Category Archives: make-up

Her Recipe for Red Cheeks: 1892

Her Recipe for Red Cheeks.

The various artifices that a woman will resort to in order to beautify and adorn her person, are many and unique, to say the least. She can supply nature’s deficiencies so skillfully that even her dearest (?) friend will remain in ignorance of the fact that she is not just as she appears. The following novel plan was adopted by a woman whose cheeks were colorless, according to the New York Recorder. The fact that she did not have a bright healthy glow troubled her greatly, but rouge she would not use–“that,” she declared, “no respectable woman would put on her face.” But just how to obtain the desired result was a mystery to her.

At length her woman’s wit came to her assistance, and the result of her experiment was so satisfactory that she now has a beautiful complexion. Every afternoon she retires to the solitude of her room, there to remain until she emerges dressed for her afternoon calls. Just what she does to obtain that lovely glow would, perhaps, never have been known had not her little 5-year-old daughter asked in the presence of the writer, “Mamma, what does you put plasters on your cheeks for?”

That solved the mystery!

This fair daughter of Eve applies two mild mustard plasters daily to her face, and keeps them there for an hour or more, when her cheeks become as pretty and as bright as a young girl’s.

Buffalo [NY] Evening News 15 October 1892: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Truly a lady who believed that there is no beauty without suffering… It was thought by some medical men that mustard plasters would not only ease chest congestion and other ailments, they would “draw off” bad temper.  One can only hope this was true; otherwise, the little 5-year-old might have been punished for her candour.

If too strong or left in place too long, mustard plasters might also cause severe burns–in some households and orphanages, they were used as a punishment–hence the “mild” plasters used by the anti-rouge lady above.  Still, they may have been less risky than the use of cosmetics full of lead, arsenic, and antimony. Cautionary tales about poisonous cosmetics filled the papers with headlines such as “Poisoned by Cosmetics” and “Beauty Mask Causes Death of Bride-to-Be.”

They were also the subject of macabre jokes:

With deadly rouge on the market, a man would be afraid to kiss his own wife even if he wanted to. No husband would get a thrill out of committing suicide at home. He’d rather be poisoned by a strange pair of lips.

El Paso [TX] Herald 12 February 1927: p. 17


An Awful Death.

Countess (arises and finds her pet dog dead)—Heavens! How foolish I was to go to bed rouged. Fido evidently kissed me during my sleep and has ignobly perished.

The Evening World [New York, NY] 10 January 1888: p. 2


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.