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

I did a fair amount of tinkering with this recipe. I substituted Ceruse and bone powder with Titanium dioxide and Dolomite, but I just plain omitted the Hart's horn. At first I planned to add extra of the other ingredients, but in the end I didn't. The Frankincense was a bit troublesome as well. The amount for once, the original recipe is a bit fussy and it could be either 6 gram or just 2. I decided on 2 as Frankincense was a bit costly and it made more sense to use the lesser amount. Then there was the problem of what form of frankincense used, the resin, the tincture or essence? Frankincense is not water soluble, so if the resin was used, then it must have been ground up very finely. I decided to take a chance and use a tincture made of Vodka and resin and see if that would keep the Frankincense liquid. I mixed all the dry ingredients together, poured it into a bottle with Rose water, added the tincture and shook it vigorously. I let it stand for a few days, shaking it now and then before it was time to use it.

I have to tell you, this experiment was a disaster! First; as soon as the tincture came into contact with the rose water, the Frankincense hardened again and left the paint gritty. I was able to ran the paint through a sieve, but that is just a waste of Frankincense. Then the paint was usable, but as you can see on the picture, it looked horrible. Uneven, flaky and when dry so brittle hat you could just brush away the paint. My model's other arm is painted with the much simpler Flower-de-Luce paint and you can see that it looks nice and even.

The plus side was that it smelled wonderful. The Frankincense gave a woody character to the Rose water that made the scent a bot rounded and deeper.

What I would do different
First I would use finely grounded Frankincense, or possibly essence. Ii also think that the flakiness was due to too much Gum Mastic and Arabicum in proportion with the white pigment as a result of omitting the hart's horn. So either I should have followed my first idea of adding extra of the other pigments, of I will have to decrease the amount of the gums. Gum Mastic is expensive, so perhaps just using Gum Arabicum could be a solution.

Will I do it again?
Well, the simple water+alcohol+pigment paint is so easy to use and gives such good result that I don't really feel the need to make this more complicated recipe. However, it annoys me that it didn't work, so I think I will do it again just to see if I can get it right the next time!


  1. Reading the "cosmetic for the face" recipe I'd have not even been certain it was supposed to be a makeup -- 'cosmetic' at that time often just meant any beauty preparation, like a soap or perfume or lotion. That it says to wash the face with it suggests to me maybe it's supposed to be wiped off.

    1. I know, but "wash your face" often seem to mean "anoint your face" rather than splash and wipe away. This particular recipe has another title in Abdeker; "An excellent Paint for the Face". On the other hand I have a recipe that calls itself paint, but haven't a single pigment in it. So I'm inclined to look at the actual ingridients and as there are four kinds of white pigments in this on, I really do think it's meant as paint. :)

      I gor further proof that I had much too much of the Gums in it when I looked at it a few days later. It had set into something that looked like almost set plaster of paris! I really need to try it again with a much closer look at the proper proprtions...

  2. By the way, thanks for the link and recommendation!

  3. Even though just the 18th century cosmetics would be enough for me, I would love to read about other eras too. And hairstyles of course.

    1. I'd like to write more about hairstyles too! So tehre will be posts about that eventually. :)

  4. Hi! I find your blog immensely interesting and educational, but I would like to see more information about historical periods before the 18th century. Thanks for providing a fascinating historical resource.

    1. Thank you! I do have plans to do that, but I have no time plan for it yet.


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