18th Century Cosmetics

I am wary of the skin care advice and products in the Toilet of Flora but the hair stuff seemed worth a try.

I started with the most difficult part which was the pomatum. I read up on it and the general opinion was that if you want firm pomatum, you need mutton fat.


Spoiler: This did not prove to be much of a problem.

As I was thinking about this, I ended up with a very nice rack of lamb – grass-fed, free-range, happy until the very end – which still had some fat on it. Not a lot (not even half a pound) but something. So I cleaned off every little bit off meat on it and then put it into fresh water which I regularly changed every 12 hours. (Once you drain the fat the first time, you’ll get why this is necessary.)

Hypothetically I should have done this also with pig’s lard but I had access to white, odorless, no-preservatives rendered pig’s lard. I did give this whole thing a try with a small amount of pork fat and the result was nice but in no way superior to what I could buy.

But I did learn a fun fact about lard – it takes to scent exceptionally well. It doesn’t keep but it recognizes and strengthens scents you wouldn’t pick up on under normal circumstances.

The most important thing about rendering fat is to use a bain-marie. Unless you want some fries with that. But every time you melt it, you need to keep on a constant low heat. A bain-marie is super-helpful and you can easily fake one by putting a smaller pot into a larger one.

Also interesting bit – a little mutton tallow goes a long way and it has to. My lamb didn’t taste like mutton but its fat, even though there was very little of it, smelled very much like mutton.

Anyway, I took my rendered fat, my lard, some clove oil (a little goes a looooong way with that smell too), bergamot and lavender oil into my baine-marie and melted it, poured it into my little pots and waited for it to harden. (This part took hours, even though the mix cooled very quickly.)

I didn’t take any pictures of the process – much of it was unexciting, some of it actually gross.

The hair powder was much easier.

Things I apparently needed


This does look slightly illegal.

Wheat starch (the original recipe asked for 4 pounds, I was, like, no way I’ll ever need this much)
“a handful” of bovine bone meal (apparently a thing you can get for your dog…)
orris root for the smell (but I was underwhelmed by the smell of orris root, so I used very little)
cuttlefish bones (I did draw the line at that and just didn’t)
and ochre for a “flaxen” hair color (I am not fond of whitely powdered hair look, so this was a definite go.)

A sieve (not pictured), saran wrap to save your place from the mess you’ll inevitably make, and a tin for your finished hair powder.


I threw in everything in a big pot, using more than a handful for the bone meal. (And I don’t even get the point of that ingredient!)

Then I mixed it all up and then added pretty much all the ochre I had to reach a yellowish color. (The original recipe said “very little” but then I did have very little of it.)

Then I pored it through a sieve, a step seemingly unnecessary because thanks to electricity the starch, orris root and bone meal is probably as fine as anything you found at the other hand of a hair sieve in the 18th Century. The ochre wasn’t as finely milled, so I fished out some ochre leftovers though.


I spent more time on this tin than on the hair powder.

So how does it look, my period correct hair pomade and powder?

Well, my tins and pots look very nice. In my hair though? I am reluctant to actually give it a try….

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