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.


  1. I don't know about the sandarac, but tincture of benzoin (which is basically just benzoin dissolved in alcohol) was used in Victorian and Edwardian times as a skin whitener -- the effect apparently coming largely because the mixture creates a just-slightly sheer white tint when rubbed over the skin. (This is something I've tested myself.)

    1. I didn't know that- thanks! At the very least teh sandarac ought to give shiny. Now I definitely need to test it. :)


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