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Victorian Secrets: How Your Great-Great-Grandmother Got Pretty

Did you take yesterday's beauty history quiz? If you haven't, be forewarned: I'm about to reveal all the answers, along with some other oddball facts about the lengths to which Victorians went to look pretty. Are you sure you can handle reading about the lard-based beauty treatment? If so, then

First of all, here are the answers to the quiz.

What did women rinse their hair with to make it soft and shiny?
Rum and rosewater, my friends. Victorians used to wash their hair with a frothy mixture of egg whites, then rinsed it with a blend of rum and rosewater.

What was the name of the first commercial deodorant?
Mum's the word. Invented in 1888 in Philadelphia, Mum was the first commercial anti-stink product. Although its popularity decreased in the States, Mum continues to be sold in the UK.

When were women not supposed to wear cosmetics?
That would be when they were menstruating. Unfortunately, the idea of women being tainted or "unclean" during their monthly cycle meant that Victorian women were told to keep their faces free of any sort of cosmetics. (How cruel it would be if this were still the case, as I need concealer most when I get those monthly chin zits!)

What did some Victorian women consume in an attempt to lighten their complexions?
Yum, yum! Guess what's for your dinner, ladies? Chalk! Yep, chalk. Is the popularity of indigestion tonics during the Victorian era mere coincidence?

To make their eyes bright, what did some women do?
It hurts my eyes to even think about it, but they washed their eyes with lemon juice or orange juice.

How did women create rosy cheeks?
They pinched them, essentially. And to get red lips, they'd gently bite them.

Finally, here's a bit more trivia from the Victorian era:

  • Rimmel was founded in 1834 in London; it specialized in products such as violet water, ylang-ylang perfume and Aquadentine, "to Whiten the Teeth and refresh the Mouth."
  • Vaseline was around back in the day, offering a soap with this catchy slogan: "The best emollient in the world must be the best basis for toilet soap."
  • A men's hair oil called Macassar Oil was very popular. Its tendency to rub off led to the development of the antimacassar, which is basically a cloth to guard sofas and chaises from oil blots.
  • Cucumber-infused lard was used as a hair treatment. This made-at-home concoction involved several steps, including heating six pounds of lard and mashing cucumbers into it with a mortar.

Join The Conversation
angie_pangie angie_pangie 10 years
no no no no NO! lemon juice in their eyes! we are so lucky we are a little less barbaric these days.
xrockette19x xrockette19x 10 years
these are crazy, but i do wish being pale was still in!! i have pretty much accepted how pale i am, and i really only mind it during the summer when i reflect the light! honestly, when i go to the beach, it makes my eyes tear to look at my legs, haha! i wish pale was in again, it makes me so happy when i see women with gorgeous pale skin, like scarlett johannsen!
helenette helenette 10 years
mieshey mieshey 10 years
Beauty evolves so rapidly, I can only imagine what's to come!
dcmurray1970 dcmurray1970 10 years
okay so glad i am alive now
sevendayrain sevendayrain 10 years
tiabia tiabia 10 years
I'm doubting that my Great-Great Grandmothers did any of this.
everythingnice everythingnice 10 years
very interesting indeed. the things done for beauty.
beingtazim beingtazim 10 years
thanks for this! this is so interesting to learn!
Beauty Beauty 10 years
Glad you like the quiz! I'll come up with some more — maybe it will be a weekly thing!
meganekko meganekko 10 years
The only one that I missed was about when women should not wear cosmetics. I guess I'm in the know! <3
Schaianne Schaianne 10 years
Wow, almost got them all right ... Missed that deoderant one though, haha. Crazy what people did in the past.
sashak sashak 10 years
fun quiz bella! keep 'em coming!!
Sexymixer Sexymixer 10 years
I agree with Adrianrny. We do the same wierd stuff to our bodies, except instead of trying to make ourselves lighter, we tan. Instead of making ourselves appear smaller we get butt implants. Also, instead of cherishing small and delicate features we try and make everything bigger (i.e. our lips). And let's not even get into the hair extensions!!!
adrianrny adrianrny 10 years
oops-- I meant to say write--that is what happens when you do 6 things at once. Seriouly--- People use SPRAY on tans, inject their lips with all kinds of crap, & we are making fun of Victorians??
Daisies Daisies 10 years
I second that Adrianrny! We really do some pretty weird things ourselves.
EcannDallas EcannDallas 10 years
i knew most of these...but then again im minoring in history and took a womens history class so i guess im disqualified!! haha.
adrianrny adrianrny 10 years
just think--in another 100 years you can right about how people actually injected botulism into their wrinkles, & bleached their asses!!
TexasTwinkle TexasTwinkle 10 years
Im with you black mamba! I would have thought lemon juice or orange juice in the eye would blind you. Thank goodness I was born in this era!!! Whew
Wicked Wicked 10 years
I wouldn't want lemon juice in my eyes
bookgirl bookgirl 10 years
@steen-are you referring to the use of vibrating devices for female hysteria?
cravinsugar cravinsugar 10 years
Spansih royalty, in the 15 and 1600's would bathe in rosewater as well.
steen steen 10 years
I love the historic facts, Bella! Victorian medical and science theories are so kooky. (If anyone's ever curious, see if you can find one of the official medical cures for hysteria --- if it helps, a man named Dr. Swift administered these treatments during house calls!)
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 10 years
maximum blode : amen! . actually the first time someone used an eyelash curler on me i litterally alomst had a metal breakdown. I had all sorts of horrible images in my head about that sciccor looking thing near my eye and cutting off my eye lids. of course nothing happened, but it didint'stop my overactive imagination from imagining these things. . I'm ok with the thing know... but wow, at the begingin it was hard.
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 10 years
very few of these i knew but today I learned somethings too. . very cool bella, do more quizes more often !
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