Friday, December 14, 2012

Making brown hair powder

I have been reading up a it more about the Marechalle powder and it seems that Marechale was a more common spelling of it. It seems to have started out as a scent created for the wife of a Maréchale d’Aumont  in the late 17th century and was then used to scent a powder that matched the colour of her hair. That may be a myth, but the fact remains that Marechale powder had a distinct scent where cinnamon and cloves had a prominent place. You can buy an updated version of the perfume even now! The powder was not solely used for the hair, but also to fill little sachet to wear on your person. The Toilet of Flora gives direction on how to rub a little civet into the fabric of the sachet and then fill it with the powder. There is also a 19th century recipe for a Marechale scent sachet that lists Orris root, dried Rose leafs, Sandal wood, cloves, Cassia and a little Musk.

Though Marechale powder usually seem to have been brown, there are a few sources that describes it as especially flattering to the skin because it had a yellowish tint that was more becoming than white powder. I suspect that if you omit the brown pigment and only used cinnamon, mace and clove, the powder would be yellowish. That makes sense, because there are recipes where you mix the Marechale powder with flour and other edible things to roll out and make into cookies, “cut to your fancy”. At least I hope that the 18th century people didn’t eat brown pigment! It makes sense to use powder without brown pigment for scent sachet though, as it would be wasteful to use expensive pigment sewn into a little bag.

Updated recipe
4 gramme ground Cloves
4 gramme ground Mace
4 gramme ground Cinnamon
186 gramme Corn starch
47 gramme Burn umber pigment
1 ml Lavender oil
2 ml Thyme oil
2 ml Storax perfume base
1 drop Laurel oil

My thoughts
I had to omit the Sassafras oil from the original recipe as I couldn’t find a way to obtain it. On the other hand there is a little more Laurel oil that the recipe really calls for, but it’s a bit hard to drip in half a drop. I opted for plain starch as that is what was used for hair powder in the 18th century and not the scented hair powder I already made. Given how strongly perfumed the Marechale powder is, I think it would have overpowered the scent of that one anyway.  Essence of Amber probably meant a resin based essence and as I had Storax essence already, I used that.

The recipe was very easy to make. I started out with mixing the cinnamon, mace, cloves and Burnt umber together and then I dripped in the oils and essence while stirring.

The fluids made for some clumps, but they disappeared when I sifted it all into the starch. I stirred, then sifted it again twice and was done!

As you can see it became brown, but a pastel brown. No wonder as starch is white, but the tone is definitely brown, not grey. I have read that black and brown (dark brown I suppose) powder was made with burnt ivory as a base, which makes sense- as long as starch is part of the powder, there will be a bit of pastel over it.

Will I do it again?
If I like the effect on my hair, so yes, as I really like the scent. I was a bit afraid that the effect would be too much of gingerbread, but the lavender and thyme oils gives the scent an herbal hit. I will also try to make scent sachets and though I will use the batch I have now for a test, if I decide to make more scent sachets, them I will omit the pigment

What I will do, if I make it again and when I use it, is to get disposable mask  to prevent inhaling the stuff while I work with it. I’m not at all sure that Burnt umber is good to inhale and I am sure cinnamon and cloves would be very irritating to get in your throat!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shopping for ingridients

I get regular questions on where I buy the ingridients to my recipes. Here is a list of the online shops I have purchased from so far. I have also found what I need in food stores, health food stores and stores that sells art supplies.

Alchemy Works US-based. I have bought synthetic civet and ambergris. Also sells resins and herbs.

Mountainrose Herbs US-based. Herbs, spices and oils, many of them organic. Sadly they stopped shipping overseas just after I recieved my first order.

Naturkosmetikmagasinet Swedish-based. Herbs, essential oils and various comsetic bases. Also sells bottles and jars.

Naturally Thinking UK-based. Essential oils, jars bottles and various cosmetic bases.

The Perfumer's Apprentice US-based. Sells perfume bases and blends

Sally Pointer UK-based. I have purchased white lead substitute as well as cometic grade Iron oxide. Sells other histoical cometics as well.

Spådom Swedish-based. Have a nice collection of resins like labdanum and bensoe.

TKB Trading US-based. Cosmetic ingridients. I have bought carmine, bismuth and real pearl powder from them.

Örtagubben Swedish-based. Herbs and essential oils.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Learning by doing

A large part of this blog is that I am by no means an expert on historical beauty. Passionate about it and interested, but I am constantly learning more and sometimes I need to retract from previous statements, simply because I have learned more, or because I have misunderstood something. Like the following.

Lead white can be substituted with Titanium dioxide. The problem with this statement is that I have never actually tried comparing the two. However, Sally Pointer has and has found that the best substitute is actually Titanium dioxide, corn starch and Talc! She sells that her web shop and I have ordered it to try out.

Cuttlefish bones. Here I stumbled because English isn’t my native language and I naively thought it was the same as fish bones and have this treated it equally in recipes. Not so, which I am sure most of you already know. A cuttlefish belong to the same family tree as squids and octopuses and the “bone” is a kind of porous internal shield, basically made out of aragonite, a crystal form of calcium carbonate. So even if I haven’t been completely wrong with equaling it with calcium carbonate, the texture is different. Cuttlefish bones are easily obtained in pet stores. If you ever kept birds, then you have probably given it to your birds. It’s very easy to ground, given its porous nature, so next time I use a recipe with it as an ingredient, I will try it.

