Category Archives: Cosmetics

Cosmetics Household Women

To beautifie the Face


Today’s post offers up some intriguing early modern beauty tips, which reveal that wrinkles, sunburn, pimples, and chapped lips were just as much of annoyance to women in the seventeenth century as they are to their modern-day counterparts.


Take two handfuls of Rosemary and boil it softly in a quart of Spring-water till it comes to a pint, and let it be covered. Then strain it out, and every morning when you Comb your head, dip a sponge in this water and rub up your hair.

Make a decoction of Turmeric and Rubarb. Wash your Hair very clean, and then with a Sponge moisten your Hair with the decoction therewith, and it will make it fair.

Hair dye:
To make the Hair black, take the juice of red Poppy, the juice of green Nuts, Oyl of Myrtle, Oyl of Costomary [?], each one part, boyle it a while and anoint the Hair therewith.

To curl the Hair, take a quantity of Pine Kernels burnt and beat to a powder, mix them with Oyle of Myrtle, make an Oyntment therewith, and anoint the Head.

To make the Nails grow, take wheat-flower and mingle it with Honey, and lay it to the Nails and it will help them.

Cracked nails:
Anoint your fingers with the powder of brimstone, Arsenick, and Vinegar.

Hand cream:
To make the hands white, take the flower of Beans, of Lupines, of Cornstarch and Rice, of each six ounces. Mix them and make a powder, with which wash your hands in water.



Whitening toothpaste:
Take Harts-horn, and horses Teeth, of each two ounces, sea-shells, salt, and Cypress-Nuts each one ounce. Burn them together in an Oven and make a powder. Rub the teeth therewith.

Mouth wash:
To make breath sweet, wash your mouth with the water that the peels of Citrons have been boyled in, and you will have sweet breath.

For cleansing the face and skin, wash the face with water that Rice is sodden in, and it cleanseth the face, and taketh away Pimples.

Face scrub:
To beautifie the face, take a pinte of Cuckoo-spittle and bruise the thick parts with Rose-water, dry it in the Sun three days then use it.

Wrinkle cream:
To make a water to take away Wrinkles, take a decoction of Briony and Figgs, each a like quantity, and wash the face with it.

Blemish cream:
To take away pits in the face by reason of small-pox, wash the face one day with the distilled water of strong Vinegar, and the next day with the water wherein Bran and Mallows have been boyled, and continue this twenty days or a Month.

Face pack:
To make a Pomatum for the Face, take six dozen Sheeps Feet with the bones, break the bones and take out the marrow, then boyl the feet well and scim off the Oyl that rises, and put it to the Marrow. To which, put four great cold-seeds beaten, the rind of one Citron, two penny worth of Borax, three Cloves, Lily roots well beaten, and a little Rose-water. Boil all together for the space of two hours, then strain it and wash it with waters till it be white. Use this at night. It nourishes, smoothens, softens, and whitens the Skin. If you mix it with some Pearl, you will have a most incomparable Cosmetic remedy.

Freckle remover:
To take away freckles, anoint your face with Oyl of Almonds, or with hares blood.

To take away sun-burn, take the juice of a Lemmon, and a little salt, and wash your Face or hands with it, and let them dry of themselves, and wash them again, and you shall find all the sun-burn gone.



Lip balm
For the Lips Chapt, rub them with the sweat behind your ears, and this will make them smooth and well coloured.

Take two ounces of white Bees-wax and slice it, then then melt over the fire with two ounces or more of pure sallad oyl and a little white Sugar, and when you see that it is well incorporated, take it off the fire and let it stand till it be cold. Anoint your Lips or sore Nose, or sore Nipples with this.

For stench under the Arm-holes, first pluck away the Hairs of the Arm-holes and wash them with White-wine and Rose-water.

Hair remover:
Take the juyce of Fumitory, mix it with Gum Arrabick, then lay it on the place, the Hairs first plucked out by the Roots, it will never permit any more Hair to grow on that place.

Breast reduction
To make the breasts small, take of Rock-Allom powdered, and Oyl of Roses, of each a like  quantity, mix them together and anoint the breasts therewith.



Sources: The Accomplished Ladies Delight, Hannah Woolley (1686), and The Family Physitian, George Hartman (1696)

Cosmetics London Women

The Picture of a Painted Woman

These snippets come from an early 17th century text on the ungodly dangers of face-painting. I stumbled on the pamphlet by accident, and initially hesitated over sharing it on Fragments, since the text is somewhat intractable in nature. However the author reveals some interesting details about the perception of women who decorated their faces with cosmetics; and in addition, provides us with a glimpse into the world of the puritanical preacher.  This textual portrait of a woman given over to the pleasures of beauty products and wigs not only conflates unnatural beauty with ungodliness, it also draws some fascinating parallels between the city of London and notions of depraved debauchery. The image above comes from the title page, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Elizabeth I.

