Sunday, October 24, 2010

1930s Skin Care and Makeup Routine




Yesterday evening FiancĂ© and I went to a Halloween themed RiffTrax party hosted by a friend of ours. He hosts these parties about every three months or so and always starts off with a viewing of several "Riffed shorts." Imagine my surprise when this beautiful full color short staring Constance Bennet from 1937 popped up on the screen. 

I get a little thrill of excitement whenever I see images of the 1930s in color. I immediately fell in love with her peach house coat (that shows up at about the 0:47 second mark) and her over-the-top Hollywood Starlet lifestyle. I was charmed by the fact that she demonstrated her entire morning routine over her makeup. 

It was a little hard to get everything she was saying over the "riffing" so this morning I hopped onto youtube and found the original version to share with all of you. 



So here's a recap of Constance's rather lengthy morning skin care and make-up routine and how you can immitate it. 

1. Cleansing Cream 
Cleansing creams (or Cold Creams) in the 1930s were not what you would think of when you think of "skin cleansers." Today's Skin Cleansers are typically make-up removers or soaps. Cold creams don't really cleanse so much as soften skin and help remove dirt that had dissolved into the oils of the skin. Oil dissolves oil after all. Their main ingredient was typically mineral oil at this time. I know today oil has a bad reputation for clogging pours, but you're not meant to walk around with Cold Cream on your face all day. Simply put it on a thin layer and gently remove with a cloth as Constance demonstrates. 

While I wasn't able to find a truely 1930s cold cream recipe the formula really hasn't changed for two hundred years. There are some differences in recipes, but in general a cold cream starts with an oil base and works up from there. Here's a relatively simple recipe to try at home:

Simple Cold Cream 
Beeswax                     1 ounce.
Mineral Oil                 6 Tbsp.
Distilled Water          4 Tbsp.
Borax                          1 tsp.
Essential Oil               2-3 drops.

Borax works as an antiseptic. Some cold creams contain Borax and some do not. Or you could always do what I would do and buy yourself some Cold Cream. Boot's Original is sold at most Target stores and works wonders. Whichever way you decide to go using your Cold Cream is easy. Simply rub cream onto freshly washed skin (make sure you've removed your make up, unlike Constance) and then gentle remove cream with a soft towel. Many vintage loving gals recommend a muslin cloth for removal, but say flannel also works quite well. 

2. Stimulant Cream 
What Constance is referring to is and oil based cream with something to stimulate the pours. I don't know exactly what product she is using or its ingredients, but the common beauty regimen of the 1930s almost always included some sort of skin tonic, skin stimulant or skin freshener as a follow up to cleansing cream. This could be a cream that contained some sort of skin astringent (cinnamin oil, lemon oil, tannic acid etc) or sometimes a skin irritant to wake up the skin and give it a "youthful glow" (read: redness). I did find one very interesting recipe for a stimulating tonic: 

Orange and Lemon Tonic
Put one slice of orange, half lemon and two tablespoons of castor sugar into a pan with a cup of milk. Heat the mixture to near boiling point. When it cools, it is ready for use. Store it in the fridge. 

Not totally sure how I would feel about rubbing cooked milk on my face. So if you are like me and not quite brave enough to try the above you could try this recipe:

Rose Water and Witch-Hazel Tonic
Mix 3/4 cup rosewater and 1/2 cup witch-hazel. 

Apply to a cotton ball and gently dab over face. Quite refreshing and it smells better than just pure witch-hazel though sometimes I think it makes me smell like an old lady's house. 

3. Complexion Mask
Again I'm not sure exactly what Constance is using here, but I've found a lot of skin care ads from the 1930s that list tissue cream or "skin food" as the next step in a lady's skin care regimen. In the 1930s it was believed that wrinkles were caused by a loss of fat in the face. As the face lost fat the skin fell into the holes left behind causing wrinkles. Tissue cream often contained peanut oils, animal fat, lanolin, or sweet almond oil and it was thought that the skin absorbed these oils and replenished its fat with them, thus reducing wrinkles (hence why Constance wears this cream the longest). This of course was not the case, but that didn't mean they weren't effective in a morning beauty routine. The oils simply sat on the skin and acted as a moisturizer instead. So this is just another moisturizing step. 



In my search for a 1930s complexion masks and face foods I stumbled across formulas from the 1900s through 1950s and found the contents are pretty much the same for a good 50 years. All start with several oils or fats for a base and ad some sort of scent. The earliest recipe I could find for skin food was from 1902.  

Skin Food - 1902



White wax     1 ounce.
Spermaceti    1 ounce.
Lanolin    2 ounces.
Sweet almond oil    4 ounces.
Cocoanut oil        2 ounces.
Benzoin (tincture)    3 drops.
Orange flower water    2 ounces.



Melt the first five ingrediants together, take off the [heat], beat together until nearly cold, adding little by little the benzoin and orange flower. 