Bismuth. Additional information- I was unsure if Bismuth discolours, and have now learned that it does, it can become greyish. So the recipes from this post seem to indicate that it is Bismuth and not real pearl powder that has been used.

In addition to the Lead substitute I have ordered some bismuth. Just for testing as I am allergic to it, but I plan a post where I test all the white pigments I have to compare them. I would like to see how Bismuth really looks along the substitute I have used, Titanium dioxide with mica. In the same order I will also get some Carmine, so some rouge posts are coming up as well. As with the patch post. I found that the more I looked, the more I found when it came to beauty patches and I have had to stop my research. Not because there aren’t more to be found, but because this is “just” a blog and not an academical paper. It’s turning out both long and picture filled, so it will probably be posted in two parts and hopefully pretty soon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Making "A Curious Perfume"

I have wanted to try this recipe for A Curious Perfume for a long time. I love perfumes and I felt very excited to finally be able to make an 18th century one.

Updated recipe
700 ml Rose Water
15 gram Benzoin resin
2 Cloves
1 gram Labdanum
1 gram Calamus root
A little Lemon peel
A few drops Storax essence

The photo is really bad, I’m sorry to say- my cell phone isn’t the best to take pictures it, but the batteries on my camera died on me.
Benzoin resin, Cloves, Calamus root, Labdanum, Lemon peel

I put the Benzoin, Cloves, Labdanum, Calamus and Lemon peel in a little fabric bag (i.e. wrapped them in a piece of old linen and sew it shut) along with the Rose water in a pan and boiled it all under a lid for 30 minutes. Then I strained it through a coffee filter. When cooled I added the Storax and poured it into a bottle.

My thoughts
The Storax in the original recipe was probably the resin, so I took a liberty in using essence. The result, not surprising, smells quite heavily of roses, but the other ingredients give the perfume a spicy, woody depth that makes it more interesting than just plain Rose water. It also has a hint of bee’s wax, which is odd as there is none in the recipe. The perfume looks a bit cloudy and there is some residue settling on the bottom of the bottle. I think a good shake is in order before use.

A word of warning though. The Benzoin and Labdanum melted into a sticky goo that is not water soluble. So even if most of it stayed in the fabric bag a residue was left in the pan and believe me, it’s hard to get rid off! So if you try this recipe, use a pan that you don’t care for…

Will I do it again?
Perhaps. It would be interesting to make it with Storax resin instead and see what happens. I also think the perfume would be better if left to boil a bit longer. As this perfume is without alcohol I think it has a limited shelf life, so if you don't plan to use a lot of it, make a small batch. However, I don’t much like wearing rose-based perfumes and this one if just a bit too much of that. If you do like the scent though, then I think you have an 18th century winner here!

Monday, October 01, 2012

An economical rouge

The recipe
Fine Carmine, pulverized and prepared for for this purpose [rouge], is without doubt the best of all Paints, and which the Ladies ought to adopt. In order to use it in an agreeable and frugal manner, procure some fine pomatum, without scent, made with the fat of pork and white wax; take about the bigness of a pea of this pomatum, and lay it upon a piece of white paper; then with the end of a tooth-pick add to it about the bigness of a pin's head of Carmine— mix it gently with your finger, and when you have produced the tone you wish, rub in it a little compressed cotton, and pass it on the face, till the Paint is quite spread and it no longer feels greasy.
Ladies have nothing to fear from this economical Rouge—it neither injures the health or skin, and imitates perfectly the natural colour. (Constant de Massoul, Treatise on the Art of Painting and the Composition of Colours, p 198, 1797)
Portrait of a Young Girl by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, 1775

Breaking down the recipe
Pomatum A cream made of water, fat and very often beeswax. There are several recipes around from the 18th century. Cold cream of today is quite similar, so if you don’t want to make your own pomade you could substitute with that.

Carmine A bright red pigment derived from cochineal scale. Common as food colourant and in makeup today. Can also be called Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 and E120

My thoughts
This is a very easy recipe- if you have pomatum in the house, that is. I have, but I don’t have any Carmine. I do, however, have cochineal scale, so I plan to try to make Carmine on my own. Then I’ll have to try this recipe!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hannah Glasse on pearls

You may have noticed that I have mentioned Hanna Glasse and her book The Art of Cooking. It was first published in 1747 and became hugely popular with several re-prints. What is interesting for this blog is that she didn’t just talk about food, but also included several cosmetic ones. What is even more interesting is that she was a middle class woman who wrote a practical book- a book much more likely to be read by a cook than a lady. So in all probability her recipes were for the kind of cosmetics that could be used even for women who didn’t belong to the upper crust of society.

"Die Magd in der Küche" by Justus Juncker, 1767

Mrs. Glasse mentions pearl powder three times in her book, two that are decidedly cosmetic and one that seems a bit more ambiguous, namely with the tantalizing name of Sugar of Pearl:

To make sugar of pearl.
TAKE damask rose water half a pint, one pound of fine sugar, half an ounce of prepared pearl beat to powder, eight leaves of beaten gold; boil them together according to art;  add the pearl and gold leaves when just done, then cast them on a marble,

If you boil water and sugar you get candy, so I wonder if this isn’t some kind of rose-scented hard candy, but why then add pearl and gold? Perhaps is meant to be crushed again and used to decorate desserts. The other two recipes are quite straightforward and also quite simple.

