Elizabethan magnificence and skincare

Common ideas of beauty during the Elizabethan era would be quite a spectacle today. Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted to keep a pure, innocent look, wore very white makeup that resulted in a thick, heavily made-up look. Although it was extreme, it made her appear pale and hide her smallpox scars and wrinkles. During this time, women of high society modeled their looks after that of the queen. It became desirable to have a high forehead, a small mouth, and pale skin and hair. Red hair was also considered beautiful. Many, if not all, of these styles were reserved only for the wealthy upper-class ladies-in-waiting and a few merchant women. Other lower economic groups were more concerned with work and therefore did not have the time, money, or ability to stay out of the sun or apply makeup. Many didn’t have the resources to have any type of skin care routine at all.

Skin care and foundation

Since pale skin was a sign of innocence, nobility and wealth in both men and women, talc and other lightening and lightening substances were widely used as makeup. Many skin care products and routines were harmful to the skin and some were even life threatening. Wrinkles were often extreme due to the use of harmful skin products, which led to more skin care products being used to hide the damage. Many women and some men used ceruse to appear very pale and unnaturally white. Ceruse, a mixture of vinegar and lead, was a popular cosmetic foundation that caused horrific skin sores, wrinkles, acne, and other damage. Many women have died of lead poisoning from using Ceruse.

  • It was unusual to have good skin care regimen, and many women didn’t wash the grain (or other products) regularly, if at all.
  • When women washed their faces, it was often with a mixture of alum, honey, eggshells, and mercury, as this was meant to treat blemishes and to hide wrinkles and other signs of aging.


Blush, also known as fucus, was made from some very unusual materials by today’s standards. It often consisted of a mixture of vermilion, gum arabic, egg white, fig, ocher, madder, and cochineal.

  • Vermillion was made from cinnabar, and gum arabic was made from the fibrous part of an acacia tree.
  • Ocher comes from clay and madder comes from a flowering plant.
  • Cochineal comes from a beetle-like insect.

Eyes and brows

During the Elizabethan era, large and light eyes were fashionable, ideally with thin, highly arched brows over them. Women raised their eyebrows in very thin, high arches. Women often used cabbage to outline their eyes after adding drops of belladonna to dilate their pupils.

  • Belladonna is a poisonous plant in the nightshade family that, in addition to dysfunction of the nervous system and even death, can cause increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
  • Kohl eyeliner is usually high in lead, which over time can poison someone and make them terminally ill.

Hair and wigs

Light blonde and red blonde were the desired hair colors of the Elizabethan times. Women often tried to dye their hair. Some of the most common ingredients used to lighten hair were saffron, cumin, celandine, oil, and urine. Women who were not satisfied with their hair color often wore wigs. It was known that Queen Elizabeth had the same tudor red hair color throughout because of the wigs she wore, even as she got older. Big foreheads were also considered beautiful, so many women not only dyed their hair or wigs, but also plucked their hairlines back an inch or more to lift their hairline.

  • The hair was tied tightly and curls were placed close to the head to frame the face.
  • Plucking and other harsh treatments, along with poor diet, often resulted in early baldness in women.

Learn more

  • Renaissance fashion
  • Elizabethan clothing worn by men, women and children
  • Who were the nobility?
  • Queen Elizabeth’s influence on Elizabethan fashion
  • Elizabethan Famous, Fashion and Everyday Life
  • Special effects in the theaters of Elizabethan England
  • Aristocratic Women at the Late Elizabethan Court: Politics, Patronage, and Power
  • Shakespeare and the Four Moods: Elizabethan History and Medicine
  • Court hierarchy in Elizabethan England
  • Unmasking the ideology of the “ideal woman”
  • Medicine in the time of Shakespeare
  • Elizabethan fashion in the British Isles
  • Early life, culture, and industry in Elizabethan England
  • Clothing in the Elizabethan Era
  • Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Clothing in Elizabethan England
  • Queen Elizabeth I’s cloakroom
  • Shakespeare Unlimited: Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Elizabethan Theater
  • Elizabethan social hierarchy
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England
  • The Elizabethan Age
  • Social structure during the time of Elizabeth I.
  • Life at Tudor Court
  • Fashion, arts, festivals and famous people of the Elizabethan era
  • Elizabeth I’s fashion and beauty

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