The Beauty Secrets Of Empress Sissi

by Gio
the beauty secrets of empress sissi

Sissi was one of the most beautiful women of her time – and she knew it. It was her beauty that captivated the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph and prompted him to ask for her hand in marriage.

Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending to this fairytale. Sissi was a free spirit who longed for freedom and independence – the only two things forbidden to an Empress.

Imprisoned in a golden cage and unable to take control of her life, Sissi turned to the one thing she could control: her looks. Keeping her svelte figure and her face free from wrinkles became an obsession for her. She couldn’t stand the thought of growing old or what her pregnancies were doing to her body.

“Ah, the horror of growing old, to feel the hand of Time laid upon one’s body, to watch the skin wrinkling, to awake and fear the morning light, and to know that one is no longer desirable! Life without beauty would be worthless to me.”

Sad, isn’t it? Here’s the lengths Empress Sissi went through to stay young and beautiful:

How Empress Sissi maintained her slim figure

Empress Sissi was so proud of her tiny, 50cm waist, she went to great lengths to keep it that way. She hardly ate anything all day and exercised a lot.

Walking was a common exercise for women at the time, but Sissi took it to the extreme. Her walks could last up to 10 hours! Even the protests from her attendants, forced to follow her around, couldn’t convince her to shorten them. Only physical pain or illness did.

She also spent hours on the saddle. She loved horses and quickly became one of the best horse riders of her time.

Sissi was also obsessed with gymnastics. She had a gymnastics room installed at her palace and could be seen dangling from the rings! Her subjects were horrified. In their minds, this wasn’t a pastime suitable for an Empress.

P.S. Many historians today think that Sissi had anorexia. I’m not sure this is the correct diagnosis, but her strict exercise and diet regimens do point towards an eating disorder.


Empress Elizabeth of Austria was a skincare fanatic who jumped from one lotion to the other. Some of these recipes, like the strawberry facial mask or rose tonic, sound delicious, while others were bit gross…

An example? She applied raw veal on her skin at night. Sometimes, she also used a cream with lard, marshmallow roots and ground slugs. Fun fact: the cream took 4 hours to make!

One of her lotions, Cream Celeste, was a thick concoction of spermaceti, cera alba, sweet almond oil and glycerin she used to moisturize her skin during the cold winter months.

Her Cold Cream, was made with beeswax, sweet almond oil, rosewater and cocoa butter. It gave your skin a refreshing feeling that was so pleasant, it soon became a hit with the ladies of the court.

Elizabeth was a fan of bathing (phew!). She washed her body in warm water infused with olive oil. At night, she’d sleep with clothes soaked in vinegar above her lips – she was convinced it helped her stay slim.

Who made all these recipes? Usually, one of her ladies-in-waiting or the court pharmacy. It was more complicated than you think. Some of these creams had to be stirred up to 12 hours!


You’d think Empress Sissi loved makeup.

Wrong. She didn’t want anything to do with it. She believed makeup only interfered with nature’s work. For her, it was all about natural beauty.

Elizabeth was also very critical of women who wore makeup, like the beautiful Princess Pauline von Metternich: “She wears two inches of red powder on her lips and is dressed in material from countries that are far away even though she is too flat’. Ouch!

Hair Care

Empress Elizabeth had long, luscious, chestnut brown hair that almost reached the floor. It was her pride and glory and she spent two to three hours a day taking care of it!

Her hairdresser was Franziska (Fanny) Angerer Feifalik, a former theatre hairdresser. The Empress sat on a low chair in the center of her dressing room, while Fanny, all dressed in white (including gloves!), combed and styled her hair into elaborate hair-does.

Afterwards, she’d collect any straight hair from the comb and cloth and counted. If too many had broken off, Sissi would get upset.

This routine stated 2 to 3 hours a day. In the meantime, Sissi kept herself busy by learning languages such as Hungarian and Greek.

Washing her hair took hours, too. She did so every fortnight, using a mixture of cognac and egg yolk!



Marie June 13, 2011 - 5:12 pm

Thanks!: it’s always interesting to learn about beauty history!

beautifulwithbrains June 13, 2011 - 6:11 pm

Marie, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? I’m glad you enjoy it too.

Eleanor June 13, 2011 - 6:28 pm

Wow! Tht was really interesting. I can’t imagine spending that much time on looking great. It is sad that she anorexic. I suppose that was probably a comon problem for lots of royal ladies.

beautifulwithbrains June 13, 2011 - 6:53 pm

Eleanor, it’s incredible how much time she spent taking care of her appearance, isn’t it? I’d go mad if I had to spend two hours getting my hair done every day lol. That’s sad indeed. A royal life isn’t as good as it is seems. Behind the glitz and glamour, there are a lot of pressure and restrictions and it’s not easy to deal with them so it’s sadly not surprising that some women develop eating disorders. Maybe if she lived today, she would have got some help..

Trisha June 13, 2011 - 7:08 pm

This was REALLY interesting, Gio. It’s neat to hear how beauty was handled back in the day. Her opinion on makeup is a popular one where I live. I often feel like the only one in this big town that actually wears any.

beautifulwithbrains June 13, 2011 - 8:13 pm

Trisha, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

I feel like that too. Here most women either don’t wear any makeup at all or only very little so it looks like they have nothing on. I understand their opinion on makeup but I think it’s so much fun to wear it and do some brighter looks every now and then. πŸ™‚

vonnie June 13, 2011 - 7:48 pm

wow, that was so interesting to read! amazing research detail πŸ™‚ loved this post


beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2011 - 9:01 am

Vonnie, thank you. I’m glad you did. πŸ™‚

Phyrra June 13, 2011 - 11:10 pm

How neat!

beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2011 - 7:03 am

Phyrra, thanks. It is.