Nun's Cream.
ONE ounce of pearl-powder, twenty drops of oil of Rhodium, and two ounces of fine pomatum; mix all well together.
I suspect that this name had more naughty overtones than what we modern people might think- a nun could be used to describe a prostitute. The result ought o be a cream with a pearlescent sheen to it, perhaps not so dissimilar to the Spanish white I tried to make earlier, The Oil of Rhodium (Rosewood oil) is probably just there for scent, but the pearl powder may not be real pearls. As I mentioned in my post on pearls , real pearl powder was a very expensive cosmetics and the cheaper alternative of Bismuth could use the same name. And as Mrs. Glasse was an ordinary woman, it is very likely that she meant Bismuth. The last recipe suggests that was well;
Hannah Glasse

MIX pearl-powder with honey and lavender-water ; and then the pearl-powder will never be discoloured.

I don’t know if real pearls can turn suggest, but I do know that Bismuth can, if exposed to sulphur. Am I too far-fetched if I think that the last recipe can be a way to hopefully prevent that?

I do need to try out the Nun’s Cream though! I love old recipes when they actually mention the proportions of the ingredients!

Pictures sources:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Marechalle Powder, brown hair powder

Portrait of a Lady with a Statuette of Cupid, by Francis Cotes (1726-1770).

Cropping up from time to time in 18th century literature is something called Marechalle powder, which seems to be a brown hair powder. Like the fair Aurelia adorns herself in Aurelia: or, The contest: an heroi-comic poem in four cantos:

”Thrice low he bends, then, drawing near the fair,
He shakes a downy puff with graceful air,
Long, blue-stain'd irons from his rough attire
He draws, and gives them to the glowing fire:

While this white pontiff's hands aloft are spread,
In solemn pomp to elevate the head,
Two spotless virgins of the servient band,
Close by the shrine in awful silence stand;

One, puffs and Marechalle powder lifts on high,
And gives soft ointment to the deity;
One ready stands thin, forked wires to bend,
Stain'd o'er with black, and sharp at either end,

And bears those instruments of special note,
Form'd of clear horn, or of the tortoise' coat,
Smooth, speckled teeth their polish'd points disclose,
Some wide extend, some meet in closer rows.

Her golden tresses, wreath'd in stubborn pride.
Now form three hollow tubes on either side;
Low down her back a monstrous bag descends,
Where scented grease with scented powder blends;

Thick and more thick the clouds of fragrance roll,
And brown and yellow dust o'ershades the whole;
At length, the labour of successive hours,
In form complete the finish'd wonder tow'rs." /Samuel Hoole, 1783

As brown hair powder is mentioned elsewhere, and as I’m a bit obsessed with coloured hair-powder, I have long wanted to find a recipe for it, and today I got my wish. I was readingThe Art of Cookery and, lo and behold, the recipe was there!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Playing the Cosmetic-detective

Part of the fun in reading old recipes is that you get to play detective. When I researched yesterday’s post on pearls I found a recipe in Corson’s History of makeup that apart from pearls also contained pale coral and a mysterious substance called tin-ice. The author of the recipe was Nicholas Lémery, Louis XIV’s apothecary, so I was evidently reading a translation. Corson’s or someone else? After some rather extraordinary Google-luck I found out that Recueil de curiositez rares et nouvelles dans les plus admirables effets de la nature from 1681* was translated into English in 1685. And that the translation is online too; Modern Curiosities of Art and Nature. I don’t dare transcribe the French original as my French is very rusty, but you will find it on page 54, called Tres excellent blanc d'Espagne. In the English translation it is called;

A most Excellent Spanish White
Take the Seeds of Oriental Pearl, white or pale Coral, of each two ounces, beat them apart, then put them into a Matras and add as much Aq. Fort. As you shall think fit, Juice of Citron I better: then you must have another Matras, wherein you must put Tin-Ice 8 ounces; having first beaten it well, and pour therein the said water, till all be dissolv’d: then mingle the Pearl and Coral together, and that which you have dissolv’d to the Tin-Ice, pour upon the said Pearl and Coral, to cause them to precipitate, and then before you mingle them, you must add twice every day Fountain-water, till you perceive no taste of the Aqua fortis and then you shall use it with Peach-flowers, distilling each apart; take a little quantity of each and so compound them.

A rather complicated recipe- I think it means that you dissolve the pearl and coral together and then mix it with the equally dissolved tin-ice. After that you add water until the acid is weak enough for use and when you want to use it you mix it again with peach flower water. I may be wrong, though. So, what is tin-ice then? My first thought was that it might be white pigment made of tin. Tin-white do crop up occasionally, but then I asked my friends on FB what they thought. There were several excellent notions, but Madame Berg resourcefully found out that tin-glass is another name for bismuth in the 18th century.

