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Home » Uncategorized » Class on making period cosmetics, taught at SCA event, Border Skirmish, in Elkhorn, WI

Class on making period cosmetics, taught at SCA event, Border Skirmish, in Elkhorn, WI

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I offered the class on making period cosmetics for the first time. I had to to bring nearly a complete still room to the site but I think it was worth. Great thanks to Gail Middleton who let me fill her car with my stuff!

We covered a range of different periods and regions within SCA time-frame since I did not want to overwhelm anyone with just Bei Wei cosmetics. I also had a display of Chinese cosmetics from Bei Wei and containers/tools from other periods. And 2 perfumes of antiquity to test.

 

A practical survey of period cosmetics
Dúgū Jìnán
Katarzyna (Kasia) Gromek
Email: murcielago53@hotmail.com

For millennia makeup was an important part of the look and status for both men and women. In the modern re-enactment the importance of makeup seems to be mostly lost. Even if makeup is applied, it is made with modern cosmetics. Period cosmetics do not have to be toxic or smelly and the aim of this class is to show the ways of making and applying them. We will travel around the world and through the time. Many of the recipes are suitable for various cultures, with some small adjustments. The period makeup will help to be more in ‘persona.’ Because of time constrains, some of the bases were prepared ahead of time and the detailed recipes are included.
For more on general history of period cosmetics please check Sally Pointer’s book, ‘The artifice of beauty’ (Pointer 2005).

Safety concern:
1. We are going to use safe alternative to some period ingredients. The modern substitutes are considered safe for cosmetic application, but please be careful and do not eat or drink while working with these substances.
2. There is always risk of allergic reaction. I did my best to try to poll for potential allergens but I cannot take responsibility for any adverse reactions.
3. I have zinc oxide as substitute for titanium dioxide. It is a period ingredient though it was used mostly for ‘plasters’ or ointments for skin problems.

Concerning the measurement units:
Throughout this class, I will use the following units of measurement:
flat tbs – tablespoon with contents flatten with edge of a knife
flat tsp – teaspoon with contents flatten with edge of a knife
Flat ¼ tsp – ¼ teaspoon with contents flatten with edge of a knife (used for measuring pigments and dyes)
full tsb – rounded tablespoon
full tsp – rounded teaspoon
g- gram
mL – milliliter
Both the tablespoon and teaspoon were from a standard measuring spoon set.

Materials:
Herbs and aromatics were purchased from online stores: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/, http://www.herbco.com/, http://plumdragonherbs.com/ and http://www.activeherb.com/.
Some pigments and dyes were acquired from http://www.naturalearthpaint.com/ and various eBay and Etsy sellers. Plant oils and animal fat were bought in local Madison stores.

Recipes:

1. Roman period white base/ointment based on extant sample excavated in London (Evershed et al. 2004)

Base A (according to the original data, the fat was probably unscented but I like aromatics and extended shelf life):
Ingredients:
– aromatics steeped in 50 mL semi-dry white wine at room temperature for 72 hours: 2 full tsp frankincense resin (crushed), 2 full tsp cinnamon chips, 2 full tsp cassia twigs, 2 tsp hyssop, 1 tbs crushed vetiver root, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 flat tsp calamus root, a pinch of galbanum resin)
– 125 g beef suet
Filter the aromatics through a piece of cloth and save the wine. Add the aromatized wine to the melted beef suet and heat in a double boiler until all water evaporates (no longer boils). Store in an air-tight container, preferably in a cool, dark place.

White ointment:
1.5 g tin oxide (IV)
4.25 g fat base
4.25 g wheat starch
Mix until smooth consistency is achieved.

Base B (better for oily skin)
Ingredients:
20 g lanolin
25 ml olive oil
25 ml white semi-dry wine
2 g salt
1 g myrrh resin
1 g frankincense resin
1.5 g pine resin
Heat in a double boiler until all water evaporates (no longer boils). Filter through a piece of cloth and add 5 drop spikenard EO, 2 drops labdanum EO and 5 drops cedar wood EO and mix. Store in an air-tight container, preferably in a cool, dark place.

White ointment made with Base B:
1.5 g tin oxide (IV)
4.25 g wheat starch
Add warmed base using spoon and mix until smooth consistency is achieved.
2. The eyebrow paint (Asia, late antiquity-early medieval period)
Since galena paint is only part of a display, we are going to make another version using powdered graphite (a period solution) laced with golden mica for some sparkle (Rapp 2009). It looks very similar to the toxic version.

