History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

23 October 2013

Concerning Cosmetics: Eyelashes & Brows

 If you look at period Georgian portraits, you don’t see a lot of emphasis on the eyes. Not like today. But there were certainly recipes out there for cosmetics to darken the lashes and brows. The following are from one of the books quoted in The Lady’s Stratagem:

To blacken the Eyelashes and Eyebrows.

Rub them often with elder-berries. For the same purpose, some make use of burnt cork, or clove burned at the candle. Others employ black frankincense, resin, and mastic; this black it is said, will not come off with perspiration.

Wash for blackening the Eyebrows.

First wash with a decoction of [oak] galls. Then rub them with a brush dipped in a solution of green vitriol, and let them dry.

Black for the Eyebrows.

Take an ounce of pitch, a like quantity of resin and of frankincense, and half an ounce of mastic. Throw them upon live charcoal, over which lay a plate to receive the smoke. A black shoot will adhere to the plate; with this shoot rub the eyelashes and eyebrows very delicately. This operation, if now and then repeated, will keep them perfectly black.

Kohl, of course, is ancient. With all the trade the English had with India, there’s no reason to assume that Kohl wouldn’t have been readily available. The OED clearly shows the word was known, though I see it in foreign contexts rather than mentioned as a cosmetic in use among the English.

1799 W. G. Browne Trav. Afr. xxi. 318 If any thing be applied in these flussioni..it is generally kôhhel (calx of tin mixed with sheep's fat).

1817 T. Moore Lalla Rookh 11, Others mix the Kohol's jetty die, To give that long, dark languish to the eye.


Blogger Helena said...

Thank you! Just what I wanted to know.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Deana Sidney said...

Perfumed, blackened eyebrows? Wow, the possibility for disaster is remarkable. Perhaps candlelight was kind to such artifice –– it would be terrifying in daylight!

5:03 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Fascinating post as always, Isobel! LOVE this information!

4:30 PM  

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