‎"Bismuth, Tin-glass, is a Mettallick Matter, White, Smooth, Sulphureous like to Tin, but hard, sharp, brittle, disposed into Facets or shining Scales, as Pieces of Glass, whence its Name." /Glossographia Anglicana nova; or, A dictionary interpreting such hard words of whatever language, as are at present used in the English tongue: with their etymologies, definitions, etc, 1707

If you consider that Spanish white nearly always means bismuth, then it isn’t too hard a leap to conclude that tin-ice is a version of tin-glass, i.e. bismuth. What do you think of this conclusion? I have only had the Net for research here, so I’m well aware that there may be other source that can put a better light on the subject.

*Google books say the author is Antoine d’Emery, but everywhere else it seems to be Nicholas Lémery’s book.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Guest blogging at American Duchess

I’m sure you all know about the lovely American Duchess. I’m having the great opportunity to guest blog there so hop along and read about busting Georgian beauty myths!

Monday, September 03, 2012

French Rouge,—Five Shillings per Pot.

So far all rouge recipes I have found have been either a liquid or a salve, but as the picture below of Madame Pompadour suggest, there was rouge in powder from as well. And in a book with a rather wonderful title, The art of cookery made plain and easy: which far exceeds any thing of the kind yet published, to which are added, one hundred and fifty new and useful receipts, and also fifty receipts for different articles of perfumery, with a copious index, by Hannah Glasse, published in 1784, I found one.

The recipe
TAKE some carmine, and mix it with hair-powder to make it as pale as you please, according to your fancy, (The art of cookery made plain and easy, p. 401)

Breaking down the recipe
Carmine Bright red pigment derived from the cochineal (an insect) scale. Used today to pigment makeup and food.

Hair powder Starch, which in the 18th century were scented and had added white pigment.

My thoughts
Very straightforward recipe and very do-able. I guess that it would work with just plain starch, but as I have made a batch of hair powder I can use that. I need to find some carmine first, though. The result must be pink, which I like as the rouges I have made so far all have been red.

Marquise de Pompadour at the Toilet-Table by François Boucher,1758

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making Another kind of rouge

The updated recipe
50 ml Red wine
1 gram Brazil wood
1 gram Alum crystal

As this recipe has no measurements whatsoever, I started out with the smallest quality possible for me. The preparations were very simple. The Brazil wood and Alum were briefly grounded in a mortle and then I boiled it with the red wine. As it was such a small quantity the wine cooked down more quickly than I had anticipated, so instead of reducing it with 1/3, it got reduced to ½.

Brazil wood

Monday, August 13, 2012

Making a curious Varnish for the Face

I will begin with saying that this was the most surprising of all the recipes I have tried so far as it didn’t behave at all as I thought.

The updated recipe
Brandy (cheapest brand possible) 44ml
Sandarac 2 gram
Benzoin resin 1 gram

This is something of a famous first. No need to substitute any of the ingredients and the original recipe has measurements for everything. So it was very simple to just pare it down to a suitable test sample. I grounded the resins before pouring it into the brandy. I used a small jar with a lid. After that I just shook it every time I passed it until a week had passed.

Both Sandarac and Benzoin are soluble in alcohol, but though I can’t find any information on how strong the alcohol should be for the Sandarac, Benzoin is generally recommended to be dissolved in 80% alcohol, dissolving even easier if you warm it a little. Brandy is about 40% and this recipe says nothing about warming the solution either. The Swedish pharmacopeia of 1775 recommends 50% alcohol in a ratio to 6 parts alcohol to 1 part Benzoin. Let it stand for three days and strain though a paper. (Source) A recipe with both stronger and more alcohol than the recipe I used.

Benzoin resin

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another rouge for the face

The recipe
Take Brazil Wood Shavings, and Roch Alum, beat them together into a coarse powder, and boil in a sufficient quantity of Red Wine, till two thirds of the Liquor are consumed. When this decoction is cold, rub a little on the cheeks with a bit of cotton. (The Toilet of Flora, p. 193)

Breaking down the recipe
Brazilwood Warm red pigment coming from wood of Caesalpina brasiliensis. Safe, but the tree is considered an endangered species. Substitute with Red sandalwood.

Alum There are several kinds, but here it is most certainly Potassium alum in crystal form. It has been, and is still, used in cosmetics as it works as an astringent, a preservative and is antibacterial. In crystal form it can be used on shaving cuts or as a natural deodorant. It has also been used as a skin whitener. As a powder it can be used in cooking and found at the spice section in food stores.

Red wine Alcoholic beverage made from black grapes. Most of the red pigment are plant pigments.

My thoughts
The nice thing with this recipe is that there is no need to substitute any of the ingredients because they are not harmful. The bad thing is that Brazilwood is an endangered species and though you can still obtain it today, it's likely it will soon be banned. I bought a small quantity years ago before I knew that and I wouldn't buy it today, but as I have it, I will make this recipe with it.

