Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 2)

Georgian faces
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Continuing with the series of ‘Top Georgian beauty tips’ from The Fashionable Magazine of 1786. As before though, this one also carries a health warning – I strongly advise not trying these at home! Judging by Grace’s complexion it seems highly likely that once again she may have tried at least one of these top tips.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. The Frick, New York.


Jaw bone of a hog

The jaw bone of a hog, well burnt, pounded and sifted and afterward ground on marble to an impalpable powder, and mixed with oil of white poppies, may be laid on the face or neck at  pleasure, and will give them a delicate  whiteness without the possibility of those dangerous consequence which are known frequently to arise  from the use of mineral preparations  for this purpose.


Boil two handfuls of fresh wood ashes in a quart of water, til one half is consumed; then pour off the clear liquid, and after boil it again, filter it through coarse paper and wash the face with this lixivium twice or thrice every day.


Take an ounce of oil of sweet almonds and half a drachm each of white wax and spermaceti (wax from the head of a sperm whale) with a little balm of Gilead.

Balm of Gilead

Melt these ingredients in a glazed pipkin over hot ashes and pour the solution into a marble mortar, stirring it about with the pestle till the whole becomes smooth and is quite cold. Then, add gradually an ounce of rose or orange flower water, stirring the mixture till all is well incorporated, o as to become extremely light and white and much resembling cream, from it’s similitude to which the name is derived. This pomatum or cold cream is an excellent cosmetic, rendering the skin at once supple and smooth.  It is also serviceable in preventing marks from the small pox, especially when it has the addition of a little powder of saffron.  The gally pot in which cold cream is kept should have a piece of bladder tied over it.



Take any quantity of houseleek and beat it in a marble mortar, then squeeze out the juice and clarify it. Keep the liquid in a bottle and when you want to use it, drop a tea spoonful of spirits of wine into about a cupful of the juice and it will immediately become milky.  This milk not only preserves the skin soft and smooth, but it an excellent and perfectly innocent remedy for a pimpled face.

Storax and gum Benjamin (also known as Benzoin resin) , in equal parts, dissolved in spirits of wine, with the addition of balm of Gilead, and dropped into a glass of water will likewise make an excellent Virgin Milk, equally innocent and efficacious.


Failure to use these products could leave you looking like this by the time you are 70 – apparently!

old woman and wig
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Just in case you missed the other posts in this series, here are links to them:

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 1)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 3)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 4)

4 thoughts on “Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: History A'la Carte 9-4-14 - Random Bits of Fascination

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