax

Before the Roaring Twenties, in the US only actresses and prostitutes wore makeup. Creams and lotions may have been available in shops, but makeup had to be made at home. Few did, and even fewer used wax in their concoctions. They were more likely to include stuff like honey, eggs, almond oil, and lemon.

In Europe, wearing makeup was common among the upper classes. White pastes, usually made with lead, were applied all over the face to achieve that ghostly white look that let everyone know you didn’t have to work for a living. They were also used to hide the ravages of smallpox, although in the long run, they would only finish the job and ruin the face completely. Beeswax, instead, was usually only applied on the lips to give them some shine.

So, why were fire screens used then?

In a time without central heating, fireplaces were often the only way to warm a room. But they weren’t that effective. I still remember how cold my grandparents’ house was. When I was little, they used to live in old farm. The warmest room was the kitchen, where the fireplace was.

But its heat never reached the other end of the room. Didn’t even travel half-way there. If you wanted to keep warm, you needed to stand very close to the fire. But you were able to do so only for a few minutes at a time. The heat was too hot.

Too bad they didn’t have a fire screen. That would have easily solved the problem. By placing one between the fire and the people nearest to it, the heat would keep them warm without scorching their skin. But they didn’t prevent makeup from melting. Even if women had worn wax-based makeup, the heat was never that strong to melt it.

Although very useful, fire screens were rare. An expensive accessory, few could afford to spare the money for one. Those who could bought little works of art. Their fire screens were usually skilfully embroidered, doubling up as beautiful decorations for the home.

Had you ever heard of this myth?

Aura And Cephalus

dressing for a ball

Can fumigation get rid of wrinkles? Our ancestors certainly thought so. The Mirror Of The Graces, published in 1811, featured Aura and Cephalus, a recipe said to have been invented by the ancient Greeks that promised to do just that:

Put some powder of the best myrrh upon an iron plate, sufficiently heated to melt the gum gently, and when it liquifies, hold your face over it, at a proper distance to receive the fumes without inconvenience; and, that you may reap the whole benefit of the fumigation, cover your head with a napkin.

But this remedy wasn’t without side effects. The magazine continues:

It must be observed, however, that if the applicant feels any head-ach, she must desist, as the remedy will not suit her constitution, and ill consequences might possibly ensue.

I wonder what these ill consequences were. Even so, that warning would have been enough for me to refrain from using it. It’s hard to see how this recipe could have had any effects on wrinkles anyway. Susan M. Stabile, author of Memory’s Daughters: The Material Culture of Remembrance in Eighteenth-century America, proposes a theory:

More than opening the pores to expel impurities, this method suggests a type of reciprocal respiration. Aura, the recipe’s author briefly waxes, means “gentle breeze” or “invisible breath” in Greek, and Cephalus means “head.” Implicating the face, the head, and the breath, this anti-aging remedy celebrated the living countenance.

Would you have given it a go?

The Morality Of Blue Hair

colored wigs 1914

These days, it is more and more common to see people sporting crazy coloured hair. Pink, green, blue, rainbow bright.. nothing shocks us anymore. If anything, we envy those bold enough to dare challenge the norm and dye their locks an unusual shade.

But this trend is nothing new. People were already dying their hair pink and blue one century ago. It was all Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon’s doing. The first British-based designer to achieve international acclaim, at the beginning of 1814 Lucy decided to show some of her prettiest models with charming shades of pink, blue, purple, and green hair. Why?

“My discovery came about this way. I made a dress. It was for a very beautiful dark Pariesienne. It was a very beautiful dress. The girl tried it on and was delighted. I was not. It was more beautiful off her than on and that should not be. What was the trouble? Its colors wore harmonious, vibrant, living, but on her there came a slowing of the vibrant quality, a dulling.

Suddenly I knew what it was. It was her hair. Her hair was a peculiarly deep black, more brooding than alive you will understand me. I touched it with a blue powder and gave it here and there the flash you get in the wing of the bluebird. And lo! At once the dress grew more alive, more vibrant than it had been when she had not worn it. It was just that note that it needed. It tuned it up, accelerated it, gave it the proper pitch – completed both dress and woman.”

The trend caught on and, soon, all the fashionable ladies started sporting coloured wigs at parties. But not everyone was a fan. Some people worried that dying your hair an unnatural colour was immoral! Lady Duff-Gordon thought such worries ridiculous, and said so in the Omaha Sunday Bee Magazine:

“Our hair now is simply and frankly an ornament. If one, for instance, decided that she wanted to have her head shaved, would it be thought immoral If she did so? Decidedly- not. Absurd, perhaps, but not Immoral. Why then should it be thought immoral to put on more hair, or to change the color of that already on?

