Thursday, August 18, 2016

Before Facial Cream and Mascara by Linda Broday

What did women use before facial cream, mascara, lipstick, eyeliner? You might be surprised. Or not.

Women who crossed this great land by her husband’s side have never gotten due recognition. Men took the glory for taming the American Frontier. Yet, the women endured far more and with less complaint. Often, they arrived at their destination looking haggard, their faces burnt to the color of hazelnut by the sun, their hair cut short. Whatever her looks, she had endurance and she had courage. Sometimes she was wilder than the land she helped tame.

I’m so in awe of these women who braved the elements, the harsh landscape and even death at times. They’re the spirit that lives inside each of my heroines.

Once women arrived at their destination, they set to work to reverse the ravages of the trip. They had few beautifiers to work with though. Gunpowder was easier to come by than face powder. Most petticoat pioneers reached for ingredients in their kitchens.

Sour milk or buttermilk were applied at night as skin bleaches. Complexion salves were made of white wax, spermaceti—a substance they used to make candles, and sweet oil scented with homemade rose or lavender water.

Honey was an old reliable cosmetic used by frontier women for everything from softening the teats of their milk cows to making beauty soap. A slight dusting of corn starch concealed a shiny nose. An entire weather-beaten face was moisturized under a coating of flour paste then washed. 

Beet juice or berries in season was widely used for lips and applied lightly to cheeks. They also pinched their cheeks to bring blood to the surface. A piece of burnt ember lined the eyes, although most didn’t use this because of the painted ladies who did. They did not want to be compared to working girls. No ma’am.

A popular homemade shampoo was made of a blend of castor oil and pure whiskey scented with lavender.

To cover gray hair, women touched up strands with sage tea, henna, or boiled walnut shells. For curls, they had a straight iron rod that they heated in a kerosene lamp chimney.

Women loved their baths but such were very hard to come by. When they did, they added rose petals or a bit of rosewater before stepping in. Most soaps were made from lye, but resourceful women added honey, flowers or juice from plants to make it sweet-smelling and cut the abrasiveness.

Strong lavender bud tea applied to chapped lips made them smooth and moist. Wanted your breasts larger? There was a cream for it back then. Of course, it didn’t work, but the less endowed women tried it anyway.

I’m sure there were lots more. Women were ingenious back then, especially if she was plain. No one wanted to be ugly. Through it all, we survived. I’m sure a lot of those women would’ve loved the cosmetics and beauty products today.

If you'd lived back then, do you think you’d have tried any of these? I know I would’ve covered my gray however I could. I don’t like looking old.

It's getting closer to the October 4 release day! TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER is available for preorder now. 

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  1. This is fascinating! So many of the ingredients in our beauty products are bad for us that it might not be a bad idea to go back to some of these!

    1. Hi Adriana, thanks for stopping by. I agree about the beauty products. They have a lot of things in them that we don't even know about. It seems the trend these days is going back to the basics/nature. That's always best. Who knows what products made in a lab have? What struck me most about this subject is how women, not matter their circumstances, wanted to look pretty.

  2. I've been grey starting in my 30's. I tried dying it only once and hated it and my hair grows fast so the roots showed almost immediately. I probably would have used the moisturizers but since others probably didn't use too much either, I'd be okay with it lol. The one thing I do like to use is eyeliner on my top lid but apparently that would get me in trouble lol.

  3. Hi Catslady! Great to see you. Oh goodness, that gray is persistent, isn't it? Mine is too. But, I keep trying to dye it. I'm not ready to go gray. Laughed at your comment about eyeliner. Ha! I'm sure no one could call you a painted lady. If they did, you have my blessing to hit 'em. Folks are too critical these days.

    Hugs, pretty lady!