Edwardian Beauty Recipes

Pond's Vanishing Cream ad, 1914

A few years ago, Fleur de Guerre blogged about her vintage beauty regime, and since I–like most women, I’m sure–have gone through many, many brands in search of a product that would combat all of my real (and imagined *g*) flaws, I decided to follow her basic, vintage-inspired advice (and it is relevant for all skin types and shades). When I blogged about Edwardian cosmetics and beauty products back in 2008, I was fascinated to discover that so many of today’s brands have a long and venerable history stretching back to the 1900s and beyond. Though cosmetics were seen as the province of actresses and prostitutes, ladies were not adverse to enhancing what nature granted them, whether it be false hair, papier poudre, or lip tints. In fact, browsing through issues of ladies’ magazines of the Edwardian era, there were plenty of discreetly-worded ads promising spruce up a lady’s fading beauty. The beauty parlor and the spa were not yet recognized establishments in a woman’s life, but they did exist!

Nowadays, we take it for granted that if we want to change our hair color or try a new eyeshadow, we can walk into a drugstore or approach the cosmetics counter in a department store and purchase items with little shame or censure, but since the Edwardian lady could not (though, the cosmetics counter opened at Selfridge’s in 1910 did much to break down this taboo), she made her own. The following recipes were found in The Dudley Book of Cookery and Household Recipes, and A Second Dudley Book of Cookery and Other Recipes, both of which were published by the Countess of Dudley in 1909 and 1912, respectively. As a disclaimer, I’m not advising you to try any of the recipes, but if you choose to do so, it’s best to research the ingredients and try to find safer alternatives.


Eight ounces of oil of almonds, one and three-quarters ounce white wax, a quarter ounce spermaceti, six ounces of rose water. Warm the three first ingredients in an enamelled pan until melted, then add gently the rose water. The cream must be well worked with a spoon until it is quite smooth and free from all lumps. A few drops of attar of rose greatly improves the cold cream.


Cut up half an ounce of white wax and half an ounce of beeswax and one ounce of camphor. Place this in a jar and pour over three-quarters of a pint of almond oil. Gently melt it all together and work smooth. Run into pots for use.


Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a small teacupful of new milk. Allow it to curdle. Apply it to the face and throat with a piece of cotton wool, after having been out in the sun, or the last thing at night. Allow it to remain on the skin for a short time then wash it off with tepid soft water. This will remove all heat and tan from the skin.


Steep some freshly gathered rosemary twigs in boiling water, cover up and allow them to remain for five or six hours. Strain off the liquid and add a small quantity of rum. This is an excellent hair wash, and very cooling and fragrant.


Take a large jar, and to every pint of white vinegar add three-quarters of an ounce of lavender flowers. Leave them to infuse for twenty-four hours. Put the jar well bedded into a fish-kettle and allow it to simmer for six or eight hours without boiling. Strain and bottle for use.

LAIT VIRGINALE – a cooling face lotion, for use after travelling or motoring

Take one ounce of simple tincture of benzoin and add it drop by drop to one quart of rose or elder-flower water. Cleanse face thoroughly, by gently rubbing in some cold cream; wipe this off with a soft towel, then apply the lait virginale with a soft sponge or a wad of medicated cotton-wool.


Two tablespoonfuls of orange-flower water (or elder-flower water), two tablespoonfuls of rose water, nine grains of borax.


Six drops of essence or roses, eight ounces of distilled water, thirty-five grains of subcarbonate of soda.


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5 replies on “Edwardian Beauty Recipes”
  1. says: Michele

    The solution for taking care of rough hands reminds of when my Mom would use paraffin wax and a small slow cooker, and this was the only thing the slow cooker was used for, to melt the paraffin wax or her feet.

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