Friday, September 14, 2007

The Friday Fact


Ever wonder why the skin in 18th and 19th century portraits is so smooth and flawless? It's not just the way the painter painted it. That's the way some skin really appeared to be. It was all in the make-up.

Smallpox was a very real problem back then and could really leave some hideous scars, particularly on the face. To combat this problem, make-up was made out of wax. It went on smooth, and filled in any pockmarks and scars that had been left by smallpox. It was quite beautiful, and for people who had bad scars, it was probably a god-send.

There was a downside to it though. The makeup often contained high amounts of arsenic and lead. Many people who used wax make-up over a long period of time would eventually die of lead or arsenic poisoning. Usually lead since the skin absorbs that mineral more easily.

Since it's made of wax, it also melts easily. Hence the invention of firescreens. They served a dual purpose- to protect the skin from the heat of the fire and to keep the makeup from melting!

Both men and women wore it. There was only one way to tell the difference between a man's makeup kit and a woman's. The woman's had lip rouge in it, the man's did.

Next week is the ACFW conference, and since I'll be attending, there won't be a fact next week. I'll resume once the conference is over.

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