Tag Archives: natural beauty

Renaissance Beauty Secrets Workshop

Creating Natural Cosmetics at Hampton Court Palace

Golden Arch – Gateway to Learning
Adult Learning Centre at Hampton Court Palace

It was a bright  day on August 21st and a merry band of 12 students had gathered to learn the art of cosmetic making inspired by the lush complexions of the Stuart beauties.

Little did they know that much toiling over less than desirable potions containing toxic ingredients were the order of the day in their primping and grooming regimes,  which you can read more of on a previous post here.

However, our ingredients, although inspired by the spirit of beauty displayed by the Stuart lovelies, are non-toxic, natural and plant based – so no fear of losing your teeth of developing pocked skin!

We had lots of fun creating and sampling  beautifying masks and a very soft balm combining shea butter and coconut.

budding beauty alchemists!
photo credit: Historic Royal Palaces

I chose white clay and red clay not only for their amazing cleansing and refining properties and their  safety, but also for their visual resemblance to the white lead and cerise the ladies of 17c, who would have used these undesirable items to tint and whiten their complexion and to apply a blush to  their lips and cheeks.

White Argiletz Clay (also known as kaolin or China clay)

I love white clay, it is incredibly fine-textured and easy to use.  The main action of any clay is to draw out toxins and absorb excess impurities and oils, however,  this is most gentle of the French argiletz clays and is suitable for all skin types, especially dry skin conditions.

It is not too drying, is soothing and rich in silica and magnesium helping to not only gently exfoliate and clarify the skin but also to replenish it.

White clay can also be used as a body powder and is particularly useful as a foot powder to absorb excess moisture.

White clay absorbs water very quickly, so when making your mask, add a few drops at a time. Use a teaspoon of clay initially to 1 teaspoon of water.  Allow the liquid  to absorb before stirring with a wooden/glass or ceramic utensil, adding more clay or water accordingly to achieve your desired texture.

Red Argiletz Clay

Iron oxide rich Red Clay

This clay is rich in iron oxide – hence its copper red colour – and is rich in trace minerals.  It is fine to the touch, but a little grainier in texture when water is added, than the White clay.  It revitalises the appearance and brightens dull and congested skin, it is strengthening to capillaries and can help improve condition of dry, sensitive and irritated skin.

If using this clay on its own, I would only leave on for between 5-8 minutes, it can leave a faint colour, so wash off well with warm water.

The beauty of using these clays is that they can be used alone or mixed together to form a basic ‘dry mix’ thereby creating a therapeutic and bespoke mask to suit your specific skin needs.

Making the mask:

For practical sampling, our group created a few samples of white, red and the two mixed together for a pink clay:

1. Take one teaspoon of clay and add to a small shallow bowl

2. Add a little water and allow the clay to absorb all the water before stirring to combine – this helps to avoid air bubbles and lumps; add clay a little at a time if the mixture is too thin and water incrementally until you achieve your desired consistency.  Remember to stir once most of the water has been absorbed.

This is your basic mask mix; the water phase can be replaced with a cooled herbal infusion or tea, such as green tea, chamomile etc or a floral water to suit your skin type (rosewater, neroli, lavender etc).

The most popular mix of the day was the white on its own for the more sensitive and dry skins and the mix of red and white for those who desired a more clarifying and brightening effect.

We practised on the back of our hands, and lo and behold, the skin was brighter, more even and softer – what wouldn’t the Stuart beauties have given for that instead of the mercury and lead based powders and paints they used instead!

Sampling red clay on the hand – prepare for lily-like hands!
photo credit: Historic Royal Palaces

The clays  can be further tailored to suit your skin needs by adding other ingredients to boost their effect, such as oatmeal, banana, strawberries etc.

We practised with adding honey to the clay+water mix,  which has humectant properties and is very nourishing and hydrating, or double cream – pour in a little at first and stir slowly without over-mixing, this is incredibly softening and gives a smooth, cooling mask.

Adding other agents from your fridge or larder can really help to adapt your basic dry clay mask  mix for every season and skin ‘mood’!

Making our Body Balm

With our skin clean, refreshed and silky-smooth, we turned our attention to the Body Balm.

Inspired by the hogs-grease and animal-based pomades of the Renaissance, I turned to the modern day, plant-based butters we now have available to us in order to create a soft paste-like balm to soften and hydrate the skin.

Shea butter and shea nuts
skin softening heaven

We combined shea butter and coconut oil (sweet almond could also be used) and a choice of essentials oils, inspired by the plants and herbs Apothecaries of the day may have used.