A bit annoying is that this is a lovely example of the lack of measurements. However, there is another recipe where you take equal parts of Brazilwood and Alum, so I will do so here. How much of it in ratio to the red wine, well... I will start with small amounts and work my way up, if need be. I am very curious on what red shade it will turn into. Red wine is blue-toned, but Brazilwood leans toward yellow. My assumption is that the blue and red will neutralise each other and give a more neutral red colour.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Oil of Pearls

The Recipe
Put upon a Plate any Quantity you please of Pearls, and pour over them some good distill’d Vinegar. When the Pearls are dissolved, add a small Quantity of Gum Arabic. Keep the solution for Use Wash your face before you bathe it with this Solution, which will soon dry of itself. This is one of the best Secrets that have been invented for rendering the face both white and fair. (Abdeker: or, the art of preserving beauty, p. 76)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Making an Excellent Cosmetic for the Face

Before I start to tell you about my latest experiment I would like to take a moment and say that I hope you enjoy this little blog. I have had a lot of fun these last few months trying out recipes and there are so many that I want to try out! But time and budget has their say, so I will have to continue to hasten slowly. With that said I can add that I will probably branch out a little and venture into the 17th century as well. I have a big interest in that century and I feel that it's sorely underexposed. And, I have found a 17th century recipe for rouge that uses the shell of boiled crayfish as red pigment. How can I resist that.

What is your opinion, dear readers? What would you like to read about? Would you find it interesting if I wrote more about makeup history in general, not just the 18th century? What about hairstyles?Anything else? I would love to hear your what you think! Here i take the opportunity to tell you that if you are interested in the late Victorian and Edwardian, then I can point you in he direction of The Gibson Girls Guide to Glamor for beauty recipes of that era.

I have another thing to ask you as well. If you find my blog worth reading, could you please consider mentioning it on your blogs/Facebook/or similar? Partly, of course, because I love to find new readers (who doesn't?) but also because this blog is very much a learning experience for me. there is a lot of things I don't know or like to hear others opinions on. And the more I learn, the better this blog will be.

Making an excellent Cosmetic for the Face

The updated recipe

Rice powder 23 gram
Titanium dioxide 6 gram
Dolomite 6 gram
Tincture of Frankincense made out of 2 gram resin
Gum Mastic 2 gram
Gum Arabicum 2 gram
Rose water 50 ml

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making another kind of red lip salve

In yesterday's post I talked about a recipe for lip salve that used Alkanet root as pigment. Here is the result;

Updated recipe
Almond oil, 22 ml
Coconut butter, 6 gram
Bees wax, 2 gram
Alkanet root (in powder), 3 ml
Rosewood oil, 3 drops Note: A bit late it has come to my attention that Brazilian Rosewood is an endangered species, so my recommendation is to leave the salve unscented or add a few drops of another scented oil.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another red lip salve

The recipe
Take three ounces of Oil of Almonds, three quarters of an ounce of Spermaceti, and a quarter of an ounce of Virgin's Wax; melt them together over a slow fire, mixing them a little of the powder of Alkanet Root. Keep stirring till cold, and then add a few drops of Oil of Rhodium. (The Toilet of Flora, p. 159)

Breaking down the recipe
Oil of Almonds i. e. almond oil. A common oil in cosmetic for thousands of years. safe and keeps well.

Spermaceti Fat from Sperm whales that has been used as an stabiliser in cosmetics since the 18th century. Impossible to find, except perhaps in Japan, which I think is the only country that still hunts Sperm whales. Substitute with Saturated fatty acids (like coconut butter), Jojoba butter, Emulsifying wax or Cetyl alcohol.

Virgin's Wax Bees wax

Alkanet Root Cold, or blue-toned red pigment coming from a plant, Dyer's bugloss Considered safe and is used today as colourants both in makeup and food.

Oil of Rhodium Has nothing to do with the chemical element. Rhodium oil is also known as Rosewood and comes from the Brazilian Rosewood. Used in perfumes but is also healing and antiseptic. It also have a slightly deodorising effect. Considered safe. Note: A bit late it has come to my attention that Brazilian Rosewood is an endangered species, so my recommendation is to leave the salve unscented or add a few drops of another scented oil.

My thoughts
After making the lip salve with Iron oxide I would like to make one with a more cold red colour, as that suits me better. This recipe is wonderfully simple and I have everything at home except, of course, the Spermaceti. In the past I have tried to substitute it in pomade with Jojoba oil, which worked but made the pomade rather too runny. This time I plan to use Coconut butter as that is easy to pick up in the food store.

I'm going to an 18th century event next Saturday and I would like to have finished the lip salve then as well as another recipe for white face paint. So stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hair powdered revisited

I'm back after having been distracted by such trifles as pneumonia and marriage. The upcoming weekend will be spent in the 18th century and I thought it called for making this hair powder.

Updated recipe
375 g corn starch
47 g Orris root
60 ml Dolomit

Corn starch was used for hair powder in the 18th century, though at the end and mainly in USA, but today that is readily available in food stores while I have no idea where to get wheat starch. And starch is starch, so I didn’t feel bad about substituting it. Orris root was found in a store that caters herbs. The big difference is the original recipes call for calcinated and pulverized bones. It’s not something I have readily at hand, but what it is, really, is calcium. Dolomit that you buy in health stores is made out of calcium and magnesium and can be bought as a powder. As magnesium was used for white pigment in the 18th century too, I felt that this was the best substitute I could come up with.

I made a smaller batch than the original recipe, ¼ of it. The amount of Dolomit is an estimated guess for how much is 6 cuttlefish bones and a handful of bones when pulverized? Its main purpose is to whiten the powder and I would say that what shade you want is very much up to taste. I don’t think it would change the texture in any way if you added more white pigment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A curious Varnish for the Face

The recipe
263. A curious Varnish for the Face.

