Tudor Beauty Tips... Glowing Skin From the History Books!

Clare McLoughlin
By Clare McLoughlin

Clare McLoughlin is an Independent Nurse Prescriber and advanced procedure aesthetic nurse and trainer with more than 16 years’ experience.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, a simple beauty routine like ‘cleanse’ and ‘moisturise’ can seem two steps too long. Applying make-up in the morning can be a chore too, but at least modern cosmetics are safe and designed to be relatively simple to apply.

Imagine, if you will, waking up in Tudor England as a lady from a wealthy family. Admittedly, this is a strange request, but I promise you’ll never complain about your beauty regime again!


Depictions of the female form in Renaissance art suggest that the feminine ‘ideal’ for this period was voluptuous and very fair-skinned young women.

For many women, these ideals were out of reach; a significant number of people worked outdoors, causing their skin to tan and age prematurely. 

In addition to this, calorie-rich food could also be scarce for some poorer members of society, making it difficult (in conjunction with physical labour) to put on sufficient weight to be considered an attractive and healthy shape. Indeed, the only women who had the time and funds to pursue this ideal were often wealthy. 

Beauty tips from the history books

However, the pale complexion of a serial sun avoider still wasn’t quite pale enough...

Evidence suggests that Tudor ladies tried to further enhance the paleness of their skin using ingredients such as white lead (1) - yes, you read that right. Lead. Mercury was another cosmetic favourite. Farah Karim-Cooper’s 2006 book ‘Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama’ suggests that ‘a spotted face or forehead in the Renaissance carried suggestions of sin and duplicity’, which might explain why women were happy to plaster their faces with toxic substances that would likely have some pretty nasty health implications.

Beautification didn’t stop at makeup though – a high forehead and perfectly arched brows were also the height of fashion for high-born Tudor ladies. Plucking and taming eyebrows may seem like a bit of a faff at times, especially when you are in a rush, but imagine if your eyebrows were only the beginning!

Next stop, plucking your hairline...

Tudor beauty standards

Women weren’t the only ones to have to put up with some fairly ‘quirky’ health and beauty practices though.

According to the very amusing ‘Horrible Histories’ team, human faeces was mixed with honey to help treat rotting teeth(2)...

Do you still think that your bedtime routine of face-washing and tooth-brushing is a bit of a bore?

I didn’t think so!

1. Karim-Cooper, F. (2006) ‘Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama’ Edinburgh University Press.
2. http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-05-27/horrible-histories-40-horrible-facts

If you want to read more, the experts at Consulting Room really know what they're talking about and have put together some Complexion improvement and acne FAQs just for you. 

If you have more questions, you can use the Complexion improvement and acne treatment questions feature to talk to our panel of trained medical experts. 

If you're keen to get started with any of these treatments right away then you're in luck - those clever folks also have a list of trusted, accredited Complexion improvement and acne clinics in your area.

Many thanks to the author of this blog Clare McLoughlin who founded Appearance Based Medicine in 2004, driven by a desire to provide advanced facial rejuvenation solutions and aesthetic treatments to patients in Marlow, Buckinghamshire and the surrounding areas. 

People choose Appearance Based Medicine because of the top-quality and personable service that they receive, and always leave the clinic with a welcome boost to both their inner confidence and outer radiance. 

Call Clare McLoughlin now on 01628 303 020 or visit www.ab-med.co.uk

Thanks to the author

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