Saturday, 6 July 2013

Beauty At Any Cost

I wanted to share some fascinating info I discovered while researching my novel-in-progress, A Proper Lady.  It seems that women's age-old quest for beauty took an interesting turn in the mid-Victorian era.  The use of cosmetics and any artificial potions, lotions and concoctions was frowned upon by the staid Victorians who believed a woman's beauty lay in her natural God-given charms. Washing in clean water was the only thing necessary to preserve the natural bloom of her cheeks.

Since most young, eligible well-to-do women relied on physical beauty to catch a husband there was a major problem if you happened to be sallow, pimpled, swarthy or an aging spinster or widow looking for a last chance at marriage.  Or if you were married and had a husband with a wandering eye for the younger women.  Women such as these were preyed upon by unscrupulous "cosmeticians" offering all manner of exotic processes imported "from the harems of the Turkish Sultans" or "the depths of Arabia" that promised instant beauty!  These came at a staggering cost.  Some procedures costing from 250 to 1000 guineas for a course of treatments (hundreds of thousands of dollars in present day money).    
There was also a social cost.  Frequenting such salons was considered scandalous and "loose behaviour" and made a woman susceptible to all types of extortionists!
The enamelling salon

One increasingly popular procedure was "enamelling".  Check out this description from the late Victorian era:
The lady is first carefully examined with a microscope, and any rough hairs or fuzz which exist upon the cheek or bust are at once removed with liniment or plaster, medicated soap, scissors or tweezers. The skin is then prepared by an alkaline wash, after which all wrinkles and depressions are filled with a yielding paste. Then the face is simply painted, and artists in this line generally prefer to use the poisonous salts of lead for the purpose, as they produce more striking effects than any other pigment. 
 The cheeks or bust are then coated with a fine enamel, which is composed of arsenic or white lead and other ingredients made into a semi-paste. After the white layer is applied, the red tinting is done. Ordinary coating will last for a day or two, but to render the operation of permanent value, the process must be repeated once or twice a week.
During the early 1900's Queen Alexandra's use of cosmetics, wigs and yes - enamelling - to preserve her legendary beauty in her golden years, made their use more respectable for the older woman.
Queen Alexandra in her later years

The Forever Ones, my new Kindle book, takes this whole idea into the future when we'll probably have the option to reverse our age whenever we want.  Sound too incredible?  Not really.  Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have already mapped telomerase, an enzyme that has a rejuvenating effect on aging cells.  Check out this article:

Trouble is who will control it?  Who will have access to it? And what effect will it have on humanity when we could possibly live forever.  It changes everything!  These are some of the questions considered in the novel The Forever Ones.  You can buy my novel using the following link:
And don't worry if you don't have a Kindle.  Just download the free Kindle app for your phone, laptop or desktop and then you can buy my book!  It's available on Amazon UK, Amazon Canada and Amazon US as well as many other Amazon stores.  Check it out and write a review on Amazon!  C'mon - you'll like it.  I promise.