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For the ladies – arsenic, lead and bismuth – 1878

1889 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a woman applying facial cosmetics

1889 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a woman applying facial cosmetics

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The Colac Herald (vic:  1st November, 1878)

Supplement

FOR THE LADIES – COSMETICS ETC

In an article on “making up” the Pictorial world says: 

“With the utmost recklessness our fashionable fair luxuriate in cosmetics, washes, and powders, and many other triumphs of the perfumer.

Yet so long as their end is gained by fancying they have improved their complexion, added an eight of an inch to their eyebrows, or imparted a sunset gilt to their hair, they but little trouble themselves with such commonplace subjects are the hygiene of analytical chemistry.  A lily whiteness is given to the skin – what matter whether it be done by arsenic or bismuth? A bloom is given with the proper peach-blush tint.  What matters if the carmine be adulterated with red-lead?  An ordinary passable good head of hair is made to rival the locks of Diana. What matters it whether it be done by a golden wash or something else equally delightful and dangerous?

Albrecht Dürer's drawing contrasts a well turned out bourgeoise from Nuremberg (left) with her counterpart from Venice. wikipedia.org

Albrecht Dürer’s drawing contrasts a well turned out bourgeoise from Nuremberg (left) with her counterpart from Venice. wikipedia.org

And this rage for entering in the race for beauty is by no means confined to the well-to-do women of the upper and middle classes.  The main of all work, charwoman, and the humblest of the humble, have their cheap favourite shops, where they can purchase the most attractive, beautifying trash at the lowest prices. By recent inquiry it has been discovered that the popular cheap aids – even expensive aids – to beauty are far more dangerous than even exaggeration-loving rumour has reported.  Some unfortunate children, who were honoured by being treated to the charms of their mothers’ powder puffs, have actually died through the effects of the poisonous compound – chalk and arsenic.  It is a known fact that the majority of hair dyes have a most injurious influence on the health of those who constantly indulge in using them.  Neither need one go further than the nearest skin doctor to be tole of the horrors of bismuth, cheap rouge and face washes.  The Nemesis of disease, ill-health, and worse still, of ugliness, without doubt lies in wait for those who will not trust to Nature as the best beautified, and for ever rush to the chemist and hair-dresser: but a word to the foolish is always a word wasted, and no amount of preaching, magazine moralising, or even coroner;s inquest reports, will stop the fanatics who throw themselves down before the Juggernaut of fashion and vanity.

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