2. The beeswax and sesame oil base for thick paste ointment (Jia 1974)

Ingredients:
-aromatics steeped in 120 mL yellow rice wine (huangjiu) at room temperature for 72 hours: 2 full tsp frankincense resin (crushed), 2 full tsp myrrh resin (crushed)
– 135 mL sesame oil
– 45 g beeswax
Filter the aromatics through a thick cloth and save the aromatized wine. Add the wine to the sesame oil and simmer in a double boiler until the water is gone. Then add the beeswax and let 27
it melt. Remove from the source of heat and mix until a uniform dense paste forms. Store in an air-tight container, preferably in a cool, dark place.

‘False galena’
2 x ¼ flat tsp beeswax/sesame oil base
1 x ¼ flat tsp powdered graphite
half x ¼ flat tsp crushed golden mica
2 x ¼ flat tsp wheat starch
1 x ¼ flat tsp bone ash
After careful mixing, the thick paste is probably the closest approximation of period cosmetic. The lamp back (soot) and bone black versions are really black so they have to be whiten with modern lead white substitute to make them more greyish.

Recipe for ‘lapis lazuli’ or ‘malachite’ eye paint
3 x ¼ flat tsp beeswax/sesame oil base
1 x ¼ flat tsp blue earth or green earth
1 x ¼ flat tsp millet flower or 2 x ¼ flat tsp wheat starch
1 x ¼ flat tsp bone ash
Mix well. If needed adjust consistency until thick paste forms. These colored pastes can be also used as eyeshadow paint. If red ochre is used as pigment, it can be made into lip paint.

3. Caterina Sforza whitening ointment (late 15th century Italy)

‘To cure redness of the face:
Take white lead [ceruse], rose water and violet oil and mix together and anoint the face.\

A guarire la Roseza del Volto
Piglia Cerusa aqua rosa oleo de viole et mestica inseme et ugne la faccia.’
(Accessed June 7th 2017 https://sites.eca.ed.ac.uk/renaissancecosmetics/cosmetics-recipes/skin/)

Traditional titanium dioxide base recipe
3 g titanium dioxide
2 g wheat starch
Add rosewater using pipette until smooth thick liquid forms. Scent with 1 drop absolute violet leaf EO.

Alternative titanium dioxide base recipe
2 g mix (made by mixing 15 g titanium dioxide, 7.5 g titanium dioxide micronized and 7.5 g mica micronized)
1 g wheat starch
10 drops almond oil
Add rosewater using pipette until smooth thick liquid forms. Scent with 1 drop absolute violet leaf EO.

4. Alkanet lip paint (Roman, Greek, Byzantine) (Kelly Olson 2009)

Alkanet dye extraction (soluble in oil and ethanol)
3 g alkanet powder
25 ml safflower oil
Mix both ingredients well and keep in a tightly closed container at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Filter through cloth or paper filter and store in a cool, dark place.

The lip paint
3 ml warmed and melted beeswax
Add the alkanet dye in oil to the melted beeswax until the desired color is achieved. Micronized mica or wheat starch can be added to make the paste smoother.

5. Trotula rouge (11-12th century Salerno. Italy) (Green 2002)

‘Take shaving of brazilwood and let it be placed in an eggshell containing a little rose water, and let it be placed in the same place a little alum, and with this let her anoint some cotton and press it on her face and it should make her red.’

Dye extraction
2 x ¼ full tsp brazilwood (sappan wood)
8 mL rose water
Add alum by pinch until the rose water is saturated with the color. Filter the dyed rose water.
To use, immerse cotton or linen fabric scrap and spread the color over the cheeks.
Alternatively the dyes can be used to make a powder rouge by adding starch or gypsum and getting it dyed.

Bibliography

Evershed, R.P. et al., 2004. Archaeology: Formulation of a Roman cosmetic. Nature, 432(7013), pp.35–36. Available at: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/432035a [Accessed June 10, 2017].

Green, M.H., 2002. The Trotula : an English translation of the medieval compendium of women’s medicine, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Jia, Sixie, and Shenghan Shi. 1974. A Preliminary Survey of the Book Ch’i Min Yao Shu: An Agricultural Encyclopaedia of the 6th Century = Qimin Yaoshu Gailun. 2nd ed. Peking: Science Press.
Kelly Olson, 2009. Cosmetics in Roman Antiquity: Substance, Remedy, Poison. Classical World, 102(3), pp.291–310.
Pointer, S., 2005. The artifice of beauty: a history and practical guide to perfumes and cosmetics, Stroud: Sutton.
Rapp, G.R., 2009. Archaeomineralogy 2nd ed., Berlin: Springer.

 


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