Elizabethan Make-Up

  • The Elizabethan Era
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

The make-up ''style'' which came to be identified as ''Elizabethan'' was so named for it's popular and widespread usage during The Reign of England's Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Noted for it's pallor or ''alabaster white'' appearance, it was the favored (and often required) look for women of stature (and men as well). And while it was seen as ''appealing'' it took many hours to apply and was often (seen by Modern views) as quite deadly to the wearer. Initially known as ''Venetian Ceruse'' of the ''Spirits of Saturn'', the base foundation of the paint was made from whitened (dyed) Lead with vinegar added. This mixture was generously applied to the face, neck, chest, arms and hands. The effect was a pure white appearance – seen as ''without stain and pure''.


The application of red paint to the lips of the wearer (white greatly highlighted the effect) was also placed. Often eyebrow hair was removed, with ''replacements'' painted on in thin strokes. No make-up was worn on the eyelids, as is the fashion today.


Unfortunately, the application of the white base foundation was Lead. Left on for hours, the Lead was leeched into the body and as one can expect, caused the otherwise healthy skin underneath to ''gray'' (robbed of oxygen and nutrients). In addition, red lesions would appear when removed and often scarring. As such, even more applications of foundation were added with the next use. The additional loss of hair (permanently) was also common. The continued usage of the white foundation would have no doubt caused other serious health issues – even death. None of this was known in the 16th Century. Even Actors used the foundation as part of their stage performances. The exception was the Common Person (or Poor). Although they wished to emulate their Nobility and their customs, the creation or procurement was too expensive.


Much modern research has been made into what is called The ''Curse of The Tudors''. The Tudor Family, which started with Arthur Tudor in the late 14th and early 15th Centuries – had been ''cursed'' with many abortive births (stillborn) or children that seldom passed their teen aged years. King Henry VIII is the classic example of His inability to successfully produce a living Male Heir. It is thought (in part), that some genetic abnormality was present. However, with the case of His daughter – Elizabeth, she may too have inherited such or – may have added to the condition by Her continued wearing of the white Lead foundation make-up (which would fall into disuse not long after Her death in 1603).