She is a creature, that had need to be twice defined;  for she is not that she seemes. And though shee bee the creature of God, as she is a woman, yet is she her owne creatrisse, as a picture. She loves a true looking-glasse, but to commend age, wants and wrinkles, because otherwise she cannot see to lay her falshood right. Her body is of Gods making: and yet it is a question; for many parts thereof she made her selfe. View her well, and you’ll say her beautie’s such, as if she had bought it with her pennie. She’s ever amending yet is she for all that no good penitent. For she loves not weeping. Teares and mourning would marre her making: and she spends more time in powdring, pranking and painting, then in praying. She’s in her oyntments a great deale. Her religion is not to live well, but die well. Her pietie is not to pray well, but to paint well. She loves confections better a great deale, than confessions, and delights in facing and feasting more than fasting.

Religion is not in so great request with her, as riches: nor wealth so much as worship. She never chides so heartilie, as when her box is to seeke, her powder’s spilt, or her clothes ill set on. A good Bed-friend shee’s commonly, delighting in sheetes more than in shooes, making long nights, and short daies. All her infections are but to gaine affections; for she had rather die, than live & not please. Her lips she laies with so fresh a red, as if she sang John come kisse me now. Yet it’s not out of love, excepting self-love, that she so seekes to please, but for love, nor from honesty, but for honor: tis not piety, but praise that spurres her. She studies to please others, but because she would not be displeas’d her self.  And so she may fulfil her own fancy, she cares not who else she doth befoole. A name she preferres to nature, and makes more account of fame, then faith.

And though she do affect singularity, yet she loves plurality of faces. She is nothing like her self, save in this, that she is not like her self. She seldom goes without a paire of faces, and shes furnished with stuffe to make more if need be.  Her own sweet face is the booke she most lookes upon; this she reads over duly every morning, specially if she be to shew her self abroad that day: And as her eye or chambermaid teaches her, somtimes she blots out pale, & writes red. The face she makes i’th day, she usually marrs i’th’night, & so its to make anew the next day.  Her haire’s seldom her own. And as for her head, thats dressed, and hung about with toys & devises, like the signe of a tavern, to draw on such as see her.

Shes marriageable & if she survive her husband, his going is the coming of her teares, and the going of her teares is the comming of another husband. ‘Tis but in dock, out nettle. By that time her face is mended, her sorrows ended. There’s no physick she so loves, as face physick: and but assure her she’st ne’re need other, whiles she lives, and she’ll die for joy.

She takes a journey now and then to visit a friend, or sea cousin: but she never travels more merrily than when she’s going to London. London, London hath her heart. The Exchange is the Temple of her Idols.  In London she buys her head, her face, her fashion. O London, thou art her Paradise, her Heaven, her All in all!  If she be unmarried, she desires to be mistaken, that she may be taken. If married to an Old man, she is rather a Reede and a Racke unto him, then a Staffe and a Chaire, a trouble rather then a friend, a corrosive, not a comfort, a consumption, not a counsellour. The utmost reach of her Providence is but to be counted Lovely, and her greatest Envy is at a fairer face in her next neighbour; this, if any thing, makes her have sore eyes.

Her imagination is ever stirring, and keepes her mind in continuall motion, as fire doth the pot a playing, or as the weights doe the jacke in her kitchen. Her devises follow her fansie, as the motion of the Seaes doe the Moone. And nothing pleases her long, but that which pleases her fansies.  Once a yeere at least she would faine see London, tho when she comes there, she hath nothing to doe, but to learne a new fashion, and to buy her a perwigge, powder, ointments, a feather, or to see a play. One of her best vertues is, that she respects none that paint: and the reward of her painting, is to be respected of none that paint not.  To conclude, whosoever she be, shee’s but a Guilded Pill, composde of these two ingredients, defects of nature, and an artificiall seeming of supplie, tempered and made up by pride and vanitie, and may well be reckned among these creatures that God never made.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved


To prepare spunges for the face

Some late 16th century beauty tips.

Benjamin-Water, an excellent Beautifier

Take a pint of good strong Brandy, a pint of Spirit of Wine, half a pound of Benjamine, and a quarter of a pound of Storax, one ounce of Cinnamon, and half an ounce of Cloves, and four Nutmegs; beat the Spices and Benjamine, and putting them into the liquids, stop them up close in a strong Glass-Bottle, and let it stand upon Sand in the Sun, in the heat of Summer a month, and then pour it off, and clarifie it.  This cleanses the Skin of Morphew, Tandness or Sunburning, and causes a delicate complexion.

To prepare Spunges for the Face

Having chose the best and smoothest Spunge, and cut off what is superfluous, soak it, changing the Water till it looks clear, then dry it, and dip it in Orange-Flower or Angel-Water, pour over it a little Essence of Amber, then squeeze it but a little and let it dry, and it will be for your purpose, in Cleansing and Beautifying the Skin, far beyond the use of Linnen.