I might suggest replacing the Spermaceti (Sperm Whale head fat) with something like Beeswax or avocado oil and the Benzoin (today used mostly as an adhesive) with something like vegetable glycerin. Also, if you have a wool allergy I strongly suggest you don't use Lanolin oil. 


And thus ends the cleansing portion of the video.

4. Glow Base
Constance's glow base is a cream foundation. A pale mauve or ivory with a touch of pink was a popular foundation color in the 1930s, by the late 1930s more peach colored foundations were becoming more popular. A 1930s foundation was very very thick and quite oily. Sheer foundation is not the way to go when you're trying to get the 1930s face. The make up of the day covered very heavily and created a matte, solid color base for make up. Ideally very little of your natural skin color should show through. 


The closest product I've found to a 1930s cream foundation is stage make-up. Ben Nye makes some fabulous full coverage make up. Their concealer pallet and their cream Euro Series are great for the 1930s look. 

5. Cream Rouge 
Most girls don't like cream rouge she says. Well that's because it's a pain in the you-know-what to apply. I don't like it, but if you're going for an authentic look I can definitely point you in the right direction. After you've applied your "glow base" you should have a very stark very matte complexion. You can't leave it this way or you're going to look like a ghoul. The next step is to apply a rouge to your cheeks. Try to look for a pastel pink for an early 30s look. For a late 30s look you can use purple reds or raspberry shades as well.  


Something similar to cream rouge is available in makeup stores like Sephora or Ulta today, but it's more of a cheek stainColose makes a good cream rouge, but the colors are limited and it can be difficult to find in stores. Ben Nye stage makeup makes a very thick good coverage cream blush that I love the look of, but I will warn you that it can be difficult to apply subtly. And by difficult I mean major major major pain, needs lots of practice, don't try this if you need to leave the house in 10 minutes. 


To use pat your index and middle fingers onto the blush pallet so you get just a touch of color on them and apply to the cheek bone in circles. Repeat, adding color very slowly and over several layers. 

6. Powder
Follow up with any good powder that you like and matches your foundation base. I sometimes like to use a very very pale pretty pink powder for a lovely glow. 

7. Lipstick
Constance tells us about how she's finally found a lipstick that stays on, but not what brand she uses. I say grab whatever lipstick brand you like and go nuts for this part.  I've had good luck with Covergirl's Color Last line for staying power, but it doesn't have the heaviest pigment. 


For a 1930s lip you want to do a very thick application of lip stick. For an early 1930s look try pinker lighter colors. For a late 1930s look you can use dark pinks, bright redish purples, and even chinese red. For shape you're going to want to do what was called a rosebud mouth. You'll want to give yourself full lips with an elongated bow. You should actually be going a little beyond your natural top lip line. 






Constance neglects to tell us how she does her eyes, but I found the video overall to be very cute and charming. I hope you've enjoyed and are inspired to try your own vintage face care regime. I recommend doing all this in a glorious home made silk housecoat or lounging suit. 

8 comments:

BaronessVonVintage said...

Thanks for sharing this! I now know how I am going to pamper myself (and my skin!) today!

Nancy said...

I have to apologize for the formatting issues and typos on this post. For some reason Blogger is having a bit of a tummy ache. I'm currently working on solving this problem.

Lisa said...

Great post! I actually remove my make up with cold cream. I'm not sure I understand the point of it if you have already taken off your make up. Can you clarify? :-)

Marie said...

How wonderful, thanks for sharing!

Nancy said...

Lisa: Yes I can clarify. As far as I know it's best to use a very mild soap on your face first. I've heard this is to help loosen surface dirt and remove things like powder make-up. That way you're not pushing those particles down into the pours.

As for why you should use it after soap if your face is already clean it's to soften skin and replace the daily oils you've just removed. But hey, if using it to remove make up works for you I say go with it! No need to change a routine that's working. This is just what I've always done. I like to use a mild soap to remove make up myself because that works better for my skin type.

Lisette said...

What a hoot of a video. Ironically, it is pretty much identical to my own modern routine, only updated with modern cosmetics. Rose-scented witch hazel is the best!

Lisa said...

Thank you, I hope you didn't think I was being snitty - I've just always heard of cold cream as being a cleanser so using soap first seemed a bit redundant. I guess though, if you have a lot of creme/liquid foundations / eye makeup then it would loosen the thick layer of dirt. Tried it tonight and it did seem different, I certainly used less cold cream. :-)

Rachel said...

swallow's nest in an edible gel form is supposed be good for the skin too. it gives that clear and pasty skin that we all love.

it's mad expensive. my brother and i bought some for my mom for her birthday. it was like 400 bucks for like a 6-8 oz jar. Luckily we finally found the one of popular brand online (hongkong-bird-nest.50webs.com/index_e.htm and http://www.euyansang.com/)

dad said it's really popular in indonesia. that a guy has to climb a high mountain to get the nest. that's why it's so expensive.

i mean why doesn't the dude just look for the fabled korean swallow king, capture it and let it lay eggs full of gold! then, he wouldn't have to work so hard and climb them high mountains.