Jun 242013

Regency romance author Ann Lethbridge’s most recent novel, Haunted by the Earl’s Touch, is in bookstores now. Today, she shares with us her research into Regency-era cosmetics and toiletries in this first of two articles. Did you know there were depilatories available during the Regency? And that there were also preparations available for men who had lost their hair and wanted to grow it back? The more things change it would appear, the more they stay the same.

Which of these preparations and practices would be part of your toilette?

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Boucher's Painting La Toilette

Women today spend a great deal on cosmetics and skin preparations and toiletries, what did they do in the Regency.

One thing we often read is that people did not wash in those days. In the 1806 Belle Assemblee the following was said

The toilette without cleanliness fails of obtaining its object. A careful attention to the person, frequent ablutions, linen always white, which never betrays the inevitable effect of perspiration and of dust; a skin always smooth and brilliant, garments not soiled by any stain, and which might be taken for the garments of a nymph; a shoe which seems never to have touched the ground; this it is that constitutes cleanliness

Engraving of early water closet

Ablutions is of course washing. this picture is of an early watercloset. During the Regency period, indoor plumbing was making an appearance particularly for personal hygiene. There were baths being installed and even showers.

The writer of the article also makes a pitch for rouge. It seems that painted faces were the norm rather than not since he says if paint was proscribed, or done away with, he would vote for keeping rouge.

If ever paint were to be proscribed, I should plead for an exception in favour of rouge, which may be rendered extremely innocent, and may be applied with such art as sometimes to give an expression to the figure which it would never have without that auxiliary. The colour of modesty has many charms; and in an age when women blush so little, ought we not to value this innocent artifice, which is capable at least of exhibiting to us the picture of modesty?

A recipe for a "red lip pomade" from the year 1805 listed the following ingredients: half a pound of fresh unsalted butter and two ounces of pure wax, plus currants and one to three grams of alkanna tictoria. To give it a pleasant fragrance a spoon full of strong orange blossom water was also added.

Something else we often wonder about. Hair. It is quite often said that there was no hair removal in this period. But we read in La Belle Assemblee, the following:

Superfluous Hairs are one of the greatest drawbacks from the delicacies and loveliness of the Female Face, Arms &c. TRENTS Depilatory removes them in a few minutes, and leaves the Skin softer and fairer than it was before the application; it is used by the First Circles of Fashion and Rank, and now stands unequalled in the World. It is sold by every respectable Perfumer, Medicine Vender &c. in London.

Now how effective it would be I cannot say. But clearly they were as concerned with at least some superfluous hair as we are today.

And something for the gentlemen? A home remedy.

To increase the Growth of Hair. Hartshorn beat small and mixed with oil, being rubbed on the head of persons who have lost their hair will cause it to grow again as at first.

Lots more cosmetics to come. Join me again for another Regency Ramble.

Check back for the second of Ann’s articles on beauty later this week.

© 2008 – 2013 Ann Lethbridge
Originally posted at Regency Ramble
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  One Response to “Regency Beauty — Part I by Ann Lethbridge”

  1. Delicate is the word for application of lip and cheek paint for young things.
    Using wax to remove hair has been done since the time of the Pharaohs , if not earlier. Any other substance was likely to prove caustic. I can see it used for the face and where a lady had black hair on her arms. The question is did they use it under arms? It seems pointless to do so on the legs which weren’t supposed to be seen. But did ladies wax their arm pits and legs?
    I know that some years ago it wasn’t common in all places of the world .
    Many still do not think it necessary.

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