For much of the Victorian era, using any kind of cosmetic was frowned upon. This was partly because they believed that the skin breathed oxygen through the pores, so anything covering them up, such as face powder, was unhealthy. It was also held that trying to look better than you actually did smacked of deceit, and that only prostitutes wore face paint (though in fact there seems little evidence to support this). But women were not so very different and the desire to look their best was strong. Natural remedies were popular and didn’t hold the same stigma, they were also cheaper and often more gentle than the typical Victorian soap. Here’s a couple of easy, pleasant recipes for Victorian beauty:
This was used for washing hair as that practice increased in popularity. Rosemary is astringent, so it’s better at removing grease than plain water, but has none of the rather harsh properties of the soap that would have been available, which could end up imparting an odd greenish tinge to your hair if you weren’t careful! All you have to do is soak several handfuls of rosemary in a bowl of just boiled water for a few minutes. Then strain the rosemary out and use the water for washing your hair. (Check the temperature has cooled enough first.)
I’m going to try this as soon as the elderflowers come out near me! We all know that they make an excellent wine, but did you know that, because they contain glycerine, they make an excellent body scrub? Simply add a fairly generous amount of the flowers to your bath water as it runs and use the flower heads to scrub yourself down. Apparently it leaves the skin beautifully soft and silky.
Lemons were used for a number of beauty treatments, usually involving an attempt to fade freckles and blemishes. Hands were particularly important to any Victorian women who wished to be considered a lady- clean, white, blemish free hands were a mark of wealth, meaning you didn’t have to work. Hands therefore, had to be looked after and most ladies followed a regime like this every morning- hands were soaked in warm water for several minutes, then half a lemon was used to scrub the nails. This helped clean and bleach them. Then she would soak her hands in the water for a few more minutes, before trimming and filing. Apparently, rubbing your nails against your scalp will then condition them using the natural oils in your hair. I can’t say I noticed much of a result with this, but then my hair tends to be quite dry. The lemon certainly left my fingernails feeling smooth. Just make sure you have no cuts first!
Please let me know how you get on if you try any of these. But, obviously, do not try them if you are allergic or think you might be allergic to any of the ingredients.
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