Every woman wants to be beautiful. Most women could be if they tried. Comparatively few know how to be.
In 1910 the Daily Mirror published its very own Beauty Book, which promised to be ‘Every Woman’s Guide to Beauty.’ This was something revolutionary, as it opened beauty remedies and early makeup trends to its middle-class mainstream readership. Its publication came at a time where makeup was barely accepted, and indeed, many of its mainstays (mascara and nail polish, for example) had yet to be even invented.
Costing sixpence, and ‘written by an eminent doctor,’ it could ‘be obtained from any bookseller’ and offered ‘over a hundred ways by which the good-looking woman can make the most of her beauty, and the plain can become attractive.’
Every Woman’s Guide to Beauty
Today we will, of course, disagree with the Daily Mirror’s assertion that ‘it is the bounded duty to every woman to take the best possible care of her looks’ (19 August 1912). Its Beauty Book was marketed and sold as a method of undertaking this duty; however, what should not be overlooked is that it was intended as a guide for every woman – ‘Every woman, from seventeen to seventy, can gain some charm she lacks.’
And gaining charm through artifice was something in itself revolutionary, when historically artificial means of improving one’s appearance were associated with the dubious morality of courtesans and ladies of the night.
But now, the Daily Mirror was giving its very reputable readers a chance to alter aspects of themselves that they were unhappy with, and moreover, in a very respectable way, from ‘the well-weighed opinions of a distinguished physician and a firm of chemists.’
Indeed, it could be said that the Beauty Book was bringing confidence to women through all the beauty recipes it had to offer, so that ‘No woman need have a red nose, pale cheeks, a greasy skin, dry lips, sharp elbows, bunions, birthmarks or freckles. So says the Beauty Book, which is packed with good news for women who are sad at heart by reason of some such ailment or blemish.’
No Detail of Beauty Overlooked
So what could you find within the pages of the Beauty Book? In a 1911 advertisement for a free copy of the publication, you could find out:
• How to Quickly Remove Wrinkles
• How to Develop the Form
• How to Beautify Eyelashes and Eyebrows
• How to Permanently Remove Pimples and Skin Blemishes
• How to Grow Hair and Remove Dandruff
• How to Remove Double Chin and Reduce Flesh
• How to Beautiful the Complexion, Make the Skin Fresh and Youthful, and Make the Hands and Arms Soft and White
You could find recipes for ‘making face powders that will not harm the most delicate skin,’ and different ‘prescriptions’ were provided for brunettes and blondes, a forebear of the powders and foundations that would come into use later in the century.
Indeed, the Beauty Book promised to reveal the ‘secret of cherry lips,’ well before the wearing of lipstick entered the mainstream in the 1920s. The Beauty Book provided an ‘excellent recipe enabling every woman to have cherry lips’ – as ‘bloodless-looking lips’ (apparently!) ‘are a great disfigurement.’
There were plenty of other lotions and potions available to women via the Beauty Book. One recipe for the ‘Bloom of Roses Lotion,’ which ‘to a dull drab skin imparts the radiance of a flower,’ contains ‘boric acid, a simple tincture of benzoin, glycerine, rosewater, powdered gum arabic and eau de cologne.’
Another such skin cream could be made from oil of geranium, oil of bergamot, oil of almonds, powdered borax, white wax, rose water and white vaseline.
Whilst the Beauty Book was pioneering in some of its beauty suggestions, some of which continue in different forms to this day, it also has some advice that is very much of its day, and seems antiquated to a modern audience.
‘Take the page devoted to a ‘scraggy neck,’ for instance.’ Now, a ’round, white throat is one of the most beautiful of feminine charms,’ according to the Daily Mirror, and it could be achieved with ‘a fattening cream containing lanoline, oil of sweet almond and other ingredients.’
Red arms were also a pressing issue, which could be solved by ‘peroxide of hydrogen and certain other refining properties.’
Remedies for post sea-bathing were included too. One lotion of ‘calamine, essence of white rose and other nice things’ could be applied immediately after ’emerging from the sea’ in order to negate red patches on the arms and chest.
The Beauty Book also addresses the ‘two dreadful evils’ of knobbly knees and elbows which ‘run to size and muscle.’ Girls are warned never to rest their elbows on the table, ‘which would spoil the most beautiful elbow.’
The Art of Loveliness
The Beauty Book was nothing but thorough. ‘Very far being merely a book of maxims,’ it contained advice for how to sleep ‘healthily, soundly and calmly.’ This extended to what kind of bed you should use and what position you should sleep in.
You could also discover the ‘right way of washing the face.’ Soap and multiple washes throughout the day should be avoided – as ‘this is the way to ruin the skin and rob it of all beauty.’ It should be washed in the morning with cold water, without the aid of sponges or flannels.
And whilst the Beauty Book was shrouded in its initial aim of making women lovely, presumably for male appreciation, it is seminal because it marked the beginning of giving women the agency to change their appearances.
It partly helped to build the foundations for the liberated woman of the 1920s, for whom makeup and beauty were to give her the right of expression, of freedom of choice in what she could put on her face, which had been so stringently laid out to them in the past. It was a stepping stone in self-expression, a revolution which brought beauty to the masses.
Throughout September we will continue to explore the history of makeup – watch out for more on old tips and tricks in a world before mascara and foundation, as well as how lipstick changed everything in the 1920s!