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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Napoleon and Josephine's Favorite Perfumes

A portrait of Josephine

After his return from exile in Elba, Napoleon resumed his large orders of his favorite Eau de Cologne and for white Windsor soap. He seems to have preferred the scent of rosemary as it was in his cologne, and in his soap, which also contained otto of caraway, thyme, and clove – all plants which grew in the south of France or French-possessed countries.

He also bought almond cream, presumably for his wife Josephine. Josephine was born the daughter of a creole merchant from New Orleans, where, at the time, fragrant oils and creams of coconut and almond were used. In 1810, Napoleon and Josephine’s marriage was declared null and void and she lived in Malmaison, where she died four years later. During her lifetime, she was known to love the scent of violets and Napoleon had her grave covered with them, and even wore a locket of the flowers around his own neck.

When she was alive, Josephine followed the fashion of keeping scented flowers in her rooms. She loved hyacinths and mignonettes, and kept them in pots, to fill the room with fragrance. During one of his campaigns, Napoleon sent her some mignonette seeds from Egypt, and the plants were grown in the nursery gardens around Paris, to make posies for evening wear and for their scent to waft into the streets to cover the offensive odors of the time.

Source: Genders, Roy. Perfume Through the Ages: Scent – What It Is, How It Works, Its Effect on Man and Animals - Including the Science of Perfumery. New York, 1972. Pp. 134 - 135.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Black Patches and Eyebrows Under Charles II

Under Charles II in 17th century England, ladies wore black patches of varying sizes and shapes to add beauty to their features and disguise ugly blemishes. Spots, stars, moons, suns, and other shapes were applied to pure white skin. Pepys in his Diary, recalls the Duchess of Newcastle “wearing many black patches because of pimples about her mouth.” Butler, in his Hudibras, writes:

“The sun and moon, by her bright eyes

Eclipsed and darken’d in the skies,

Are but black patches that she wears,

Cut into suns, and moons, and stars.”

In one drawing of the time (see above), a lady wore a patch in the shape of a horse and carriage on her forehead! Grammont, in his memoirs, writes that patches became so popular that one would always find them, along with rouge, on a lady’s toilet.

It was also the fashion for men and women of the time to blacken their eyebrows. Shadwell, in his “Humourists”, writes:

“Be sure if your eyebrows are not black, to black ‘em soundly. Ah! Your black eyebrow is your fashionable eyebrow. I hate rogues that wear eyebrows that are out of fashion.”

Rimmel, Eugene. The Book of Perfumes. London, 1867. pp 207 - 208.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jean’s Heirloom Hand Cream

Jean came in some time ago, bringing with her a handwritten recipe of hand cream that had been in her family. She wanted a modern recipe of what had been in her family for so long. I made scans of the recipe and immediately got to work. (Unfortunately, my desk monster ate her recipe.) One of the difficulties I faced was that the recipe used both volume and weight. I decided to weigh the materials that were measured in volume so the hand cream would be consistent every time Jean made it. I really like this heirloom cold cream. It is very soft, smooth and hydrating. Between summer activities and playing with Sadie, my hands are rough, scratched, scabbed and calloused. If I could I’d bring back the fashion of wearing gloves. My hands are a disaster. This Heirloom Hand Cream not only helps my hands retain their moisture but my hands are soft, smooth and velvety! My skin is dewy and it feels as though my skin has been rejuvenated. No oily skin here! I may not be able to compete with my Grandmother for the softest skin but with this cream on my side, I am a very far cry from having the worst. Come join me for this delightful cream that is sure to become an heirloom recipe in your family for generations!

I really enjoyed how simple this cream was to make. It was a breeze. I am super impressed with the cream as well. A nightly regime of this on my hands and you might not be able to tell that I am a working girl! I lightly scented this cream with lavender. It is polite and gentle. Due to the fact it is so light in scent, this cream does not smell medicinal. It remind me of going through a box of my grandmother’s hats and handkerchiefs with a small sachet of lavender tucked among the many treasures. A gentle perfume helping tell the history of these grand articles. I think this cream could be paired beautifully with lilac or any other gentle floral odor.