Fill into a bottle three quarters of a pint of good Brandy, infusing in it an ounce of Gum Sandarac, and half an ounce of Gum Benjamin. Frequently shake the bottle till the Gums are wholly dissolved, and then let it stand to settle.

Apply this varnish after having washed the face clean, and it will give the skin the best lustre imaginable. (The Toilet of Flora, p. 213)

Breaking down the recipe

Brandy Spirit from distilled wine. As safe as any alcohol you can drink.

Gum Sandarac Resin from the tree Tetraclinis articulata. Used as varnish and incense. Safe.

Gum Benjamin or more commonly, Benzoin resin. Despite the gum, which indicates that it is soluble in water, it isn’t. Used as incense and as a fixative in perfumes. Vanilla-like scent. Safe.

My thoughts
This is a varnish, indeed, and ought to leave the face in the desirable shiny state. Presumably for people who didn’t want to use white face paint, but wanted the shininess. I’m curious about it and if I can find Gum Sandarac I will test it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Making Spanish white face paint

This weekend I tried out the recipe for white face paint that I discussed here.

Updated recipe
Oil of Ben: 15 ml
Bees wax: 4 gram
Titanium dioxide with mica: 1, 1 ml

Everything melted together very quickly, but the amount of white pigment was far too little. The skin got a slightly pearlescent sheen to it, but it didn’t whiten the skin. Either the bismuth of the original recipe is more concentrated pigment, or I converted the amount wrongly. I added twice the amount of pigment and then got a shiny white substance.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An excellent Cosmetic for the Face

Another recipe for a white face-paint.

The recipe

6. An excellent Cosmetic for the Face.

Take a pound of levigated Hartshorn, two pounds of Rice Powder, half a pound of Ceruse, Powder of dried Bones, Frankincense, Gum Mastic, and Gum Arabic, of each two ounces. Dissolve the whole in a sufficient quantity of Rose-water, and wash the face with this fluid. (The Toilet of Flora, p. 5 or Abdeker, or the Art of Preserving Beauty)

Source: via Elisa on Pinterest

Breaking down the recipe

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On hair powder, white, grey and flaxen

The recipes
White Powder

Take four pounds of Starch, half a pound of Florentine Orrice-root, six
Cuttle-fish Bones; Ox Bones and Sheeps Bones calcined to whiteness, of each half a handful; beat the whole together, and sift the Powder through a very fine sieve.

Grey Powder

To the Residuum of the preceding add a little Starch and Wood-ashes in fine powder; rub them together in a mortar some time, and then lift through a fine hair sieve.


Take the Marc or Residuum of the White Powder, mix with it a little Starch, Yellow Ochre, and Wood-ashes or Baker's Coals to colour it. Beat the whole well in a mortar, then sift it through a hair sieve. Beat the coarser parts over again, and sift a second time; repeating these operations till all the composition has palled through the sieve.

Flaxen coloured Powder

Add to the White Powder a very little Yellow Ochre. The White Powder may be tinged of any colour, by adding; ingredients of the colour you fancy. (The Toilet of Flora, p. 186-188)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A curious Perfume

The recipe
7. A curious Perfume.
Boil, in two quarts of Rose-water, an ounce of Storax, and two ounces of Gum Benjamin; to which add, tied up in a piece of gauze or thin muslin, six Cloves bruised, half a drachm of Labdanum, as much Calamus Aromaticus, and a little Lemon-peel. Cover the vessel up close, and keep the ingredients boiling a great while: strain off the liquor without strong pressure, and
let it stand till it deposits the sediment, which keep for use in a box. (The Toilet of Flora, p 6.)

I love perfume so I guess you are not surprised if I tell you that I’m very interested in 18th century perfumes as well. They lean toward heavy and animalistic and I would love to smell one. True, there are scents out there that are made after 18th century recipes, but they tend to be mono-scents like Lavender water and functions like a modern Eau de Toilette, more for freshening up than long-lasting scents. And indeed, in the 18th century scented waters were made to wash up with or dissolve makeup with, than for perfume.

(Picture source:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Making a red lip salve

Today I tried my hand in "An excellent Lip-salve", a recipe that I discussed here. After reading up I decided to use olive oil instead of rose oil, as that is often use as base oil for just rose oil. I also made a much smaller batch, I didn't want to screw up big.

Updated recipe
Myrrh, 4 g
Honey, 15 ml
Bees wax, 8 g
Olive oil, 22 ml
Iron oxide, 4 g
Rosewood oil, 3 drops Note: A bit late it has come to my attention that Brazilian Rosewood is an endangered species, so my recommendation is to leave the salve unscented or add a few drops of another scented oil.
Edible gold powder, 2 ml (optional and used for half the batch)

I started out mixing everything apart from the pigment, Rosewood oil and the gold powder. It smelled quite nicely of honey and resin.


Mixing it together on low heat in soon became a cohesive mass that first was quite runny and then got thicker and thicker.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Spanish white

The Recipe
Spanish White
Take four Ounces of the Oil of Ben, an ounce of Virgin Wax, and two drams and a half of Magistery of Bismuth. The Oil of Ben is preferable to the Oil of sweet Almonds, and also that of the four Cold Seeds, because it does not over-heat so much as those Oils, and keeps a long time before it changes.

