Monday, September 5, 2011

Hi everyone

We have some family over for the holiday weekend, but I am hoping to post soon. I'll try to make the next one really exciting! :) Please be sure to subscribe to the blog so that you receive updates when I post. :) Have a great and safe Labor Day!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hair Care and Aromatics in the Old Testament

Queen of Sheba Kneeling Before King Solomon - Johann Friedrich August Tischbien

In the Old Testament, Judith annointed herself with precious aromatic oils before meeting Holofernes. She also braided her hair and "put a tire on it". It is said that Ancient Jewish men and women were proud of their hair and dreaded baldness as shorn locks, like in many cultures, were a sign of slavery. Josephus says that in ceremonies, King Solomon was preceded by 40 pages who wore shimmering gold dust in their hair which caught the light.

The Queen of Sheba brought spices "in great abundance to the court of Solomon." It makes sense that aromatic spices would be one of her gifts because Sheba (or Sabaea) was the spice center in Arabia. The Sabaeans produced most of the myrrh and frankincense in the Middle East, and also were a major stop on the trade route for spices and gums from India and the Far East. These included sandalwood, incense, vetiver, musks, resins, and flowers of henna, rose, jasmine, and lotus.

Source: Butler, Hilda and Poucher, William Arthur. Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics, and Soaps. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1923.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics

Ancient Egyptian cosmetics palette

The ancient Egyptians were big users of cosmetics. Men as well as women used black kohl, ground lapis lazuli, and ground malachite for eyeshadow. It is said that Cleopatra wore blue eyeshadow on her upper eyelids and painted her lower eyelids Nile green.

Both men and women wore yellow ocre on their skin for lightening purposes, but only women would wear orange pigment to darken their skin. A mixture of red ochre and fat was applied to the lips and cheeks. In Egyptian wall paintings, women can be seen wearing nail polish, which was actually a coloring agent made from an herb juice that stained their nails bright red.

Cosmetic ingredients were kept in linen bags, then were ground finely on a palette, and applied with a wet piece of wood, ivory, silver, glass, or bronze. Makeup kits containing cosmetic bags, palettes, and instruments of application were often found in the graves of Egyptian nobility to accompany them after death, dating as early as 4,000 BC.

James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. New York and London, 1995.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm sorry, everyone!

I'm sorry I didn't post on Monday, everyone... my son went to the ER and it's been a crazy week. But I will post on Friday (tomorrow)! Thanks for keeping up with our blog!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning Distillation Into a Science

Breughel-like scene of an herb garden in Liber de Arte Distillandi Philosophica

In 1500, Hieronymus Brunschwingk wrote the Liber de Arte Distillandi Philosophica (Book on Intelligent Distilling). Before this, distilling of essential oils was an unperfected art and the book strove to turn it into a science. It noted that tinctures of herbs in alcohol were resistant to decay and gave the advice that herbs should be distilled in vessels of lead. The “heremetic” sealing of the distilling vessel should be tight so that the essential oils do not volitalize.

An early distilled oil was the herb rue, then cinnamon soon followed. By the 16th century, pine, frankincense, gum mastic, costus, cedarwood, benzoin, and sweet flag had all been distilled. The list soon included agarwood, anise, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, mace, pepper, sandalwood, and juniper. During the 17th century, ambergris, thyme, asafoetida, coriander, dill, labdanum, marjoram, mint, carrot seed, orris, ginger, saffron, and wormwood had all been put in the still.

Source: Morris, Edwin T. Fragrance: The Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel. New York, 1984. Pp. 134.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Man of Many Scents

Men of ancient Athens used different aromatics for different parts of the body. A poem by Antiphanes reads:

He really bathes

In a large gilded tub, and steeps his feet

And legs in rich Egyptian unguents:

His jaw and legs with thick palm oil,

And both his arms with extract sweet of mint;

His eyebrows and his hair with marjoram,

His knees and neck with essence of ground thyme.

Butler, Hilda and Poucher, William Arthur. Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics, and Soaps. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1923. Pp. 23.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mountain Man Cream

I made a Mountain Man Bar several weeks ago,that I decided I wanted to make a cream to match. I wanted to make a similar recipe to what would have been around at the time with a few modern modifications. (I will be using a preservative and an emulsifier.) This is a little different to my heirloom recipes as I will not be starting off of a historic recipe. I will be using materials (or similar materials) that were used in creams during that time. Come join me for this mountain man cream!

Spermaceti is an oil that was used in a majority of creams during the time period. I will be using Palm Oil as Spermaceti is no longer accessible today. Isn't it wonderful that we have such a variety of oils available to us today?

Paraffin was also commonly used in creams. I don't have any paraffin so I will be using Stearic Acid. Stearic Acid will help this cream become firmer without feeling waxy.

I also used honey in this cream. Honey is a humectant which means it helps the skin retain its moisture. Honey is also hygroscopic, which means it pulls moisture from the surrounding air. This is why honey needs to be stored in a sealed container otherwise it will collect enough water to the point the honey will begin to ferment. Great if you want a mead, not so great if you want the honey for creams, lotions or food.

Recipe in Grams
10 grams Emulsifying Wax
10 grams Stearic Acid
10 grams Beeswax
10 grams Palm Oil
4 grams Honey
154 grams Water
2 grams Optiphen
1 grams Siberian Fir Essential Oil

Recipe in Ounces
.35 ounces Emulsifying Wax
.35 ounces Stearic Acid
.35 ounces Beeswax
.35 ounces Palm Oil
.14 ounces Honey
4.69 ounces Water
.07 ounces Optiphen
.030 ounces Siberian Fir Essential Oil

Recipe in Percentages
5% Emulsifying Wax
5% Stearic Acid
5% Beeswax
5% Palm Oil
2% Honey
67% Water
1% Optiphen
.5% Siberian Fir Essential Oil

Weigh everything except the Optiphen and the Siberian Fir Essential Oil into a microwave safe container. Heat gently until liquid. Mix well. Allow the solution to cool below 120 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the preservative and the essential oil. Mix well. Pour into jars. Enjoy!

Note: This cream is very thick. I suggest that you avoid putting it in bottles as you will never get it out. Jars will work best. Ask me how I know. ;-)

Source: Howard, Taylor. Personal interview. 5 Aug. 2011.