Beauty history

Feb 13

Venice Style and Beauty (Then & Now)

I was recently lucky enough to go on a wonderful four-day trip to Venice; a beautiful city whose entire foundations are built on the mudbanks of a lagoon in Northern Italy.

A Venetian mask on display in one of the shop windows

A traditional Venetian mask on display in one of the shop windows

My trip to Venice fell at the start of the 2013 Venetian Carnival, and so upon arrival I was expecting a flurry of noise and colour. However, I arrived at 11pm at night and the carnival hadn’t officially begun yet, so the first thing I was both greeted and struck by was the absolute resounding silence blanketing the entire city.

Both the air and water were still, shutters were closed everywhere, and there were no voices to be heard. Given that everybody in Venice travels either on foot or on boats, the loud hum of traffic that permeates most cities was notably absent too.

Old fashioned wigs on display in a Venetian Beauty Salon

Old fashioned wigs on display in a Venetian Beauty Salon

Arriving in Venice feels akin to tumbling down the rabbit hole; the city has a dream-like quality due to its dinky streets, ethereal twilights, intricate architecture, and endless teal-tinted canals. The latter, by the way, perfectly matched the deep green China Glaze Exotic Encounters nail lacquer, £6.95, that I was wearing at the time!

After weaving my way through the mute atmosphere and traversing over countless pretty little bridges, my place of residence came into view; a lovely three-storey house placed at the edge of one of the city’s many canals. The hostess, a friendly young woman named Camilla, was so welcoming, and her house, a traditional Venetian abode with lofty rooms and a cool, artdeco vibe, was the perfect place to stay.

Venice carnival costumes

Venice carnival costumes

As I woke the next morning and ventured outside I noticed that the atmosphere seemed livelier. Things got increasingly buzzy throughout my stay as the city’s inhabitants and visitors prepared for the carnival. The narrow streets, initially dotted with people, eventually became rammed with dedicated carnival goers, all of which were clad in elaborate costumes and intricate masks.

I couldn’t believe the masks on display in some of the shop windows, they were all so detailed and varied – and beautiful too. Apparently there are five different types of Venetian mask: Bauta, a mask which covers the whole face, Columbina, a half mask held up by a baton, Moretta, (or Servetta Muta, meaning mute maid servant) a strapless oval mask with wide eyeholes, Larva, a white mask, and the Medico Della Peste (The Plague Doctor), a beaked mask which is by far the most sinister looking.

Masks on display at a Venetian shop

Masks on display in the window of a Venetian shop

According to Wikipedia (my favourite factual source), Venetian masks can be made of leather, porcelain or with the original glass technique. Original masks were simple and had practical function, but these days most are made with the application of gold leaf and all are hand-painted and decorated with feathers and gems.

Masks have always been a main feature of the carnival, which began in 1162. It’s said that traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano on December 26 and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday.

Masks were also allowed from October 5 to Christmas, meaning people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise. Which, in some respects, is what many women do nowadays anyway, except instead of masks women conceal and decorate their faces with makeup.

Venice carnival face painting stall

Venice carnival face painting stall

Speaking of makeup, there was a lot of face painting going on during the carnival. Children everywhere had their faces decorated with a variety of colourful designs, as did adult women and men alike; I spotted one grown woman who’d had her face painted as a cat!

All around the city there were little pop up stalls where face painters had set up their work stations, and it was there that they dipped their paint brushes into palettes and transformed their customers’ faces into carnival-worthy works of art. Typically the face paint designs appeared to dominate the upper left or right side of the face, or around the eyes.

Venice carnival costumes 2013

Venice carnival costumes 2013

As can be seen on the far left in the picture above, masks aren’t the only examples of beauty that you’ll find in Venice. I saw this traditional costume in the window of a shop near St Mark’s square. Its opulent and intricate design immediately grabbed me. I later saw similar dresses worn by festival goers, also pictured above, which almost looked as authentic as the dress in the shop window.

While Venice’s traditional window displays are captivating, equally striking is San Marco’s luxurious range of designer shops. The high-end fashion and jewellery on sale was impressive – as were the price tags. In one window I spotted a pair of stunning sunglasses (pictured below) whose winged frames looked straight out of the 1960s.

A pair of winged, 1960s style shades in the window display of a shop in Venice

A pair of winged, 1960s style shades in the window display of a shop in Venice

Louis Vuitton’s window display really caught my eye too; behind the pane of glass lay a typewriter that appeared to be spitting out numerous sheets of paper, all of which were carefully and elegantly suspended in mid-air.

Like most things in Venice, thanks to the inclusion of an archaic piece of technology. even this modern Louis Vuitton display felt steeped in antiquity, and the motionless sheets of paper aptly reflected how time in Venice somehow seems to stand still.