There are always a vast number of folk who feel more or less acutely that all beauty is of the evil one, that one can’t be gay without being wicked and that the only proper vocation of mankind is to mourn. These folk have even tinctured the minds of the normal with a shade of their apprehension. Consequently cutting off the hair raises no question of morality because it makes one ugly, and anything ugly can’t possibly be of Satan.

But because changing the color of one’s hair can be done for no other reason than to make one more attractive, it must necessarily be looked upon with suspicion.. And how utterly unintelligent is that viewpoint! I think it Is immoral not to make oneself as beautiful as one can.

[…] If we’re to stick through thick and thin to the natural color of our hair, why shouldn’t we stick to the natural color of skin and hide no more than necessary? So far as comfort and necessity go we could do easily with the clothes we wear, few as they are now. There isn’t the faintest reason in nature for wearing skirts to the ankles, nor waists to the neck.

There isn’t any reason for either shoes or stockings a good part of the year. The hair is only an ornament. It is as much a part of dress as the hat, or the laces of a gown. There is nothing either moral or immoral about it or what we do with. It’s just hair.”

The fad was short-lived. By May, English women were sporting a new trend: their own grey hair!

Would you have worn crazy-coloured wigs back then? And would you dye your locks an unusual colour now?

Fresh Jasmine Pomade & Other Vintage Recipes

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I love old beauty recipes. Sure, few of them worked and some were downright dangeorus, if not deadly (which is why I don’t recommend you try them), but I find it fascinating to discover how our ancestors took care of their skin and hair and perfumed themseleves.

I’ve posted many old recipes in the past few years, but here are three more, taken from Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion:

HAIR WASH

The following mixture makes a delightful wash for the hair: spirit of rosemary, three drachms; essence of lemon, four drachms; essential oil of almonds, two drachms; rose-water, four ounce*. This may be used for cleansing the hair previous to applying creams or pomades.

WASH FOR FRECKLES, TAN, ETC

Take two ounces of lemon juice, half a drachm of powdered borax, and one drachm of sugar. Mix them together, and let them stand a few days in a glass bottle till the liquor is fit for use; then rub it on the hands and face two or three times a day.

FRENCH JASMINE POMADE

Take a frame formed of four pieces of wood, two inches deep, and one foot square, with a groove arranged to support a piece of glass, which is to form a movable bottom. On this, spread a layer of the following pomade: beef suet, one part, lard, three parts. Into this, stick fresh jasmine flowers, in different parts, every day, or every other day, for one, two or three months, or until the pomade is sufficiently perfumed. This a a simple and excellent pomade. Several boxes cat be prepared at once, piled on each other, to keep in the perfume, and the top one covered.

Do you like discovering old beauty recipes too?

Perfumed Soaps For The Toilet

perfume soap toilette

Not many of us use soap anymore, and when we do, we usually buy it at the supermarket. Our ancestors, instead, had to make it themselves. When the recipes weren’t passed down from generation to generation, they could be easily found in most magazines. Here are a few taken from the 1840 edition of The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction:

Soap a la Rose

This is made of the following ingredients: —30 pounds of olive-oil soap; 20 of good tallow-soap. When the mass is sufficiently liquefied, 1 1/2 ounces of finely-ground vermillion are to be introduced, and thoroughly mixed; and when the heat is taken off the pan, the following perfumes are added with due trituration: —3 ounces ofC essence of rose; 1 ditto cloves; I ditto cinnamon; 2 1/2 ditto bergamot; =74.

By judicious admixture of these, a soap is obtained, perfect in every point of view; possessing a delicious fragrance, equally rich and agreeable, a beautiful roseate hue, and the softest detergent qualities, which keeping cannot impair.

Soap au Bouquet

30 pounds of good tallow soap; 4 ounces of essence of bergamot; oil of cloves, sassafras, and thyme, 1 ounce each; neroli, 4 ounce. The colour is given with 7 ounces of brown ochre.

Cinnamon Soap

30 pounds of good tallow-soap; 20 ditto of palm-oil soap. Perfumes: —7 ounces of essence of cinnamon; 1 1/2 ditto sassafras; 1 1/2 ditto bergamot. Colour: —1 pound of yellow ochre.

Orange-flower Soap

30 pounds of good tallow-soap; 20 ditto palm-oil soap. Perfumes: —74 ounces essence of Portugal; 74 ditto amber. Colour: —9 1/2 ounces, consisting of 8 1/4 of a yellow-green pigment, and 1 1/4 of red lead.

Musk Soap

30 pounds of good tallow-soap; 20 ditto of palm-oil soap. Perfumes: —Powder of cloves, of pale roses, gilliflower, each 44 ounces; essence of bergamot, and essence of musk, each 34 ounces. Colour: — 4 ounces of brown ochre, or Spanish brown.

Bitter-almond Soap

Is made by compounding with 5O pounds of the best white soap, 10 ounces of the essence of bitter almonds.

Which of these perfumed soaps would you have made?