Everyone was diligently combining the shea butter with the coconut oil until they achieved their desired consistency and then we added the scent!

A choice of the following organic essentials were available:

  • Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia (High altitude)
  • Orange – Citrus sinensis
  • Rose otto – Rosa damascena
  • Geranium – Perlargonium graveolens
  • Clove bud – Eugenia caryophyllata
  • Benzoin – Styrax benzoin
  • Grapefruit – Citrus paradisi
  • Rosemary – Rosemarinus officinalis

The most popular combinations were:

  • A delicate and soft combination of Rose + Benzoin
  • An ‘Elizabethan-type pot pourri’  of Rose, Lavender, Geranium + Clove
  • Reminiscent of liqueurs:  Benzoin + Orange
  • Warm and spicy mix of Orange + Clove

A sample of our scented Shea butter and Coconut oil balm
a silky skin marvel!

The shea butter balm is a super multi-tasker and can also be used in the following ways:

  • Add a tablespoon to a warm bath, for a fragrant and softening soak
  • Add a tablespoon of balm to either brown/white sugar or fine sea salt to use as a rich exfoliating scrub for legs, feet, arms and elbows.  Apply to dry skin and rinse off to leave skin buffed and smooth.
  • As an overnight treatment: apply a layer to feet (or hands) and put on some cotton or natural fibre socks (or gloves) and leave overnight, et voila, no more alligator feet (although you might need a few treatments depending on state of said feet!).



The shea butter and essential oils were purchased from one of the wonderful suppliers I use, their shea butter is truly special, as they are fair traded and unrefined and is one of a select few varieties that I purchase.   Their webshop is:  www.materiaaromatica.com

With many thanks to Rachel Crossley at Hampton Court Palace for helping the day to run so smoothly.


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Filed under History, Recipes, Renaissance beauty, Uncategorized

The ‘Eton Mess’ Facial

A post-Jubilee beauty treat!

If you have a glut of Strawberries and Cream you can make this Eton Mess Parfait:

Eton Mess Parfait

Thank you BBC Good Food for the image and recipe,  sounds Deeelish!

Then if you are not yet tired of strawberries and cream, why not put some aside to revive your skin and ‘feed your face’ in a different way!

You will need two-three strawberries, some double cream and egg white:

Strawberries are rich in Vit C, but also have a naturally exfoliating and brightening effect on the skin, so suitable for normal, oily and dry skins.  The double cream contains lactic acid, again a gentle skin exfoliant but also lecithin and vit D, which are skin-friendly buddies for nourishing and hydrating the skin.  Double cream provides a lovely tactile, rich creamy mask  and feels luxurious on the skin.  The egg whites provide a temporary tightening effect – so  a mini uplift for tired, puffy screen sore eyes.

Delectable and fragrant
strawberries & cream facial

  1. Take two-three clean and hulled strawberries (organic if possible)
  2. Mash or blitz to a pulp
  3. Strain off excess juice
  4. Whip 2 tablespoons of double cream until thick
  5. Now add the drained strawberries to the thickened cream and combine
  6. Now attack the egg white, whip up a little until it thickens slightly but don’t make it into meringue!
  7. Apply a small amount of the egg white around the eye area, pat with middle finger – a little under the brow, following eye socket out and round to the outer eye where crows feet might appear (like in a crescent moon shape), avoid applying to inner corner of eyes.
  8. Apply the strawberry and cream mixture to the skin, avoiding eyes and mouth, you can take the mask under the chin and cover part of the neck too!
  9. Leave products on for 5 minutes.
  10. Rinse gently with warm water, pat dry and apply a fine layer of Jojoba oil in upward sweeping strokes.
  11. This is a fresh mask so use up immediately – apply to back of hands too if there is any excess

This basic recipe can be tailored in so many ways.  I like to add a level teaspoon of ground almonds to the Strawberries & Cream mix,  or if  you are allergic to nuts add fine oatmeal instead.  This gives a thicker mask and is helpful for a more physical, but gentle exfoliating effect; an extra bonus is that almonds and oats are quite soothing so helpful for dry/sensitive skins.  If adding either of these ingredients allow the mask to dry for 8 mins and then gently rub in small circular motion around chin and nose to loosen the mask – these areas get very congested, then remove with luke warm water or a cooled herbal tea – such as green tea or chamomile!  Pat dry and moisturise if necessary.