Recipe in Ounces
20 oz Glycerin
6.575 oz Stearic Acid
24 oz Water
2.528 oz Emulsifying Wax
.53 oz Optiphen
.25 oz Lavender 40/42
Q.S. Premixed Color

Recipe in Grams
567 grams Glycerin
186 grams Stearic Acid
680 grams Water
71 grams Emulsifying Wax
15 grams Optiphen
7 grams Lavender 40/42
Q.S. Premixed Color

Recipe in Percentages
37% Glycerin
12% Stearic Acid
44.5% Water
5% Emulsifying Wax
1% Optiphen
.5% Lavender 40/42
Q.S. Premixed Color

Weigh everything except Optiphen, Lavender 40/42 and premixed color into a microwave safe container. Heat gently until everything is liquid. Using an immersion blender mix everything well. Allow the solution to cool below 120° F before adding the Optiphen, Lavender 40/42 and premixed color. Mix well. Pour into jars. Cap and enjoy!

Source: Howard, Taylor. "Jean's Heirloom Recipe." 2011. JPG file

Monday, August 1, 2011

The History of Razors

Prehistoric cave paintings and engravings suggest that as far back as 30,000 years ago, people were using razors made of sharp flint blades. These would have to be disposable, as the blade would blunt with use. Similar razors made of volcanic glass obsidian were still being used by the Aztecs as late as 1500 AD and in Africa as late as 1900 AD.

With the invention of metalworking, permanent razors were made out of copper as early as 3,000 BC in Egypt and India. Ancient Egyptians generally saw facial hair as a sign of personal neglect and men would shave – unless the trend at the time called for neatly groomed mustaches or goatees. Wealthy Egyptians would keep a barber on staff, but some barbers “sacrificed” themselves to serve the poor.

In Ancient Mesopotamia, barbers belonged to a guild and would line a particular street with their shops. Male clients were shaved with a razor and pumice stone, then their cheeks were rubbed with perfumed oils.

In Scandinavia, from 1500 BC onwards, razors took on elaborate shapes and designs. One such razor, found at a burial site, was made of bronze and was enclosed in a leather case. It had a horsehead-shaped handle and its blade was engraved with mythological scenes. It was buried with the dead, presumably, to meet his needs in the afterlife.

According to Julius Caesar, the Britons, who favored a large mustache, “shave[d] every part of their body except their head and upper lip.”

Source: James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. New York and London, 1995. P. 263-264.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Simple 19th Century Citrus-Rosemary Perfume

Take of

Oil of bergamot… 1 fluid drachm

Oil of orange… 1 fluid drachm

Oil of rosemary… 1 fluid drachm

Neroli (or petitgrain)… ½ fluid drachm

Rectified spirit… 1 pint

Mix. Very excellent

For reference, 1 fluid drachm is approximately 0.125 fluid ounces. "Rectified spirit" refers to perfumer's alcohol. I have not personally tried this perfume, but the blend of citrus fruits and flower in addition to the rosemary sound as though it would be fresh and uplifting. Please let me know if and when you try it!

Source: Cooley, Arnold James. The Toilet and Cosmetic Arts in Ancient and Modern Times. London, 1866.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Skin Lightening in the Age of the Stuarts

A portrait of Queen Anne

When England was ruled by the Stuarts during the 17th century, Gervase Markham developed a skin lotion, which was famous at the time and sold commercially throughout England. It was distilled from rosemary, featherfew, fennel, violets, and nettle leaves, then diluted with milk and applied to the face. It was introduced during a time when white lead and lime were being applied to the skin, permanently disfiguring faces, and this was a natural alternative for skin lightening.

Another alternative to skin whitening with lead was to make a concoction of white mercury, lemon juice, powdered white egg shells, and white wine. This caused a burning sensation of the face, but was nevertheless used by ladies who sought pure white facial skin.

“Ceruse” was used during special occasions to cover blemishes – it consisted of white lead mixed with the white of an egg. The cheeks were tinted red with Spanish wool and black beauty spots were applied. During Queen Anne’s time (1665 – 1714), a beauty spot on the right side of the face meant that you were a Tory supporter, while a lady who wore one on the left side of the face showed favor for the Whig party.

Source: Genders, Roy. Perfume Through the Ages: Scent – What It Is, How It Works, Its Effect on Man and Animals - Including the Science of Perfumery. New York, 1972. P. 161 - 162.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Use of Perfumery in Greek Religious Ceremonies

Alexander the Great’s tutor objected to the excessive and wasteful use of incense in the sacrifices that Alexander ordered. He said:

“It would be time for him, so to worship when he had conquered the countries that produced the frankincense.”

