Monday, August 11, 2014

Post 2 of 3: Scare Tactics, Small Pox, and the Revolution Towards Natural Beauty

              Gilles Edme Petit after François Boucher
             "Woman at her toilette" Musée du Louvre

...Mouches were first used to cover up marks left by Small Pox...

In this post we will look at specific propaganda used to educate about cosmetics laced with chemicals, and how the inoculation of small pox helped change the ideal beauty standard.

A companion to yae-ough : gaping is catching.
England 1800

In mid 18th century Europe, the medical community started terrifying their readers with grotesque pictures and drawings in order to scare them away from chemically laced cosmetics.  Examples of their “mass education tactics” included drawings of women missing teeth with bright red rouge, like the one pictured above. The missing teeth were a result of the mercury found in rouges.[1]  Remember for choosing and making rouges, lead oxide and cinnabar were to be avoided. Their replacements were natural plants like sandalwood, saffron, and alkanet.  Other "scare tactic" examples included  rotting, crumbling teeth, or abundant discharges of saliva. Drawing like this showed the results of using these cosmetics, including death ( pictured in the previous blog). Healthy teeth were important because they were an expression of over all beauty and sexuality in the 18th century. This could be one reason we see so many recipes for taking care of the teeth in gums.

Small Pox & Beauty

"In hopes of clearing up a face scarred by pox" 

A face that did not have any scars or marks on was very important to the beauty and sexuality of the 18th century. Many women adopted the wearing of paint as a means to cover up scars and other marks of diseases, especially those left by Small Pox. Chemicals, like lead, are able to get into the blood stream with any type of open sore. Essentially, women who were using lead laced paint to cover up their pox marks [2]
Small Pox
weren’t really doing their body any favors. This is why the vaccination for small pox had such an affect on the artifice for cosmetics. Not everyone accepted the idea of the vaccination.  One method to educate the public, was putting out information on the inoculation. 

Sir Robert Blackmore’s dissertation
 on “the modern practice
 of inoculation”, 1723.
© The Wellcome Library, London

By the late 18th century incidents of small pox in France had declined with the new vaccination, but there were still huge issues in trying to get the lower class to take advantage of the inoculations.

In order to do this, some Dr’s harassed the fathers of lower class families until they agreed to inoculate their family.  Doctors’ believed that if they could prevent the small pox, they could change the types of cosmetics that were worn and desired by women.  One Doctor was known to say to the fathers of a lower class families, “ Why does the Parisian obstinately wish to see the nose and cheeks of his daughters eaten and scarred… when they could conserve the polish…which would make them the most charming creatures of Europe?” [3] In the American colonies, the practice of smallpox inoculation was much less common because they passed laws that prohibited and regulated it, for fear that it may do more harm than good. 

I think a good argument could be made here,  as a result of the inoculation for small pox, women were less likely to have scared faces, resulting in more confidence in their looks and requiring less white paint. This would lead to a new cosmetic movement in the later 18th century, using less makeup, more waters, and natural ingredients for cosmetics with an overall focusing on natural beauty.  We are sort of in the same movement today. Do you use natural cosmetics & toilette waters?

[1] Le Camus, Abdeker, ou l’art de conserver la beaute’ I:203-4
[2] Martin, Morag Selling Beauty 2009
[3] Mercier, Tableau de Paris, ch.342, I:927


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