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Talks and Lectures

A wide range of podcasts from talks and lectures held at Historic Royal Palaces

May 25, 2012

Sir Peter Lely’s ‘Windsor Beauties’ show Stuart women with translucent skin, appearing as ‘natural beauties’, free of cosmetics. Was this a 17th-century equivalent of airbrushing or did these women have sophisticated cosmetics at their disposal?

The 17th century saw a growing mass market for cosmetic recipes and in the home, women combined their understanding of cookery with their knowledge of herbal medicine to produce a myriad of skin treatments. Ingredients varied from the dangerous, like lead and mercury, to the unpalatable: urine, hog’s grease and animal fats. Household ingredients were also used: lemon juice and egg as well as rose water and almond oil — things that still appear in cosmetics today.