Regency Dish: Lotions and Potions

With the changing of the Seasons (albeit slowly and very moodily here in the PacNW) my beauty regime is in need of tweaking.

Sunscreen products, gentler lotions, and watery melons are making their appearance around the household.

Home remedies must have been a common occurence in the Regency era, but for those discerning ladies with disposable income, lotions and potions were available:


(La Belle Assemblee, 1807).

The Art of Beauty (1825) offers remedies for all sorts of skin conditions, including wrinkles, pimples and scars.

The wrinkle remedy includes barley water and the Balm of Mecca, which was a new herbal remedy suggestion to me.

The balm of Mecca apparently is mentioned in the Bible, with its origins in Egypt, and is made from the gum of the Commiphora gileadensis.  The Balsam of Mecca (or Gilead as it is sometimes known) is related to myrrh and frankincense, and according to more recent research, has been verified as offering many medicinal uses…particularly as an anti-bacterial agent.

One of the remedies for pimples seems much more dangerous in light of modern medicine:

While illegal in the US, mercury is actually still commonly used in cosmetics, particularly for skin bleaching and ant-ageing purposes.  According to an FDA release , mercury laden cosmetics continue to hospitalize individuals with mercury poisioning.  There is a great blog post on “death by makeup” touching on the subject for those interested.

As for sunburns, the Art of Beauty also has several remedies and preventative potions for the skin:

This indispensible beauty guide also has diets and diet dangers, exercise regimes, paints and cosmetics, hair cleansing suggestions, and all sorts of medicinal recommendations for eyes, face, limbs and other essential female body parts.

Its nice to see how little our drive to be beautiful has changed.  While their is more noise and a vast larger selection of products, the elements of beauty…with potential dangers of excess continue on.

For those interested, the Art of Beauty also offers up summaries of theories of beauty from Plato to Lord Kames, so its definitely worth a peek!



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One Response to Regency Dish: Lotions and Potions

  1. I confess I enjoyed the discussion between the Marquesa and Lady Ombersley about skin preparations, the latter waking from sleep with the utterance ‘Lotion of the Ladies of Denmark!’ upon her lips, I keep meaning to research the dubious potions they discussed. I’ve always used cold tea or mashed house leek for sunburn to good effect by the way. I believe balm of Gilead was used in some dentifrice powders too