History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

21 October 2013

Concerning Cosmetics: Rouge

From The Art of Beauty: "If ever paint were to be proscribed, I should plead for an exemption in favour of rouge." 

One of my favorite books for this kind of thing is The Lady's Stratagem by Frances Grimble. She put together information about hygiene, cosmetics,fashion, laundry, and pastimes
from six French ladies magazines from the 1820s. I know I've heard a lot over the years that women of the Regency didn't paint themselves the way the ladies of the 18th century did, but I'm not convinced that's true. I think it more likely they just opted for a more subtle application. The huge number of recipes for cosmetics in the period magazines convinces me that this is true. Ladies weren't just pinching their cheeks for color, they were painting it on.

True Vegetable Rouge, or Rose in a Cup

Take the kind of red lac extracted from the safflower, which is sold cheaply under the name "rose in a cup." Dry, it is a greenish-bronze. Dissolve it in a glass of water, and pour it on talcum power of on a piece of fine woolen. In this state it returns to a beautiful rose-colour. You may apply it to your cheeks without withering them, and if you have been careful in preparing the hue, the rouge will not be detected.

Portuguese Rouge

Of Portuguese dishes containing rouge for the face, there are two sorts. One of these is made in Portugal, and is rather scarce; the paint contained in the Portuguese dishes being of a fine pale pink hue, and very beautiful in its application to the face. The other sort is made in London, and is of a dirty, muddy red colour; it passes very well, however, with those who never saw the genuine Portuguese dishes, or who wish to be cheaply beautified.

Spanish Wool

Of this also there are several sorts; but that which is made here in London, by some of the Jews is by far the best. That which comes from Spain is of a very dark red colour, whereas the former gives a bright pale red.

Spanish Papers

They differ in othing from the above [Spanish Wool]; but the red colour, which in the tinges the wool, is here laid on paper; chiefly for the convenience of carrying in a pocket-book.

Chinese Boxes of Colours

These boxes, which are beautifully painted and japanned, come from China. They contain each two dozen of papers, and in each paper are three smaller ones, viz., a small black paper for the eyebrows, a paper of the same size of a fine green colour, but which, when just arrived and fresh, makes a very fine red for the face; and lastly a paper containing about half an ounce of white powder (prepared from real pearl) for giving an alabaster colour to some parts of the face and neck.

A further quote concerning the safety of these concoctions:

"As to the carmine, the French Red, the genuine Portuguese dishes, the Chinese wool ... they are all preparations of cochineal...and the least harm need not be dreaded from its use."

Any kind of cosmetic that particularly interests you? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to cover them later in the week.


Blogger Helena said...

This is fascinating! I'd be interested in eye make-up, much more difficult to use subtlety. Did they have something like mascara? and what about kohl or other eye-liner?

11:42 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I'll take a look through the book and post on that tomorrow.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Were there actual lipsticks or were there other concoctions to give them those fashionable lips?

4:41 PM  

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