Makeup Morsels June 13, 2011 - 11:37 pm

I love reading your beauty history posts! I love the dress she’s wearing in that first picture. And omg 19 inches? o.O That’s extreme.

beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2011 - 7:04 am

Makeup Morsels, I’m so glad you enjoy them! The dress is beautiful and she was really slim, wasn’t she?

Konadlicious June 14, 2011 - 1:11 am

Excellent post, I really enjoyed this, thanks so much!
If only I had a smidgen of her willpower!

beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2011 - 5:21 pm

Konadlicious, I’m glad you enjoyed it. She really had a strong willpower indeed! I wouldn’t mind having some of it too but only a smidgen cos she really went to extremes to stay slim and that’s not good.

Ana June 16, 2011 - 6:21 pm

Oh, even before I came to anorexia bit (and the counting of the hairs!), I thought to myself “unhealthy” and “obsession”.
And those comments she made seem mean πŸ™ .

Great article, though :thumbsup: !

beautifulwithbrains June 16, 2011 - 6:39 pm

Ana, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, some of her comments are mean but I don’t think she was a bad person, just unhealthily obsessed with staying thin and young. I feel very sorry for her.

Tammy June 21, 2011 - 3:39 am

This was so cool to read! I love your nerdiness, lol!

beautifulwithbrains June 21, 2011 - 3:24 pm

Tammy, thanks lol. And I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

federifera March 24, 2012 - 1:12 am

Eww, vinegar-soaked clothes are gross πŸ˜› not to mention veal cream haha
I really didn’t know she had this anorexic behaviour though (not only because of little food and exercise, but her constant seek for perfection… I mean she studied Hungarian and Greek to kill the time and counted stray hair!). That kind of spoiled my picture perfect of her life πŸ™

she must have been pretty lucky with her eyes though, no bags, dark circles or wrinkles if she didn’t wear any makeup whatsoever!

I’m starting to think the films – I used to love them when I was a kid – didn’t tell the whole story lol. Or more likely they tell a completely different one!

By the way, this post was so interesting!

beautifulwithbrains March 25, 2012 - 9:02 pm

Federifera, I’m glad you enjoyed this post and I’m sorry I have spoiled your perfect picture of Sissi. Her story had all the makings of a fairytale, but as it often happens, she too find it very hard to deal with the pressures, responsibilities, duties and expectations that came with her rank. I think that, like many people who suffer from anorexia, she felt she had lost control of her life and, by controlling her weight so obsessively, she believed she had regained it. It really is so sad.

I loved the films too as a child, but they do take a lot of liberties with historical facts. But they are very enjoyable anyway. πŸ™‚

PrettyKitty June 2, 2012 - 10:44 pm

Wow this was really intresting. Thanks! πŸ™‚

beautifulwithbrains June 3, 2012 - 9:29 pm

PrettyKitty, you’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it. πŸ™‚

Janessa June 5, 2012 - 2:11 am

Eww, veal! She must have had no life, only focusing on beauty every single day! Slightly creepy but interesting.

beautifulwithbrains June 5, 2012 - 8:06 am

Janessa, I think she felt trapped and suffered because every moment of her life was strictly controlled by etiquette and all the demands and restrictions of her rank. She couldn’t control that, so she tried to control the way she looked, imo. It’s such a shame, though.

Lucy June 12, 2012 - 1:07 am

She had for breakfast 1 orange and a glass of milk

beautifulwithbrains June 12, 2012 - 6:28 am

Lucy, did she? How interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Beate February 26, 2013 - 7:13 pm

Very well written article!
One aspect on how she achieved to be remembered do be a true beauty as well, was not to be photographed after a certain age. She refused to be pictured or if she was she made sure her face wasn’t seen clearly. As far as I know, there’s only one – not publicised – photograph of her showing her face in her later years.

beautifulwithbrains February 26, 2013 - 9:05 pm

Beate, thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

And thank you for sharing this fascinating piece of news with us. πŸ™‚

Meshmesha March 9, 2013 - 10:15 pm

That was really awesome , I love those beauty history articles and your was wonderfully done ..Being from Egypt beauty history is always an intersting subject , here till today we use beauty recipes and secrets which goes back in history to ancient Egyptians (Pharoas era ) but they are still VERY effective πŸ™‚

beautifulwithbrains March 11, 2013 - 8:44 pm

Meshmesha, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I would love to hear more about these wonderful and ancient Egyptians tips. πŸ™‚

Loreto February 16, 2016 - 12:14 am

What a dedicated woman.
Really interesting to know that even those days, at least for one woman sports was a big part of her life. Amazing.

Gio February 16, 2016 - 8:29 am

Loreto, she really was. Too bad she did it for the wrong reasons, though.

Gokce March 7, 2019 - 7:20 am

Thanks for this info, very exciting. When I visited Sissi’s Belvedere Palace in Vienna I saw her gym πŸ™‚ very interesting for that era. But I still can not believe how she dealed with not eating all those delicious Austrian pastries, cakes etc. I think I couldn’t resist πŸ˜›

Gokce March 7, 2019 - 8:12 am

oh not Belvedere, it was SchΓΆnbrunn!

Gio March 8, 2019 - 4:46 pm

Gokce, I hear ya. I wouldn’t have been able to resist either!

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