37 Responses to “Historic Beauty Days: A Cure For Freckles or Rose Complexion Masque”


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  1. Madeleine

    I love this post! I’m working at Monticello this summer and every time I walk in the gardens, I’m just so curious what was being used for personal care routines, etc. I know Jefferson did a lot of his own healthcare for himself as well as family and slaves, so I’m sure he sent for all kinds of interesting plants to make his remedies.

    My question is, can you explain distilled water to me? How do you use it? Do you only wash your face with distilled water? Why is that important? How can I start? Do you buy it/make it? How do you store it? Etc. I’m fascinated by this idea. Thanks!


  2. Lissa

    This is so fun; I may or may not try it but I love old beauty recipes! Especially when they’re presented in a format that’s actually doable (and with the dated bits ‘translated’). Thanks!

  3. Holly Berry

    I have been thinking for a while that this is a fabulous premise for a book. As a SAHM who is always looking for ways to do things myself in a more natural manner, I keep wondering how it was all done before the invention of all things packaged and processed. I freakin’ love your blog, BTW.

  4. Ashley Strachey

    What a good idea for the week! This should be very interesting. I wish I had some crunchy grandmothers to talk to about their skin, but alas, I do not. No contributions from my end, but I’ll enjoy reading these posts!

  5. Rachel

    interesting recipe and glimpse into history but i like my freckles. ^____^

    • Kelley

      Haha! Me too. Plus, I have waaaaaaaay to many freckles for something like this. I’d have to take a bath in it. :) Very interesting though!!

  6. angèlette aurélia

    I’m a 19th century women’s and cultural
    historian, so most of my knowledge of historic beauty regimens begins in the
    early 1800s. However, there are some extant sources that I think are kind of interesting
    and can still be useful (even if only for better understanding some of the culture
    and society in which our foremothers lived).

    Oftentimes beauty tips and recipes were included in both
    cookbooks and etiquette books, but these are some of the most solely beauty
    focused ones I could find at the moment. While these sources are more for
    understanding the cultural history of beauty (and women’s position in society
    in connection with beauty and femininity), and the progression of “acceptable” measures
    taken to achieve or maintain beauty at various points of time and as part of a
    particular culture, some of these recipes are still useful. However, others are
    downright impossible; primarily because 1) many of the ingredients are no
    longer available today, or 2) some of the ingredients have been proven to be
    harmful (i.e. though mercury was touted to cleanse the body and complexion of
    impurities, it’s extremely toxic).

    Dean, Teresa H. How to
    Be Beautiful, Chicago:
    T. Howard, 1889.

    Kingsford, Anna, MD. Health,
    Beauty and the Toilette, London:
    Warne and Co, 1886.

    Montez, Lola, The Arts
    of Beauty, New York:
    Dick and Fitzgerald, 1858. (Madame Lola Montez, the Countess of Landsfield, was
    a premier lecturer and authority on Women’s fashion and beauty in the mid 19th

    Reed, I. N. The Ladies’ Manual, Chicago: I.N. Reed and Co., 1883.

    Powers, S. D. The Ugly
    Girl Papers, New York:
    Harper and Bros., 1874

    Sylvia’s Book of the
    Toilette; A Lady’s Guide to Dress and Beauty, London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1881.

    The New Family Book;
    or Ladies’ Indispensable Companion, New
    York, 1854.

    Walker, Donald.
    Exercises for Ladies: Calculated to Preserve
    and Improve Beauty, London: Hurst, 1836.

    There are many, MANY more, but all of these can be easily
    found and downloaded from Google books. Given time, I could dig up more
    information on beauty from the 17, 18th and 20th century :
    ) If anyone would be willing to take over my jobs for a few weeks, I could get
    it done in no time! : )

  7. Barb

    From now on, I will have to remember to don ye olde pair of depends before reading your blogs. I almost wet myself at the thought of you cutting out “breast holes” in the cheescloth! By the way….did the faire ladies back then refer to them as breasts?

    • Denise

      Barb, I absolutely love that comment. You have me cracking up :O! CB is the best, I can’t have enough of her site; her knowledge, the simplicity in which the explains the processes, anyone can understand them, and her humor…how do you describe that…she’s simply amazing. Keep up the good work CrunchyBetty!

  8. Morgan

    This is fun! I love learning about historical beauty techniques, that said I love my freckles and would like to keep them. :)

  9. Meredith

    while interesting, I have to say that I love what few freckles I get in the summer time! I’ve always been envious of girls with freckly noses and cheeks!

