Hair and Makeup - Part 3 Period Makeup and How to Replicate It
I posted previously about primary sources and some tools that pertain to 18th century hair and makeup. Now we will get into the interesting part, the makeup that was used and how to apply it. I will go through some of the common ingredients used during the period and some modern substitutes. As well as a diagram showing how to apply period makeup, since it was used a little bit differently that we do now.
Hair powder recipes can be found in Toilet of Flora and Plocacosmos books. Popular colours in the third quarter of the 18th cenutyr are white, grey, pink, yellow and blue. Previously dark and natural hair colours had been popular. Starch is the base ingredient for common powder and they would add orris root, dried and crushed bones and scents to it. For colours, grey made use of wood ashes, yellow had an addition of ochre, blue used Prussian blue and pink used carmine (which is another name for cochineal) or rose petals. Orris root was used to impart a scent into the powder and is incidentally a preservative - it is used now to preserve the scent of potpourri. For modern use, corn starch, potato starch or wheat starch can be used as the base for the powder.
Pomatum recipes can be found in Toilet of Flora. It uses pig lard or mutton fat as its base, mixed with beeswax and usually has a scent added. They would “wash” the lard with lavender and water to refine it so it wouldn’t go rancid and to impart a scent. I use already refined lard and lavender essentials oils when making this recipe for convenience.
White face paint recipes can be found in Toilet of Flora and Abdeker. White lead was the standard ingredient used for white face paint. There are also many recipes for face washes to make your skin pale, many of which have toxic ingredients as well. The modern alternative for lead is titanium dioxide (which is a common ingredient used in sunscreen and gives it that white appearance when applied). It is mixed with almond oil and beeswax to create a consistency similar to the pomatum. From the research that I have done, titanium dioxide gives the skin a more white appearance than lead, which is said to have an off-white pearl look.
For blush, Abdeker suggests using a scarlet ribbon dipped in brandy or scarlet wool rubbed on the cheeks to impart colour. Otherwise, a recipe for blush is available in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Mrs. Glasse (1784) which uses hair powder and rose petals.
Beauty spots are one of my favourite period makeup accessory. There is an excellent description of beauty spots being made and applied in the book Abdeker. They used black silk taffeta, but leather was also commonly used. Gum arabic was used to adhere it to the face. Some shapes that were commonly used include a half moon, full moon, hearts and stars . I tested the method of adhering leather beauty spots with gum arabic while on a trek recently and it stayed on my face through some pretty rough terrain and sweating.
In terms of eyebrow, Toilet of Flora recommends darkening them with elderberries, burnt cork or burnt cloves. Mouse skin eyebrows were also used during the time period.
Here is a poem by Matthew Prior in his book Poems on Several Occasions from 1754 about mouse skin eyebrows:
Helen was just slipt into bed:
Her eye-brows on the toilet lay:
Away the kitten with them fled,
As fees belonging to her prey.
For this misfortune careless Jane,
Assure yourself was loudly rated:
And Madam getting up again,
With her own hand the mouse-trap baited.
On little things, as sages write,
Depends our human joy, or sorrow:
If we don’t catch a mouse to-night,
Alas! No eye-brows for to-morrow.
When applying period makeup, you must keep the following in mind. When using white face paint, it is applied all over the face and décolletage (not just the face). Anything exposed by the gown should get covered. Eyebrows are darkened and made into a half moon shape, not an arch like modern eyebrows. Blush is applied to the cheeks in a circular motion; it should cover most of the cheeks, not just a swipe of the cheekbone like modern makeup. Lips can be tinted a rose colour, or left natural. You can also optionally add a beauty spot or two (or three…). I hope my diagram below helps with your period makeup application as well.