Nothing Beats Beets!

October 14, 2012

18th Century Makeup for $1.50

I had beets for dinner last night. They really are an underrated treat. Our ancestors knew the awesome power of beets: sweet, healthy, easy to grow, easy to store, and that bright color! The beets I have are the canned kind from the grocer’s, but that didn’t dampen their brilliant red color.

Added Bonus: 100% Natural ingredients:
Beets, Water, and Salt

Looking at the bright red juice left over in the pan, I was reminded of a tip my Nana had told me her mother used during the Great Depression in the 1930s: instead of lipstick, dab a slice of red beet onto your lips. The tip echoed especially clear because only a few hours earlier, I had checked up on Madame Isis’ Toilette, a fabulous 18th century cosmetics blog that explores and recreates historical recipes for rouge and other applications. I admit to cheating when it comes to rouge. Usually, I just dab on red lipstick and blot the majority of it off for a pinkish tinge on my lips and cheeks (yes, you can use lipstick as cream blush!). The method works well and looks period correct even though the method is not.

Madame Adélaïde, circa 1765
Mid-18th century make-up is heavier than later make-up, especially on the cheeks.

So, here I am with a pan of beet juice and a sudden urge to try out an 18th century-inspired look. It really doesn’t take much beet juice to get strong color, so two tablespoon of the leftover broth is plenty. In addition, I grabbed some fine cornstarch to be my face powder.

I used a q-tip to apply the juice (For you cheeks, use your fingers to dab, but be warned! It will stain your fingers, so watch what you touch) and a foam paintbrush to apply the cornstarch over the beet rogue. Here’s the result:

Any blotchiness is a fault of my bad skin, not the fault of the beets! If it were really the 18th century, my poor face would be practically covered in little black “beauty mark” patches!

Not bad, for under $2! Cornstarch is a great hair powder, but it isn’t the best facepowder. It doesn’t adhere well to skin and is too matte for my tastes, so if you can, try out a real 18th century white face makeup. The beet juice, however, works brilliantly. You can build up layers of color to make it as heavy as you desire. The natural red of beets is a beautiful cool, blue-based red that flatters most skin tones. The beet juice also works well for Elizabethan make-up (for gentlemen, too)!

“Lettice Knollys” attributed to George Gower, 1585
For Elizabethan make-up, use less rouge on your cheeks, if any, and plenty of white face make-up. Add a dab of beet rouge to your lips and you’re good to go!

7 Responses to “Nothing Beats Beets!”

  1. Very interesting read – hard-to-beet!

  2. Interesting reading – hard-to-beet!

  3. Isis Says:

    Beets really do have a lovely red colour! I have been asked if they were used for rouge in the 18th century, but I have never came across it. I’m no food historian so I don’t know if beets were common food back then, but if they were, then I think ladies must have been tempted to use it as rouge! Perhaps they did, it just wasn’t written down. :)

  4. The Choll Says:

    I am now fighting- REALLY fighting- the urge to open that lonely can of beets on my pantry shelf…

    Only the threat of discovery stops me, for now. I think if my roommate catches me rubbing roots on my face, that’s the end of non-institutional life for me.

  5. Isis Says:

    I was leafing through Richard Corson’s “History of Makeup” yesterday and found a reference to beets as rouge, which made me think of you! Not in the 18th century, but the 19th. One was to paint the juice on with a camel hair brush and when dry, rub with some chamois leather to blend the colour. :)

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