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.