The Magistery of Bismuth is to be preferr'd to that of Tin or Lead, because it is a great deal whiter. This Cosmetic is commonly called Spanish White. If it be dissolv'd in Flower-de-Luce Water, it will whiten the face.
(Abdeker; or the Art of Preserving Beauty, p. 63)

One of the fun things with going through these old recipes and trying to find out what it is that actually goes in them, is that I learn a lot. Many things aren't as odd as they seem when you get down to it and most of them are actually used today, both for health and in cosmetics. In fact, apart from some harmful pigments, the overwhelming majority of the ingredients do more good than harm. I'm also getting a sense that the various white and red pigments differ more than I thought. I started out, when I first started to become interested in the subject, with the belief that white pigment meant lead and that you applied it by rubbing your face with pomade and then rub the pigment in. That is evidently not the case and I love that! So let's break down the ingredients in this recipe.

Oil of Ben or Ben oil comes from the pressed seeds from a tree, the Moringa oliefera. Has been used as a perfume oil for thousands of years as it easily takes up scent and because it keep very well, as the recipes above notes. Safe.

Virgin Wax Bees wax

Bismuth Pearlecent white pigment. I have always blithely assumed that bismuth and lead white are the same. However, this recipe makes a distinct difference between them and reading up I find that it is a metal on it's own, though in the 18th century it was often confused with lead and tin. It is not at all as poisonous as lead, for example Bismuth subsalicylate is used even today in some medications and Bismuth oxychloride is used in cosmetics, especially mineral makeup. Though it is considered safe, many people have allergic reactions to Bismuth in makeup (I for one) and I wouldn't use it. Titanium oxide can be purchased mixed with mica for a pearlecent effect and that is what I would substitute it with. Magistery in the recipe means that the pigment is in a fine powder.

Flower-de-Luce Water This one is a bit tricky. It seems to point at the flower Iris, but that flower is poisonous and irritates the skin. But, the Yellow Iris, or Yellow Flag, is often confused with Sweet Flag or Calamus. sweet flag has been used in perfume and food and applied on skin it works as an astringent and antiseptic. It is also used in several other beauty recipes from the 18th century. It seems quite likely that Flower-de-Luce Water is really made of Sweet Flag, not Iris. It should be possible to find essence of Sweet flag, but you can also find the dried root and make your own.

My thoughts
This recipe seems doable and, even with bismuth, quite harmless. I'd substitute it with Titanium oxide though, even so. I'm going to investigate the possibility of making Flower-de-Luce Water, otherwise I think I can fall back on Rose Water as it was used a lot in the 18th century. It must become a quite fat makeup and I wonder how much it smeared. Being made with oil and wax I doubt that it could really be dissolved in water, however it was scented. I really need to try this recipe out and see how it behaves in reality!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

An excellent Lip-Salve

159. An excellent Lip-Salve

Take an ounce of Myrrh, as much Litharge in fine powder, four ounces of Honey, two ounces of Bees-wax, and six ounces of Oil of Roses; mix them over slow fire. Those who are inclined may add a few drops of Oil of Rhodium, and some Leaf Gold (The Toilet of Flora, page 135)

An admirably clear recipe, with exact measurements for most of the ingredients. Let's take a closer look on those:

Myrrh A resin that have been in use since ancient times as perfume and incense but also for its medical proprieties. It is antiseptic and has a long standing tradition in various mouth remedies, like sores and cleaning teeth and gums. Melts tolerable well into vegetable oils. Is considered safe, but shouldn't be used the first 5 months of a pregnancy.

Litharge Lead pigment, in this case red. Poisonous.

Honey Apart from it's sweet favour, honey also have healing properties and works both as an antiseptic and as antibacterial. It also softens skin and can be used in salves and creams. Safe, but small children should not eat it.

Bees-wax A natural wax produced by honey bees. Melts well into oils and is often used as base for creams. It isn't absorbed by the skin, but doesn't clog the pores and softens and protects. Safe.

Oil of Roses ie Rose oil. An essential oil extracted from rose peals. It is very labour intensive and the oil is therefore very expensive. Used in perfumes and other cosmetics and is considered safe.

Oil of Rhodium Has nothing to do with the chemical element. Rhodium oil is also known as Rosewood and comes from the Brazilian Rosewood. Used in perfumes but is also healing and antiseptic. It also have a slightly deodorising effect. Considered safe. Note: A bit late it has come to my attention that Brazilian Rosewood is an endangered species, so my recommendation is to leave the salve unscented or add a few drops of another scented oil.

Leaf Gold Gold leafs are extremely thin sheets of gold that is used for gilding. Though an metal, gold is used in alternative medicine and is considered anti-inflammatory. Edible gold leaf can be found in well-sorted food stores

All the ingredients, if we disregard the Litharge, is quite safe to use and almost all have properties that makes them very suited for a lip salve. It doesn't seem to be very hard to make. The Litharge have to be substituted, of course and I plan to use Iron oxide instead. All the other ingredients are perfectly possible to attain, but I'm going to substitute the rose oil too. It's use in this recipe seems to be to provide oil and scent, and disregarding the scent, well, I think I could use and unscented oil instead. With the myrrh and the Rhodium oil I think that it will smell quite nicely anyway. I haven't decided on what kind of oil yet, but I have used almond and jojoba oil before and I think both would work well. As for gold leaf I happen to have edible gold dust in my cupboard already, so why not try it? I have all the ingredients I need except myrrh, but I know where to get it- hopefully I will have time to go there this week.