To cause a Fair, Clear Complexion

Distil Fumitory Rosemary-Flowers, and Scabious, each two good handfuls in a Pottle of White-Wine, and a quart of Dew, gathered off the Grass or Corn, with clean Napkens and Handkerchiefs, and so wrung out; keep it close stopped in Glass Bottles, and wash the Face and Hands with it, as there is occasion.

To make a Clear-Pale Complexion·

Distill the Blossoms of Pease Beans and Peaches, each a good handful, in two quarts of Whey, and wash the Face with it.

A Pomatum to Refresh the Complexion, and take off Pimples and Redness

Take half a pound of the leaf of Hogs Fat, work it well in Fair-Water till it is very white, then put it into a new earthen Pan, put in a quarter of an ounce of Copperas, two Pippins cut in pieces without paring, mix an ounce of the Oil of Sweet Almonds, and strain it through a Linnen Cloth into clean Water, and make it into a Pomatum, and with it anoint the Face.

To take away Freckles

Take the Gaul of a Cock, an ounce of Rye-Meal, a quarter of an ounce of the Juice of Hemlock, an ounce of Oil of Turpentine, make them into an Ointment, and anoint the freckles with it, and in a little time they will disappear.

A Pomatum, to Plump the Lips and Cheeks

Take an ounce of Fresh Butter, and as much Virgins-Wax, set them over a gentle Fire, and throw in black Grapes, bruise them with a Ladle; then put in two ounces of Orange-Flower-Water; bruise in a Porringer, the bigness of a Rean of Orcanet, allay it with a little Orange-Flower-Water, put them into the Pomatum, and work them up together with a Spoon, and put it up for your use.

A Liquid Past, to Wash the Hands without Water

Take of bitter Almonds a pound, bruise them well in a Stone Mortar, till no Lumps remain, wet it with a little Milk, and make it into a Paste, beat the Crumbs of Whitebread with a little Milk, and put these with the Yolks of Eggs without a Tread into the Morter to the Paste; take white Lead, and as much of burnt Bone, mix them over a gentle fire, to a thickness, lay them on the Strainer, beat them up yet more, and then boil them till thick, and keep them for use.


© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Cosmetics Household Medicine

Good Chockolett & good Combs

This fragment comes from a Perriwigmaker’s advertisement c.1680

AT THE RED BALL ON CORK-HILL, There is to be Sold, by JOHN CRIGHTON Perriwigmaker.

THE Rich Balsamum Apoplecticum which is made in Florence and some other parts of Italy; by anointing the Temples, Nostrils and the Roof of the Mouth it hath recovered many out of an Apoplexy to admiration.
By anointing the Temples and Nostrils it gives present Ease to the violent Pains in the Head: likewise very effectual against all Swimming and Dizziness of the Head; and very rare in suppressing all Vapours and Fumes from the Head occasioned by hard Drinking.   All which hath been experienced by many to their great satisfaction.
By anointing the Nostrils only, it is very rare against the Infection of the Small Pox, Spotted-Feaver and the Plague; and defends the Head and Stomach from all thick and unwholsom Air, which is often times the first cause of all those Distempers. It revives the Senses; and is a great Comforter of the Brain.
By anointing the Navel only, It gives present Ease to the Griping of the Guts; and is very rare in destroying Worms in young and old; which is very convenient for Children and others which can take nothing inwardly.
And very pleasant to carry in the Pocket, in regard of its Noble and Odoriferous Scent.
For Eighteen Pence a Box.

Nulla Notitia ut Experientia.

To prevent its being Counterfeited, it will be Sold only at the place abovesaid.
There is likewise sold all sorts of extraordinary good Chockolett and Chockolett-Almonds, at Five Shillings the Pound: There is also very good Tee to be sold: All sorts of right Spanish Snuff; and all sorts of Essences and Perfumes at reasonable Rates.
There is also sold the Queen of Hungaries Water.
All sorts of good Spirit Varnish at Six shillings the Quart.
All sorts of the best New Tunes and their Parts, at Two pence a Part for Violins, Flutes or Flagellets.
There is likewise to be had an incomparable Water to remedy Baldness, or to make Hair grow, never before made publick; and now exposed to Sale. It is almost infallible in bringing Hair on any bald place on the Heads of Men or Women: It is wonderful in making Hair stay on that is falling, and good to preserve Hair from splitting at the ends, and it clears the Head from all Scruff and Dandrith, which is a great hindrance to the Growth of Hair, and causes the Hair to grow to a knobby and unnatural Root; by reason of which the Head is never free from Itching, till these knobby Hairs are pluckt out; and the plucking of them is the great reason of Grey Hairs in Young people. It allays all Heat and Itchings in the Head. The using of it is very pleasant: It is not only good for causing Hair to grow; but gives present Ease to the violent Pains of the Head, and Tooth-Ach.  It is sealed up in Ounce-Bottles, with printed Directions how to use it, for Three Shillings a Bottle.
There you may also have extraordinary good Grey Powder, with very good Combs proper for the Head.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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