Cosmetics of the West
The Londinium ointment
Recreated Londinium ointment (with perfumed beef suet) and the look on skin (1 - lead white base in lard base with starch (6th century China recipe from Qimin Yaoshu (齊民要術)) - reference sample; 2 - safe lead white alternative (titanium dioxide) in lard base (modified from 6th century China recipe from Qimin Yaoshu (齊民要術)) (starch and ground pearls); 3 - Londinium ointment (2nd century)
The ‘medicinal’ ointment from the containers from British Museum
Comparison of ingredients in extant and redacted ointments
Prepared Punic beeswax is very brittle
The effect on skin
Dyer’s madder (Rubia tinctorum) lake # 1
Madder lake found during excavations in Augusta Emerita, 2019
The ground and sieved madder lake, and the look on skin (on the Londinium base)
The madder lake # 2 from Rubia tinctorum
Roman cosmetic tool
This lake was made without presoaking the roots. Both colorants, alizarin and purpurin, are present in this case. Colorants are precipitated on aluminum oxide with sodium carbonate (washing soda). I used 5 parts of beef suet base (prepared and scented according to Dioscorides), 1 part of the late Gallo-Roman perfume (version 1.2) and a pinch of salt as preservative. The final result on skin prepared with lead white replacement base is an appealing shade of warm pink which can be easily layered for a more intense color. This is my favorite rouge for early medieval look.
Filtering the lake
Mixing with fragrant oil and prepared beef suet
In a shell case
On skin prepared with lead white replacement base
The madder lake # 3 from Rubia tinctorum
Again, this lake was made without the root pre-soaking step. Madder lake was precipitated on aluminum silicate with calcium carbonate and thinned with gypsum to a pale pink color. Since the original powder was found in a globular unguentarium, I ordered a replica from the Historical Glassworks to match the extant find.
Ground and sieved lake
Lake after thinning with gypsum, in an Greek replica container and in the globular unguentarium.
Adapting Caterina Sforza lead white base to safer version
Pasolini, Pier Desiderio. 2011. Caterina Sforza. Documenti. Vol. 3. Nabu Press.
The original recipe calls for olio di violetto which most probably can be identified with cold maceration of iris rhizomes (Iris pallida x germanica) in sweet almond oil. Powdered iris rhizomes are supposed to be macerated for 40 days in the sun. The lead white is worked into a smooth powder and mixed with the oil.
The version with zinc oxide crumbled on skin. The version with titanium dioxide and starch was smooth in application but looked too white when compared to the reference sample made with lead white.
The best replacement is made with titanium dioxide and almond oil, with added starch and mica (to dilute the whiteness and provide smoothness). Additionally, mica seems to add similar kind of 'greasiness' which is typical of pure lead white preparations and helps to stick to skin. The mica is cosmetic grade fine powder and doesn't add too much shine (it is a popular filler in modern high-end makeup). For application, I make it into an emulsion with home distilled rosewater and apply with a piece of linen cloth (natural sponge wetted in rosewater works too).
Makeup base mixed with rosewater and ready for application
It gives a nice fair skin effect without flaking
Lead white replacement foundation (in beef suet base), fake galena in beeswax/oil base, madder lake rouge in scented oil/beef suet base, saffron extract eye shadow, hematite lip stain (type of red iron oxide) in beeswax/oil base.