Lady Altamont by George Romeny, 1788, Tate Colletion

Monday, April 30, 2012

How to measure and where to shop

A problem with recipes from the 18th century is that they often don’t give you proper measurements. Take “some” of one thing and “to you liking” the next. I wouldn’t be surprised if people back then had a good idea how much that represented so that there wasn’t a need to write it down exactly. And even when measurements are given, well, it wasn’t until the 19th century that such things were standardized, so an ounce may not really have been an ounce… As most of my recipes were published in England I will stick to these measurements and weight units, as they seem to have been the ones used in the 18th century:

1 pound = 373
1 ounce = 31.1 g
1 drachm (dram) = 3.89 g
1 scruple = 1,296 g
1 grain = 64, 8 mg
1 liq. pint = 473 ml
1 fluid ounce = 29, 6 ml
1 fluid dram = 3, 7 ml
1 fluid scruple = 1.23 ml
1 minim = 0,062 ml

So, where to buy all the odd things that go into an 18th century beauty recipe. A bit of here, there and everywhere, actually. Here is where I have had luck:

Food stores The everyday, ordinary kind can provide a few useful things, mainly in the spice and the bakery sections.
Health food stores Usually stock almond and jojoba oils as well as essential oils.
Art stores For loose pigments as well as resins and bees wax.
Exotic food stores I have found spices and rosewater, but depending on store I’m sure they can yield even more interesting things.
Online Most things can be found on the Net.

In general, when looking for ingredients, it can pay to look at unusual places. Things that were used for beauty recipes back then may very well be in use today too, but perhaps for other things.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Red pigments used in the 18th century

It feels rather reassuring that after going through red pigments, all but two that I have found so far are actually poisonous. Most of the other ones are still in use today. But still, please note that even if a pigment is considered safe, there is still a possibility to get an allergic reaction to it.

Alkanet root Cold, or blue-toned red pigment coming from a plant, Dyer's bugloss Considered safe and is used today as colourants both in makeup and food.

Brazilwood Warm red pigment coming from wood of Caesalpina brasiliensis. Safe, but the tree is considered an endangered species. Substitute with Red sandalwood.

Carmine, Cochineal Bright red pigment that comes from the scales of the cochineal, an insect. Considered safe and is used today as colourants both in makeup and food.

Field Gromwell, Corn Gromwell, Bastard Alkanet Carl von Linné writes in 1755 that peasant girls in the northern parts of Sweden uses the root for red makeup.

Litharge, Red lead Red pigment made of lead. Poisonous, so even if you could get it, don't try it. Red pigments from Iron oxides can be used instead.

Red sandalwood, Red sanders Red pigment coming from the root of the tree of the same wood. Used in makeup today. Similar to Vermilion in colour, but fades quickly.

Saffron A very expensive spice that colours everything you use it in bright yellow. However, saffron was also used for Safflower in the 18th century. Safflowers can yield both yellow and red pigment, Carthamin. It seems quite likely that saffron in recipes for red makeup really means Carthamin. It is used today as food colourant under the name of Natural Red 26.

Vermilion, Cinnabar A red pigment made of mercury. Poisonous, so even if you could get it, don't try it. Was known to be dangerous in the 18th century but was still used. Substitute with Red sandalwood.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

White pigments in the 18th century

Bones Pulverised bones from cuttlefish, sheep and ox where used to colour hair powder white. I suppose the powder gets too coarse to be used in makeup. However, the white pigment in bones is really Calcium carbonate which is easy to find.

Chalk Also used to whiten hair powder. However, pulverised chalk may irritate skin and can be corrosive if you get it into the eyes, so substitute it with Calcium carbonate instead.

Talc, Talcum Powder, French Chalk A mineral that becomes a very fine powder and is still in used in cosmetics. It doesn't cover well, but clogs up the pores and and the fine powder may irritate your throat. However, in the 18th century Magnesium oxide was also called Talc. It has supposedly better coverage and is indeed also used in modern cosmetics. It seems to be a better option when a recipe calls for talc in white makeup.

Tin white, Tin dioxide It is listed in Kallopistria, oder die Kunst der Toilette für die elegante Welt from 1808 as used for white makeup. Though not as poisonous as lead, tin doesn't seem to be all that nice to get into your system. It is supposedly similar to zinc, so if I would definitely use that instead!

White lead, Ceruse, Litharge. White pigment made of lead. This is very poisonous and should not, under any circumstances, be tested! Despite being known to be dangerous it was very popular for white makeup as it provided a very smooth, opaque surface. Luckily there is a safe substitute nowadays in Titanium dioxide. This white pigment is used in both makeup and sun block and can be bought at any art store that sells pigment. When called Litharge it can also mean red lead pigment.

Zinc oxide, Flowers of zinc. White pigment made of zinc that has been around since Classical times, but was rare until the 1780's. Still, The Toilet's of Flora from 1779 lists a recipe for a white paint that contains zinc, so it seems to have been used earlier. It is safe to use, zinc is used today in makeup and sun block and can be bought as loose pigment, but doesn't cover up as well as lead did.