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

Hartshorn I have a little problem with this ingredient. Levigated means extremely well grounded, but what is this, really? Is it just hartshorn, or is it hartshorn salt (baking ammonia)? Hartshorn salt is made out of hart’s horn and was used as early as the 17th century as a leavening agent when baking, so it was certainly around at the time and was sometimes called just hartshorn. However, ammonia can irritate the skin even in solution with only 3 percent and a whole pound of it seems much too much. I’m inclined to think this is just grounded calcinated hartshorn and probably used as white pigment here.

Rice powder A white pigment, basically flour from finely milled rice. It has good coverage and absorbs oiliness. Interestingly enough it also0 contain sun protecting agents, so it would help against sun burn. Safe

Ceruse 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.

Bones Pulverised bones from cuttlefish, sheep and ox.. However, the white pigment in bones is really Calcium carbonate.

Frankincense or Olibanum Aromatic resin from trees of the genus Boswelllia. Used in perfume and incense. Supposedly have skin healing properties. Safe.

Gum Mastic Resin from the mastic tree. Sometime called Arabic gum, but it ion not the same as Gum Arabic. Safe, it is used in various food stuff as well as in cosmetics varnishes and incense.

Gum Arabic a natural gum that comes from the sap of acacia trees. Can be used as glue or bonder, but are water soluble. Edible and can be found in cosmetics today- safe in other words.

Rose water Scented water that can be used as perfume, but also in food. Safe.

My thoughts
I think this recipe is interesting as it makes use of several white pigments.. Unfortunately I have no idea where to find hartshorn, but perhaps it can be substituted with Calcium carbonate. It would mean just three kind of white pigments instead of four, but I t would still be interesting to try. Gum Mastic and Gum Arabic are clearly bonders to make the paint stick, but as they are used in varnishes- I wonder if they also will help make the paint glossy. The Frankincense is a bit tricky. The resin is not water soluble so either this means extremely well grounded resin, or essence of Frankincense. It seems to be there mainly for scent, so I think both could work..

The quantities of some of the ingredients are a little fussy. I think the Ceruse and the powdered bones are half a pound each and the Mastic and Arabic are 2 ounces each, but what about the Frankincense which is in the middle. Pound or ounce? I rather think ounce, what do you think?


  1. I would say half a pound because of the order of the sentence but then I have no idea if that's right or not, you're the expert here! ^^

  2. Lizzie Siddal: I agree, sentence wise it seems like that. But that seems to be such a large amount and 18th century sentence structure isn't always logical. I think I will go for the latter becasue I', afraid it would be strong a scent otherwise.

  3. I'd say two ounces each of all the last four. Whichever way you interpret it, the sentence is not grammatically correct modern English, and it makes more sense with lesser quantities.