The Organised Author

Victorian Make-up

💙💜Victorian Make-up 💙💜

I love doing research for my books because I always learn something new. My Latin teacher (yep, I studied Latin and loved it) always said that you learn from the crib to the grave.
So I wanted to write this scene where the protagonist was getting ready for a fancy dinner party. The story was set in Victorian London and I wondered what kind of make-up Victorian ladies applied on their faces.
From a fashion point of views, things are pretty much the same today as they were in the nineteenth centuries. Ladies loved a flawless complexion, loved to enhance their eyes, and to make their lips fuller. Cosmetics were extremely expensive though (a jar of moisturiser was the equivalent of $50 today) and contained not so healthy stuff like mercury, lead, and other toxic substances.
Allow me a quick geographical jump. In the same period but on the other side of the world, geishas were getting poisoned for applying the famous white face paint that gave the geishas their trademark ivory face. The face paint was rich in lead which caused saturnism, affecting the skin and the brain the most. It’s a slow, painful death, and it took a while for the physicians to point the source of the poisoning.
Back to London, since cosmetics were so expensive, many ladies prepared creams and powders themselves, using ingredients we can find in our pantry today.
A lady would wash her face first with water where rose petals have been left to macerate overnight. Then they applied a cream made with almond oil, beeswax, and honey, plus some essential oils like jasmine oil.  The cream had the job to let the powder stick to the face, just like our foundation cream.
The face powders were made from rice, crunching and smashing the grains in a mortar, or from starch. Powder often needed to be re-applied several times during the day because it tended to fall off.
For the lips, the rouge was the most famous product. The ancient Egyptians were experts in preparing make-up and largely used kohl for their eyes and rouge for the lips. Victorian ladies made rouge from crushed mulberries or amaranths mixed with a few drops of almond oil and powder to create a paste. Victorians weren’t huge fans of eye-shadows. Less was more. They might have applied some talc with a few drops of oil and clay, or cinnamon, but that was it.
And the lady was ready to dance on the notes of a waltz and to gossip about rich bachelors and ill-mannered débutantes . . . pretty much as today. 😀

💗Coming soon: His Talent--Auckland Steampunk First Class#2