So basically: conquer the countries that make the incense instead of importing them, so that they're cheaper. Alexander must have remembered his tutor’s words, because when he had taken possession of Arabia, he sent a shipment of frankincense and myrrh to his old teacher.

Incense and perfumery were almost always used in ancient Greek sacrificial ceremonies. When the Greeks sought the guidance of the Gods or wanted their luck in an undertaking, they sacrificed the animal associated with that particular God or Goddess. For example:

Zeus (Greek) / Jupiter (Roman) – an ox

Hecate – a dog

Aphrodite / Venus – a dove

Poseidon / Neptune – a fish

Demeter / Ceres – a sow

The animal victim was laid on a bed of fragrant flowers and herbs, and garlands of flowers were placed around its neck while frankincense was burned. Libations of wine were poured out of flat vessels and fragrant, edible plants were consumed by those present.

Hesiod described the scene:

“Let the rich fumes of od’rous incense fly,

A grateful savour to the powers on high;

The due libation nor neglect to pay,

When evening closes or dawns the day.”

In more ordinary sacrifices, incense was still burned, filling the air with its scent.


Piesse, George William Septimus. The Art of Perfumery and the Methods of Obtaining the Odours of Plants. London, 1862. pp. 4.

Rimmel, Eugene. The Book of Perfumes. London, 1867. pp. 78.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just a quick post

Taylor and I made a posting schedule for ourselves, so that blog readers will be sure to get a post every other day. When we have more resources and are on a roll, one of us will try to post every day. But for now, one of us will post every other day.

Mary (historical beauty preparations): Mondays and Fridays
Taylor (historical cosmetic/perfume recipes): Wednesdays and Sundays

Be sure to follow our blog so that you get our updates! :) Thanks for checking us out!

Indian Beauty Rituals for Both Sexes

The Ritusamhara (approx. 400 AD), a classic poem of India, describes the beauty regimens taken up by women of the time:

“With their soft hips covered with beautiful fabrics and wrappings, their breasts perfumed with sandalwood, covered with necklaces and jewels, and with hair perfumed from the bath, the beautiful women coax their lovers to burning desire.”

But men were not exempt from such personal care rituals. Great care was taken to beautify the men of higher castes. In the Kama Sutra (approx. 400 AD), the daily preparations are described:

“He must get up early in the morning, answer the calls of nature, wash his teeth, smear his body with just a little fragrant paste, inhale fragrant smoke, wear some flower, just give the lips a rub with wax and red juice, look at his face in the mirror, chew betel leaves along with some mouth deodorants, and then attend to his work.”

But of all the male beauty rituals, none were more elaborate than the king’s. One Sanscrit author, Someshvara (1130 AD), describes the bath in vivid detail, even down to the architecture of the room. The pillars of the apartment would have been artistically painted. Beautiful female attendants would wash the ruler’s body with warm water, and his hair would be washed with the fragrant pulp of amalaka (Indian gooseberry), then rinsed.

After his body was dry, athletes would massage the king and a fragrant oil would be applied by the beautiful female attendants. The oil was comprised of sesame oil, jasmine, coriander, cardamom, holy basil, costus, pandanus, agarwood, pine, saffron, champac, and clove. The king would then be dressed in a clean cotton garment, ready for the day.

Source: Morris, Edwin T. Fragrance: The Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel. New York, 1984. p 94.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heirloom Cold Cream - The Woman Beautiful

I have really enjoyed reading and researching these Heirloom Toiletry recipes. How amazing it is to make and use toiletries whose recipes are older than your grandmother! What a special way to connect to the generations that came before us. This recipe is from the book The Woman Beautiful by Helen Follett Stevans. Come join me as we travel back in time to make this fabulous cold cream. Here we go!

Cold Cream
The Woman Beautiful
Helen Follett Stevans
½ ounce White Wax
½ ounce Spermaceti
4 ounce Sweet Almond Oil
2 ounces Orange Flower Water

Melt all together gently and pour into cups to cool. When cold pour off the water, remelt and pour into jars to keep.

I needed to make some changes to the recipe before I even started. First of all, I do not have any Spermaceti. Spermaceti is a oil that is collected from the sperm whale. The sperm whale was nearly hunted to extinction because there was such demand for this oil. Due to my research, I have concluded that Palm Oil is the most comparable oil that is available today.

Second, I have yet to get some paraffin (White Wax) into the kitchen for recipe use. I really need to get with the program. Instead, I will be using Stearic Acid, of which I do have access to in the kitchen.