  10. Stephanie

    I like my freckles! But I love reading about olde-timey things like this! Looking forward to rest of this series. :)

  11. Beth

    Love this! Your recipe posts are my absolute favorites. I owe much of my personal care “products” to your site. My skin and wallet are better for it. Bring on the olden days!

  12. Grace

    On my blog I posted a hilarious list of “frontier fixes.” Some were gross sounding remedies (Baldness: “Fertilize” new hair growth by smearing cow manure on head.) while others were very superstitious (Toothache: Spit into a frog’s mouth, and ask it to leave with the toothache). The list was originally in the Farmer’s Almanac. It’s worth a read.

  13. Laura

    be still my heart! you’ve just combined two of my most favorite things into one post…historic preservation and home remedies. hooray!

  14. the2bears2

    I love to hear that there are women out there that love their freckles…I, on the other hand have always wanted mine gone. I just might try this soon…I love the thought of the history behind all this…Keep it coming!

  15. Audra

    Check out “The Toilet of Flora;” the ebook is available to read on Google.

  16. Maggie Mahboubian

    Crunchy Betty needn’t worry about lemon juice and photosensitivity or dryness. Lemon essential oil, or more correctly, the expressed oil from the peel of the lemon contains furanocoumarins which are phototoxic, but not the juice. In addition, the acidity of the juice acts as a mild exfoliant (fruit acid) and helps soften the skin by loosening and dissolving dead skin cells. It will not dry out the skin any more than water, so it’s best to follow up your 18th century treatment with a nice emollient (virgin cold pressed coconut oil).

  17. Andrea

    I wash my face with oatmeal and moisture with coconut oil. I bet the rye flour alone would do something valuable. :)

  18. Alexandra Moyer

    The Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine has digitized many of their books and made them available online (http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/node9300909.html), where you can download them as pdfs. “A booke of physicall receipts” (1650) (Western manuscript #6812) has mostly medical recipes, but there are a few beauty-related ones:

    Bean flowers water, p. 27:

    “For makinge of the beane flower water you must at the tyme of the yeare take halfe a peck of beane flowers & as much of wild tyme & steepe them a whiles in milke & so let it be distilled.” (I googled bean flower water and apparently this was used as a facial wash or toner. What with the thyme and lactic acid in it I imagine it would be quite a good toner.)

    To get good colour, p. 78:

    “Steepe some wormwood in beere over night and drinke it in the Morninge before your bodyes [i.e., corsets] be laced then take some parsley & boyle in some milke & when it is ready put in a little butter & dreinke it an hower after you have drunke the beere.”

    And our old friend honey of roses, p. 32:

    “Take of the juice of red roses & of good hony of each a like quantety boyle them togeather on a softe fire to the substance of a sirrupe.”

  19. robert kool

    Betty, since you wrote that you don’t know how to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, please note the following example of 20 degrees Celsius. Divide 20 by 5 = 4 multiply by 9 = 36 add 32 = 68 degrees Fahrenheit. From Fahrenheit to Celsius, do the reverse. I learnt this in Holland in 1948 in school when I was 11 years old. Talking about developing a crunchy mind and not being preoccupied with one’s looks.

    • kylieonwheels

      When I was 11, I was learning that if I couldn’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

  20. Alex

    Sounds amazing. I’ve always hated my freckles, and always envied the girls without them. I might just try this sometime(;

  21. I stumbled in her because I was searching on “Beauties Treasury; Or the Ladies Vade-Mecum”. I know it has been a while since you wrote this, but if you are still interested, then you can find some information on my blog. I can also recommend Google Books for finding historical beauty recipes.

  22. Linda

    Betty, I just found your site a few nights ago and applaud you enthusiastically. I’m interested in finding food or oil that’s best for my eye tissues (below and lids). I’m 51 and have begun the stage of degeneration that can be a bit of a robber of my best feature. I have read about the egg membranes, but haven’t yet found anything for under makeup. That area is so much more delicate than the rest of my skin that I’m not 100% sure if I should use the same creams and lotions for the eye area. Many many thanks, linda

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  1. […] counterparts, Colonial women turned to skincare, not cosmetics, to solve their freckle problem. One common solution was the Rose Complexion masque, which sounds like a delightful product from Lush! Spoiler alert: It […]

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