Louise Vuitton window display in Venice

Louise Vuitton window display in Venice

The city, whose main trade is tourism, has barely changed in appearance in centuries, and as a result has now become something of an open-air musuem. Sinking at a rate of 2mm per year, who knows how many more centuries Venice and its sleek black gondolas will be with us.

Which is why I really recommend you visit; it’s truly one of the most romantic places on the planet, and the historical selection of art, beauty and fashion to be found there is fascinating. The wine and cicchetti are delicious, too (if you ever go, make sure you visit Vini al Bottegon!)

Venice's Grand Canal

Venice’s Grand Canal

Feb 13

Valentine’s Day Beauty Guide: as inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins

Whether you consider Valentine’s Day to be a romantic occasion or just another commercial calendar date, chances are you’ll be celebrating it somehow anyway; either with your lover, your friends or yourself! After all, it’s a great excuse to treat yourself to some TLC.

Love is blind

Love is blind

However you decide to spend Valentine’s Day this year, there’s no doubt that beauty products will be involved. Enter Yesterface’s Valentine’s Day Beauty Guide; here you’ll find a variety of products, all of which are designed to make you look and feel good this Valentine’s Day.

Each item has been handpicked and tested by yours truly, and each correlates with one of the Seven Deadly Sins. After all, love is a complex emotion which has the ability to evoke darker feelings such as lust and envy. So, read on and find out which products suit which sin…

  1. Lust   2. Gluttony   3. Greed   4. Sloth   5. Wrath   6. Envy   7. Pride


Feb 13

Valentine’s Day Beauty Guide; relaxing products inspired by Sloth

If you’re too lazy to do anything big this Valentine’s Day, one simple solution is to run a bath for you and your partner – or just for yourself!

Cleopatra was a big fan of the rose, and ensured her banqueting hall was filled with two feet of fragrant roses for Mark Anthony’s first visit from Rome. If you fancy following in the Pharaoh’s footsteps, then I recommend using Ancienne Ambience’s beautifully scented Mini Rosa Bath Salts, £4 from

Before bathing, set the mood with the huge Red Heart Rose Candle pictured below, £32, also by Ancienne Ambience. The candle is created with the softest rose fragrance, which is reminiscent of roses from ancient Damascus where for centuries the Damask Rose was a symbol of beauty and love. Can’t get much more romantic than that.

Ancienne Ambience Heart Candle

Ancienne Ambience Heart Candle

Once you’re out of the bath, lather yourself with Arbonne’s luxurious Aromassentials Unwind Massage Oil. I absolutely love this product as it boasts a calming yet refreshing scent thanks to its camomile and ylang ylang ingredients. Its silky texture feels lovely when massaged into your skin, too. I suffer from psoriasis and find this oil particularly soothing for affected areas. Available for £29 from

Another nice, relaxing product is Petits JouJoux’s aramomatherapy candle which doubles up as massage oil.  The candle, which has a lovely scent, comes in a pretty white ceramic container with a discreet spout. The wax melts into a warm massage oil ready to use on either your own skin or your partner’s – or both!

I was surprised the first time I used this product as I was expecting the oil to be piping hot, but once you extinguish the flame you can pour the warm oil straight onto skin. The oil contains nourishing ingredients such as jojoba oil and shea butter which leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised. Prices start at £14.99 and there are six scents to choose from in total. Available to buy from Nice’n’Naughty and La Coquette.

For more sinfully satisfying products, read the rest of Yesterface’s Valentine’s Day Beauty Guide as inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins.

Arbonne Aromassentials Unwind Massage Oil

Arbonne Aromassentials Unwind Massage Oil


Jan 13

The Benefits of Retro Packaging

Since I first clapped eyes on Benefit High Beam at the tender age of 15 I’ve been hooked on the brand; not only because of its high quality products, but also because of its kitsch packaging. The products themselves are undeniably lovely, but if it weren’t for the retro design I doubt I’d be as inclined as I consistently have been over the past ten years to purchase Benefit products.

Since Benefit Cosmetics first emerged, I think they’ve sparked something of a vintage revival in the beauty industry. Such has been the selling power of Benefit’s trademark packaging that many other brands have followed suit; Soap & Glory being an obvious example, and also MAC Cosmetics’ recent Marilyn Monroe range and NARS’ Andy Warhol collection.

A vintage Maybelline Mascara advert from the 1960s (image:

A vintage Maybelline Mascara advert from the 1960s (image:

So why are cosmetic companies cashing in on this old-school style, and why do customers lap it up so eagerly? Well, from a personal point of view, I think the type of imagery used by Benefit captures a kind of innocent yet sophisticated glamour which no longer exists; a beauty ideal which dominated the 50s and 60s but which has since been oversexed and adapted to fit in with the TOWIE-tainted days of the 21st century.