Third, I don't have any Orange Flower Hydrosol. Any of the hydrosols can be used in this recipe. The hydrosols impart a light scent to the cream. Fragrance or Essential Oils can be used for a light scent. If you decide to use essential oils, you will not need any water or hydrosols. I used Rose Otto to lightly perfume this cold cream.

When I made this recipe with Rose Hydrosol, I forgot that during this time they did not have access to microwaves and so the ingredients were heated much more gently. I microwaved the solution for less than 45 seconds and it blew up in the microwave! Not only did I do this one but twice! I also happened to have both explosions occur in the same day. I spent some major time cleaning out the microwave. Much to my chagrin, as I cleaned I was teased by my passing coworkers. It was not an experience I want to repeat a third time. :-)

In the end, I used Rose Otto to scent this mixture. No explosions, no mess, no waste and hardly any Rose Otto was used. You will be amazed at how far that gram will go. I had an empty container from pre-pack that only had a slight film of Rose Otto on the inside. I filled the container with warm Sweet Almond Oil. Of the scented oil, I only used 5 mL per batch of cold cream. The Rose Otto goes a very long way. If you have a gram of Rose Otto, you can use a tooth pick to pull a very small amount out for your cold cream. Enjoy!

Cold Cream (Reformulated)
Helen Follett Stevans
½ ounce Stearic Acid
½ ounce Palm Oil
4 ounce Sweet Almond Oil
Q.S. Rose Otto

Melt all together gently and pour into cups to cool and keep.

Weigh and gently melt all of the ingredients together until liquid. Stir gently with a spoon and pour into containers. Enjoy.

Note: The reason that this recipe uses Orange Flower Hydrosol is to impart a light scent. At the time, this scent could only be water extracted. They could not obtain an essential oil or absolute from the orange blossom. This method allows scent to be transferred to the oils. Orange Flower Water was a popular and highly sought after scent. This recipe reflects the time in which it was formulated.

Also, while I didn't add very much Rose Otto, this product should be used with a light hand. It is very long lasting odor and I was quite pleased that a little goes a long way. A light and delicate odor surrounded me all day. While it does not smell strongly in the jar, when rubbed on the skin, a gentle odor is released. This is truly the heirloom product I imagined it to be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Poppaea's Bath

A bust portrait of the Empress Poppaea

According to contemporary sources, the Roman emperor Nero’s (54 – 68 AD) wife, Poppaea, employed one hundred female attendants to ensure that she was at her most beautiful.

Every night, Poppaea wore a face mask of bean meal, which was washed off during her morning bath of donkey’s milk. She would remove unwanted hair with depilatory creams, bleach freckles with a mixture of bean meal paste and lemon juice, and use powdered pumice to whiten her teeth.

The empress would remove pimples by washing with barley flour and butter, and bleach her hair with German soap to attain a reddish hue (at this time, soap imported from Germany was used by the Romans as a hair dye rather than on the skin as a cleanser).

Then her make-up would be applied for the day. Poppaea’s attendants would start by covering her body with chalk, to lighten her skin, and to cover her face with toxic white lead paint. Her lips and cheeks would be colored with red paint, and her eyelids, lashes, and brows would be penciled with black antimony. Her nails would be polished with Dragon’s Blood mixed with fat, and her veins would be penciled with blue paint.

No wonder it took one hundred attendants to get her ready in the morning!

Source: James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. New York and London, 1995. p. 256 - 7.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry and Perfumery

For the ancient Egyptians, perfumery and cosmetics pervaded all aspects of daily life, from the religious to the secular. Fragrance is often mentioned in love poetry, usually from the point of view of a man describing the beautiful aroma of the woman he adores.

“I wish I were her laundryman,

Just for a single month.

Then I would flourish by donning her garment

And be close to her body.

I would wash away the unguent from her clothes

And wipe my body in her dress.”

Unguent, an ointment made with fat and fragrant materials, was considered personal and intimate, much like a perfume oil would be today – something that you would have to be in close contact with the wearer in order to smell. Perfume, along with intoxicating beverages, created the perfect romantic scene for two lovers to meet - kind of like today!

“If you go to the room of the beloved,

She being alone and without another,

You can do what you wish with the latch.

The door hangings flutter

When the sky comes down in the wind,

But it does not carry it away, her fragrance,

When she brings you an abundance of scent,

Intoxicating those present…”

So when you dab a little perfume on your skin before meeting someone special, remember that using the power of scent to excite and attract someone goes back a very long way!

