Rouge was one of the most popular cosmetics used in the past. Worn by both women and men to add colour to their cheeks and lips, it was said to give a youthful look to the complexion and make you more attractive. That’s because its reddish hue mimicked the colour of cheeks and lips during sexual arousal.
The Toilette of Health, Beauty, and Fashion, published in 1834, gave readers a few tips and recipes to help them make their own at home:
It would be well were those ladies whose taste may lead them to relieve the deficiency of their complexion by means of rouge, were they to compose the articles themselves. They would not then run the risk of using those dangerous reds in which deleterious minerals are ingredients, of spoiling the skin, and of exposing themselves to the inconveniences which we have alluded to, as liable to result from the use of metallic paints.
The more dangerous reds are those compounded with minium, which is a calx of lead, or cinnabar, otherwise called vermilion, produced by sulphur and mercury. Vegetable red therefore should alone be used. These are attended with little danger, especially when used with moderation.
The vegetable substances which furnish rouge, are red sanders wood, root of orchanet, cochineal, Brazil wood, and especially the bastard saffron, which yields a very beautiful color, that is, mixed with a sufficient quantity of French chalk or talc.
Some perfumers compose vegetable rouges, for which they take vinegar as the excipient. These reds are liable to injure the beauty of the skin. It is more advisable to compound them with oleaginous or unctuous substances, and to form salves. For this purpose, balm of Mecca, butter of cacao, oil of ben, &c. may, for instance, be employed.
There are females whose skin cannot be reconciled to unctuous bodies; such, therefore, may use the following:
1. Take Briancon chalk, and reduce it to a very fine powder — add to it carmine in proportion to the vividness of the red which you intend to produce; and carefully triturate this mixture, which may be applied to the skin, without danger; or
2. Take French chalk prepared, four ounces; oil of almonds, two drachms; carmine, one ounce.
Obs. — The makers of rouge, from motives of economy, sometimes substitute cinnabar for carmine. It may be ascertained if carmine be genuine, as in this case it is not altered either by the mixture of oxalid acid, or volatile alkali. The rouge of which we have just given the composition, may likewise be made up with salves; it then produces a superior effect, being a better imitation of the natural colors.
3. A liquid rouge to produce a perfect imitation of the colors of nature may be made as follows: — Add to a pint of French brandy, half an ounce of benzoin, an ounce of red sandal wood, half an ounce of Brazil wood, and the same quantity of rock alum. Cork the bottle with care, shake it well once a day, and at the end of twelve days it will be fit for use. The cheeks are to be lightly touched with it.
4. Take Brazil wood and rock alum; pound and add them to a bottle of red wine, and boil it till it is reduced to one fourth part. To use this, dip a piece of cotton wool into it, and rub the cheeks.
5. Take half an ounce of red sandal wood, half an ounce of cloves, and five pounds of sweet almonds. Pound the whole together. Upon this paste pour two ounces of white wine, and an ounce and a half of rosewater. Let the whole be stirred up well together. In about eight or nine days, strain this paste in the same manner as is done to extract the oil of sweet almonds, and a very good red oil will be obtained.
6. Alkanet root strikes a beautiful red when mixed with oils or pomatums. A scarlet or rose-colored ribbon, wetted with water or brandy, gives the cheeks if rubbed with it a beautiful bloom, that can scarcely be distinguished from the natural color. Others only use a red sponge, which tinges the cheeks of a fine carnation color.
Would you have used rouge back then?