Victorian women were afraid of using makeup in obvious ways, but nevertheless they ended up spending a lot of time on their hair and face anyways. At the time “painted” women were seen as people questionable morals like actresses, dancers, and call girls. These ladies were viewed with suspicion by the general public, regardless of whether they were familiar with the services they offered or not. Even Queen Victoria herself was widely thought to disapprove of wearing makeup.
Makeup as we know it today would have been thought of as a deception and a concealment of who a woman really was. There were also notions that a woman who wore makeup was one who did not accept age with grace. Despite all the negative views on makeup women in the 19th century did wear makeup and other enhancements, many of which we are still wearing today! Here are are 5 Victorian beauty products that were so popular we’re still using them today.
This floral essence was a staple in European and West Asian countries since ancient times. It was famously used by the Romans as both a flavoring and a cosmetic. The scented water not only contains the scent and flavor of roses, it also contains traces of extracts from the plant that are beneficial to the skin. Rosewater would have been a refreshing tonic for the skin and hair. This longtime favorite fell from favor by the mid-20th century, but has never entirely been out of use. Recently this fragrant water has made a comeback with those who prefer a more natural beauty regimen.
We’ve all grown up using petroleum jelly for dry skin and around the house for various projects. But, did you know that this medicine cabinet standby was first patented in 1871? Yes, this “modern” product dates back to 1800s!
The creamy formula was invented as a way to use newly-discovered oil reserves in Pennsylvania and was first sold as a medical salve. But, the wonderful thing about a clear salve is that it can be made into a pomade, or heaven forbid, one could even covertly add a bit of red tint to it to lips that glow with just a hint of pink.
Today we have tape-ins, clips-ins, and even glue-in hair extensions, as well as weaves, wigs, and fake bangs. The technology was cruder back then, but many women wore false hair in the late 1800s and into the Edwardian period. Along with the idea of using what you born with, luxurious hair was considered a top priority for women back then. Most women grew their hair extremely long. But, since the modest fashions of the day were to always have one’s hair in an up do it was common to cheat this aspect of “natural” beauty. Rats could be homemade or store bought, but one could also purchase switches (or falls) of hair for hairstyles that required some of the hair to be down.
Rouge was seen as one of the ultimate makeup products that an immodest woman might wear, but it was also one of the easiest to covertly make at home. Simply add some beet powder, pigment, or crushed flower petals to lard or Vaseline and you’d have a perfect secret weapon. Women who used cream rouge usually also put just a small dab on their lips as well.
It was considered beautiful to have a natural flush to one’s cheeks, something which many women “enhanced” through cream rouge.
To many people cold cream might seem old fashioned, but this product has been in constant production since the early 1800s and the first recipes for it date to the Roman Empire. Common scents of cold creams in the 1800s were rose, almond, violet, and camphor, the latter of which evolved into Noxzema in 1914.