Source: Manniche, Lise. Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt. Ithaca, New York, 1999. p. 91 - 92.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Glycerin Balsam

Do you every wonder how your toiletries were formulated, or how different the cosmetics your great great grandmother used vary from the ones you use today? Well, I am working on a project collecting old cosmetics and toiletries recipes and it has been quite an experience. I am planning on sharing these recipes and what I discovered. I will give you the original recipe as well as the source from which I received the recipe. I will share the "modern" recipe. Many recipes call for spermaceti, of which we don't have access to. Spermaceti is an oil that comes from the Sperm Whale. Spermaceti was in so much demand, that the whales became an endangered species. The Sperm Whale was nearly hunted to extinction! I will also add preservatives so that these fabulous toiletries do not begin to grow. Come join me as we travel back in time for the making of heirloom toiletries. Here we go!

Glycerin Balsam

The Woman Beautiful
Helen Follett Stevans
½ ounce White Wax

1 ounce Spermaceti

4 ½ ounce Sweet Almond Oil

1 ½ ounces Glycerin

8 drops Oil of Rose Geranium

Melt the oil. Remove from fire and beat in the glycerin and perfume. Stir briskly until cold and white.

I had to make some changes to the formulation before I even headed for the test kitchen. First, there is no way am I going to get my hands on any spermaceti. No point of trying to formulate with a banned product. So I did some research and decided that Palm Oil would act as a replacement for the spermaceti.

Second, I didn't have any white wax (paraffin). I replaced the paraffin with beeswax, both of which contribute similar properties to toiletries.

I also wanted to add emulsifying wax to my formulation to prevent it from separating. So far so good.

Last, I felt the need to add a preservative to the formulation to prevent the mixture from growing bacteria and fungi. We don't work this hard on our projects to lose them to micro-organisms.

Glycerin Balsam (Reformulated)

The Woman Beautiful
Helen Follett Stevans
.5 ounce Beeswax

1 ounce Palm Oil

4.5 ounce Sweet Almond Oil

.25 ounces Emulsifying Wax

1.5 ounces Glycerin

.03 ounces Liquid Germall Plus

8 drops Bourbon Geranium

Put oils and glycerin into a microwave safe container. Heat gently until everything is liquid. Using an immersion blender
combine the ingredients . Once the mixture is cool, add the preservative and Bourbon Geranium. Continue whipping until it is gel like
in constancy and the temperature is no warmer than the room.

Note: This product is intended to be whipped. This helps the glycerin stay in suspension and allow the mixture to remain emulsified.

I really enjoyed this project. The Glycerin Balsam is fabulous and really fun. I must admit that I was rather surprised by the final product. When put on my hands, I liked it but the Glycerin Balsam seemed a little too oily. However, when I used it on the softer skin of my arms, legs and face, I felt as if I were being pampered and spoiled. The Glycerin Balsam really hydrates and protects the skin. Personally, I think the the Glycerin Balsam rivals a lotion with Hydrovance! It was also exciting that I had created a product similar to one used by women over a century ago. That, in itself, was amazing.

I wish to thank those who came on this fabulous journey with me. What fun! I hope you delight in making and using the Glycerin Balsam as much as I did. Enjoy!

Source: Jameson, Helen Follett. The Woman Beautiful . Chicago: Jamieson-Higgins, 1873. Print.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome to our historical beauty project!

Hi, everyone! Our names are Mary and Taylor and we're working on a "cosmetics and perfumery through the ages" project in which we'll be uncovering and sharing cosmetics/perfume recipes as well as beauty rituals from the ancients to the Victorians. Think of it as the perfect way for modern beauty "geeks" to experiment with recipes from the Greeks! A pyxis was a cosmetics container in ancient Greece, so it seemed appropriate to include it in the name of our blog.

Mary will be including photos of ancient, Medieval, and early Modern cosmetic and perfume vessels as well as paintings/sculpture depicting beauty rituals. She will talk about beauty preparations through the ages, sometimes making comparisons between cultures and time periods.

Taylor will be focusing on authentic cosmetic and perfume recipes, sometimes tweaked a bit to reflect modern availability and excluding ingredients that we now know are unsafe (but we will talk about it all).

We hope that you enjoy our project!

A red-figure pyxis, Greek, 5th century BCE