I also think Benefit appeals to women because it’s cheery rather than intimidating, and pretty without being depressing. To me, a cartoon of a beautiful flawless female is somehow far less daunting than an image of a stunning airbrushed celebrity. Admittedly both are as unrealistic and unattainable as eachother, but at least with the former you know the image isn’t real – plus it looks far more fun!

Benefit's winning and unique retro style packaging (image:

Benefit’s winning and unique retro style packaging (image:

Mostly though, Benefit packaging is simply more interesting (and seemingly more positive) than many of its competitors. From the tongue in cheek “punny” slogans to the varying antiquated typeface, everything about the brand’s retro-style transforms makeup into what it should be; namely, good old fashioned fun!

Yesterfacts: Benefit Cosmetics was founded in 1976 by twins Jean and Jane Ford. Benefit was initially founded as a beauty boutique which specialized in quick-fix products for beauty dilemmas. Benefit Cosmetics is now a global brand selling at over 2,000 counters in more than 30 countries. Nice work, Jean and Jane. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one!

To read more about cosmetic advertising, read Yesterface’s article False Eyelashes: False Advertising?

Benefit Advert Yesterface

An old Benefit flyer which I kept purely because of its aesthetic quality (pretty ads do work!) Note how the font and style greatly resemble the old Maybelline ads.



D.W. Griffith invented false eyelashes for this film in 1916 because he wanted Seena Owen (who plays Attarea, the Princess Beloved, in the film’s Babylonian segment) with lashes luxurious enough to brush her cheeks when she blinked. In collaboration with a wigmaker, who did the actual fabricating, the solution Griffith is credited with involved weaving human hair through a fine strip of gauze, creating false eyelashes.

Jan 13

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetic Tools (British Museum Collection)

Anyone with an interest in Ancient Egypt, in particular Ancient Egyptian makeup, should make their way over to the British Museum in London as it is absolutely fascinating!

The museum’s Ancient Egypt collection boasts a variety of dainty cosmetic tools, all of which paint a picture of how important beauty was within society as far back as 1350BC.

Ancient Egyptian beauty

“You’re prettier”, “No, YOU’RE prettier”

The cosmetic items on display range from ointment spoons to perfume pots, and each object provides insight into humankind’s longstanding preoccupation with self-image.

The bronze handheld mirror, for example, reflects vanity in one of its oldest forms, whereas the beautifully designed cosmetic boxes encapsulate human beings’ age-old desire to look aesthetically pleasing.

Ancient Egyptian Bronze Mirror and Razor

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the Pharaoh-est of them all?!

Containers for eye-paint and cosmetic oils in Ancient Egypt were lavishly designed using expensive materials such as glass, gold or semi-precious stones. Well, beats cheap lippy and a plastic tube of mascara.

Makeup containers and equipment were also decorated with luxurious status symbols which were often shaped as delicate animals and young women; images which represented rebirth and regeneration.

Ancient Egyptian Ivory Cosmetic Box in the shape of a duck carrying her ducklings

Ancient Egyptian Ivory Cosmetic Box in the shape of a duck carrying her ducklings

These symbols aren’t a far cry from the imagery used in modern day media, where young females with lithe limbs, glossy manes and long-lashed doe eyes reign supreme. Which begs the question as to whether society’s current obsession with youth and weight is in fact a recent phenomenon at all.

As is the case in modern society, in Ancient Egypt the wealthy were keen to look young and beautiful, and rank and status were displayed through beautification, distinctive clothing and the use of luxury products.

Cosmetic pots Ancient Egypt

Cosmetic pots Ancient Egypt

The wealthy in Ancient Egypt also had access to perfumed oils, many of which were often imported from abroad, and they painted their eyes with kohl.

Not only was kohl used to create the sultry winged design that’s still very much in vogue today, but it was also used to deter flies, prevent infection and deflect the sun’s glare. Now that’s multi-purpose makeup for you!

Cosmetic Pots Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetic Pots

Visit the British Museum to find out more about the cultural significance of beauty in Ancient Egypt and to see the rest of the museum’s wonderful display.

Entry is free so it’s well worth a visit, plus you’ll get to see some very well-preserved mummies (forget No 7, those Egyptians had anti-ageing techniques down to a tee).

Ancient Egyptian duck cosmetic box

Ancient Egyptian duck cosmetic box

To see more ancient Egyptian makeup tools, check out Yesterface‘s article on the Ancient Egypt section at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Alternatively, head to Yesterface‘s Egyptian Makeup Tutorial for a full, step by step guide on how to recreate the ancient look!

Ancient Egyptian Ointment Spoons

Ancient Egyptian Ointment Spoons (British Museum)

A big thank you to the British Museum for letting me use these images of the collection.

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer