Timeless Beauty: The Toilet of Flora

Back before there was such a thing as the mega cosmetic stores of today, ladies relied on botanical solutions to maintain their youthful visage. These folk remedies were often passed down by the women in the family to the next generation of young women, so that they may make themselves desirable to potential suitors.

Around 1779 (or so), Pierre-Joseph Buc'Hoz compiled one of the first women's beauty manuals - The Toilet of Flora - thus offering a myriad of beauty solutions in one glorious edition:  

"A collection of the most simple and approved methods of preparing baths, essences, pomatums, powders, perfumes and sweet-scented waters : with receipts for cosmetics of every kind that can smooth and brighten SKIN, give force to BEAUTY and take off the appearance of OLD AGE and DECAY."

That last bit makes me laugh every time. 

The remedies in this guide are many and do not differ much from beauty solutions sought out today - ways to whiten the teeth, color lips and cheeks, keep skin clear and glowing, lighten all manner of spots (freckles and otherwise), remove unwanted hair and perfume the body.

Flora's beautification recipes include several references to plants, herbs, spices, resins and other natural ingredients such as beeswax, vinegar, almonds and eggs that are still widely used today in cosmetic preparations and perfumes.

And maybe a few not so widely used today, such as hog and hen fat.

Yet, truly, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Toilet of Flora is a wonderful historic account of beauty for any era.

With that, I will leave you with one of my favorite recipes from the collection:

154. An admirable varnish for the skin.

Take equal parts of lemon juice and whites of new laid eggs, beat them together in a glazed earthen pan, which put on a slow fire, and constantly keep the mixture stirring with a wooden spatula, till it has acquired the consistence of soft butter. Keep it for use, and at the time of applying it, add a few drops of any essence you like best. Before the face is rubbed with this varnish, it will be proper to wash with the distilled water of rice. This is one of the best methods of rendering the complexion fair, and the skin smooth, soft and shining.