A History of Cosmetics, Part 2
For centuries after the Egyptian empire faded, the fashion norm around the world was a pale complexion. A tanned, sun-dried face was associated with being a commoner who worked out in the field all day alongside her husband. The upper class ladies of course did not participate in physical labor like that so they stayed inside and had white faces. A white, pale complexion was also a symbol of wealth. If you had enough money, then you didn’t have to work. So a pale complexion was extremely important to some people.
To get this look, women (and men too) would use a combination of hydroxide, lead oxide, and carbonate in a powder form to paint their faces and bodies. Unfortunately, this lead to a sometimes fatal side effect, lead poisoning. To remedy this, chemists in the nineteenth century finally discovered a mixture of zinc oxide that didn’t block the skin from being able to breathe and kept people out of that irritating lead poisoning sickness. It worked so well that it is still used today by cosmetics manufacturers. In the Edwardian era of London, around the turn of the century of 1900, society women with a disposable income would throw lavish parties and do a lot of entertaining to show off their wealth.
As hostesses of the party, it was important for them to be the best looking woman at the function, so it was extremely important for them to look the youngest they possibly could. Women at that time who lived these extravagant lifestyles did not eat well, would not exercise, and breathed in the heavily polluted air that the cities of the time produced. They would rely on products like anti-aging cream and face cream to help hide their blemishes. They would also go to the beauty salon. It was a little different back then than it is today. Women would sneak into the back of the salons and hide their faces as they entered. One of the most famous of these discreet beauty houses was the House of Cyclax, who would sell creams and rouges to ladies. Mrs. Henning, who was the owner, sold and created many products for her desperate customers who didn’t want anyone to know that they were getting old.