In an era before Avon or Mary Kay, the fair maidens of the Regency Era relied upon homemade concoctions. Fortunately, well-bred ladies weren’t without resources. Magazines of the day devoted pages to the topic of cosmetics and skin care, in between fashion plates and gossip.
Then, in 1811, a publication titled The Mirror of the Graces; or, The English Lady’s Costume, written by “A Lady of Distinction” contained 10 educational chapters for women of the period. To the right is a first edition of the bound book worth £750 on Maggs Bros. LTD Rare Books and Manuscripts. I love the description:
Published during the Regency, this book contains advice for a lady on her deportment, dress, manners etc. Ackermann’s Repository, volume 5, of the same year mentioned the book, saying, “Let me hasten to recommend to you, a publication at this time in much request, and which possesses much unique merit…Read this work, with attention, it is really excellent of its order.”
The entire book can be read in full on Google Books by clicking the title link above, or search on Amazon where it can be found in new bindings. For today, just for kicks and giggles, below are a few of the “recipes” for skin care which women of the day might have used. Enjoy!
Unction de Maintenon[The use of this is to remove freckles. The mode of application is this. Wash the face at night with elder-flower water, then anoint it with the unction. In the morning cleanse your skin from its oily adhesion, by washing it copiously in rose water.]
Take of Venice soap an ounce, dissolve it in half an ounce of lemon juice, to which add of oil of bitter almonds and deliquated oil of tartar, each a quarter of an ounce. Let the mixture be placed in the sun till it acquires the consistence of ointment. When in this state, add three drops of oil of rhodium, and keep it for use.
Aura and Cephalus
[This curious receipt is of Grecian origin, as its name plainly indicates, and is said to have been very efficacious in preventing or even removing premature wrinkles from the face of the Athenian fair.]
Put some powder of the best myrrh upon an iron plate, sufficiently heated to melt the gum gently, and when it liquifies, hold your face over it, at a proper distance to receive the fumes without inconvenience; and, that you may reap the whole benefit of the fumigation, cover your head with a napkin. It must be observed, however, that if the applicant feels any head-ach, she must desist, as the remedy will not suit her constitution, and ill consequences might possibly ensue.
I suppose that last one came in handy since plastic surgeons weren’t around as yet for a face lift, yes? Good to know we have information to fall back on if the skin care industry goes kaput. LOL!