Voila – your skin will look more even, brighter and clearer.

Oilier or problem skins can use this mask twice a week, and you could add or replace the Strawberries with Raspberries.

Drier/combination skins can use as a weekly treat during the Summer – when soft fruits are at the best.

* Strawberry & cream on spoon picture credit: www.jonesandjonesfashion.com

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Get Buffy with it ..

skin like an armadillo?
image: animal-wildlife.blogspot.com

Ok, Spring has sprung … the sun has been a bit shy of shining but you know it is only a matter of time before the legs and arms will have to be revealed in all their pallid, bumpy, pasty, dehydrated glory (unless you have been a dedicated  goddess of sloughing and slathering over the winter months …yeah ..riiiight!?)

Well, following on from the Avocado post, here are a few top tips for gently coaxing that skin to hydrated, smooth,* ‘plumptiousness’.. ready … action!

My top 7 tips to shed the Armadillo

  1.  Eat your greens, nuts, seeds, oily fish, berries, and  whole grains
  2.  Stay hydrated – pure water, or to jazz it up thin slices of cucumber, or lime/lemon/ orange and put in a jug of water – chill and drink through the day; hot water and lemon, green/herbal teas (keep coffee and tea, cola and juices to a minimum)

    The ultimate beauty tool – a body brush!

  3. Dry skin brush daily – effective and cheap!  Purchase a long-handled natural bristle brush and start gently, before your morning shower, brushing in UPWARD strokes from soles of feet, up legs (back/front), buttocks, back, gently in overlapping strokes, I use circular motions on abdomen (clockwise direction) but you can use upward, arms brushing towards armpit from fingertips, very gently across chest and finally upper back.  Carry out daily for a week, then alternate days for a further week. (Avoid brushing like a possessed Lady Macbeth with a brillo pad – raw lobster look is not the  desired result, and avoid the face and breasts).

    Skin brushing diagram
    (image: www.subtlethings.com)

  4. Shower with a non-drying soap or shower gel
  5. Anoint and nourish your body with a mini massage daily after your shower apply your favourite body lotion/oil/butter or make this one up:
  • 10 ml Macadamia oil
  • 10 ml Jojoba oil or Coconut oil (or combine 5 ml of each)

Macadamia is a ‘dry’ oil and is deceptively rich even though it is easily absorbed into the skin – it is one of my favourite oils, I love it and it suits all skin-types.   Jojoba is actually a liquid wax and is very similar in chemical structure to human sebum, it is suitable for all skin types and is excellent to use neat as a facial oil.  Coconut is extremely economical, provides excellent glide and leaves skin gleaming.

6. Exfoliate with a physical scrub once a week, paying attention to legs, buttocks and upper arms in particular.  Here is a simple one to try at home:

Limes for your Exotic Citrus scrub

Exotic Sugar Lime and Ginger

2 tablespoons White sugar
2 tablespoons Brown sugar
Olive oil/coconut or grapeseed
2  drops ginger essential oil
4 drops lime essential oil
Combine the sugars in a jar and add the single or combine the oils gradually to achieve your desired consistency, if you add too much oil just add more of the sugar.  Texture should be gritty enough but enough oil to allow to scrub over skin.  You can adjust the ratio of the essential oils to suit your personal taste, but do not exceed a total of 10 drops.  Store in a clean jar and use 1-2 times a week.  I tend to apply the scrub on dry skin in circular movements over desired areas and then shower off.  The oils leave the skin really soft – bonus!  *just take care getting out of bath and ensure you clean off any residual oil as you don’t want to have a ‘kodak slip-up’ moment.
7. Exercise – get your heart pumping, the skin is one of our largest excretory organs and yet in the West we actually do not sweat enough.  Try Zumba, Spinning, a run, power yoga, vigorous walk, dancing ..whatever it takes.  Shower as soon as you can after your exertions, keep hydrated with a glass of water and keep your blood sugar up a banana , some nuts, oatcakes (+ some cheeky peanut butter) afterwards etc

*my own word, (well it is not just the perogative of Shakespeare)  in my head it means skin that has that bouncy, lit from within, peachy-rose radiance ..it’s achieved with inner goodness (thoughts and food), outer ‘goddess-ness’ (the sloughing and slathering) and yes,… some sweaty cardio too has to be endured!

Let me know how you get on .. I aim to be ‘pin-perfect’ by end of June … that’s the goal!

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Filed under Body Oils, Body Scrubs, Recipes, Skin, Well-being