Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Our ancestors did some fairly crazy things to look lovely and youthful.  Of course, given a certain portion of our modern population’s obsession with things like Botox and plastic surgery, it probably shouldn’t surprise any of us.  And yet, reading a recipe like this next one, along with its frightening instructions for use, can set one’s teeth on edge.  From Sarah Jane Downing’s Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950, here is a physician named Ruscelli’s chemical peel from the sixteenth century:

The user is advised to mix eggs, vinegar, turpentine, sugar-candy, camphor, rock alum, quicksilver, lemon juice, tartarum and white onion.  All this is mixed into a paste and placed in a thin layer over face, neck and bosom before retiring.  This no doubt foul-smelling treatment should be allowed to dry and then left on the skin for eight days.  Ruscelli’s instructions are particularly off-putting when he mentions that the paste should be left on even if the user feels as if her skin is being burned or flayed off.  The face was to be steamed at the end of the proscribed period to remove the paste and one must imagine a layer or two of skin.  Ruscelli goes on to warn that care should be taken to avoid open air, sunlight and even getting too close to the fire for another eight days.

In a word, yikes!

Here’s a kinder, gentler way to get rid of those pesky dead skin cells that won’t require the user to endure pure torture just to get through it. 

½ large, very ripe banana
1 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tsps honey
1 tsp lemon juice
Rice flour

Mash the banana with a fork.  You can use a food processor but be careful as you want to keep those little black seeds in tact to assist the rice flour to exfoliate your skin.

Add yogurt, honey and juice and mix until smooth.  Add rice flour as needed to form a paste.  Cover this mixture and chill it in the fridge for about 25 minutes.

Gently remix and then apply a thick layer to clean, dry skin on face, neck and décolleté, avoiding the eye area.  Now recline and relax for 15 minutes.  Rinse off with warm water and finish with your usual moisturizer.

The banana has a mild enzyme that will exfoliate and tighten skin.  The yogurt’s lactic acid dissolves dead skin cells; honey is antiseptic while lemon juice evens skin tone.  This mask is especially refreshing during warm weather but it works all year round without worrying about your skin burning or flaying off.  A votre santé ~

Header: French beauty Marie de Lorraine by Corneille de Lyon c 1550


Timmy! said...

You don't want your skin burned or flayed off, Pauline? I'm shocked.

Wow, that Ruscelli’s chemical peel was just scary, but then, as you pointed out people still do scary, crazy things to try to look good.

Pauline said...

I'll stick with the bananas and yogurt, I think :)