185 Year Old Beauty Advice

At Bésame we look to the past to inspire us in our pursuit of beauty. Decades of research, investigating and treasure hunting go into the creation of each of our products. We love to recreate specific colors and tools that were used long ago to achieve glamour.

In our search we have built quite the library of books and vintage makeup. While we love the past and strive to create exact replicas of gorgeous shades or copies of our favorite vintage makeup tools, we do have to update them to fit modern ingredient standards and modern use. This same practice applies itself to beauty advice. While there are many techniques and words of wisdom that we can take and use from the past, there are also pieces of advice which should probably be left in the past.

Let’s take a look at our founder Gabriela’s personal library of historical beauty books and see what nuggets of advice we can keep and what we can toss!

Excerpts from Walker on Female Beauty by Donald Walker - Originally published in 1836


On Sleep:

“Sleep renews, in the organs of sensation, of thought and of motion, the excitability and tendency to action which have been destroyed by exercise during the day: it dissipates lassitude, favors restoration, and brings back all their previous energy to the exhausted organs.”

On Teeth:

“Good and sound teeth are absolutely necessary to health, to beauty, and to the distinct articulation of words.”

On Lashes:

“It is necessary to avoid rubbing the eyes, for nothing breaks the eyelashes so much, or makes them fall off more quickly.”

Excellent pieces of advice for any glamorous gal that we still use today! 

To add a little glamour to your lashes, try Black Cake Mascara. Based on the original mascara format (that would have been around in 1865!), Black Cake Mascara has a modern formulation to make it clean, safe for sensitive eyes, and very versatile.


On Jewelry:

“Young ladies should never wear rings on their fingers, unless they desire to seem older. … hair bracelets, rings, and brooches, are in the very worst taste.”

Now that is some advice we DEFINITELY will toss! Wear as much or as little jewelry as you like at ANY age!

Excerpts from The Art of Makeup for Stage and Screen by Cecil Holland - Originally published in 1927


On Contouring the Nose:

“In treatment of the nose, a great many alterations can be accomplished by light and shadow. A crooked nose can be straightened to a surprising degree using light and shadow.”

On Eyebrows:

“To treat the eyebrows, start with the left one using a dermatograph pencil. Run a medium line through the center of the eyebrow, from a point near the centers of the eyebrows, in a graceful curve continued well past the corner of the eye. Taper it out and slightly curve the end upward. This little curve at the end gives a pleasant smiling experience.”

Believe it or not, contouring has been around for a very long time. Especially when Photoshop did not exist and makeup had to be relied on to fix imperfections. With eyebrows, not much has changed at all!


In this book there are a few guides on using makeup to transform into different races for the stage and screen. Obviously this is some advice we can definitely keep to its own time!

Excerpts from The Toilet In Ancient and Modern Times by Arnold J. Cooley - Originally published in 1866


On Shoes:

“Tight and uncomfortable boots and shoes render the gait awkward, feeble, and unsteady, and affect the whole carriage of the body.”

On Cleanliness:

“In favour of personal cleanliness it is impossible to speak too highly, or to say too much. It enhances every charm, and creates new ones peculiar to itself. It invigorates all the numerous functions of the body, and of the mind. It is capable of rendering the most ordinary agreeable.”

Absolutely great advice! No one likes uncomfortable shoes! Plus we firmly believe that cleanliness is essential to beauty!

If you're interested in historically inspired skincare and cleansing products, be sure to try our Skincare Essentials. Based on classic products, Bésame is bringing back Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream, now with modern, clean formulas. Our Cold Cream takes off every bit of makeup and doesn't leave behind any greasy residue, while Vanishing Cream makes a wonderful moisturizing primer that leaves skin nourished and hydrated.


On Nails:

“Nails extending beyond the ends of the fingers are vulgar, claw-like, and inconvenient…”

You could never take away our glamorous long nails! We say you can wear those nails as long or as short as you like! In fact, why not treat yourself to an at home manicure? Bésame has a range of nail polish (that matches our famous lipstick shades) and nail care items to give you nails that look anything but vulgar!


We hope you enjoyed this peek into the past with us!



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  • Dana Parker

    I sure would love and wish your portrait pink lipstick would be restocked. At least, maybe you could offer a matcbook so we could use until it does come back . I have been waiting ever since I found your site. I am getting the hang of the cream mascara; and love it, but can’t wait for the brown cake (less harsh for my coloring.). Do believe I will get the black too because using it as grey would be good for me too. I love everything about your concept, style and dedication to quality and beauty. Thank you for everything.

  • Ashley

    Insightful glance into history!

  • Dalemarie Davis

    I totally agree that ultra long fingernails are vulgar and inconvenient. This is especially so as we navigate cellular and notebook electronics. I prefer what is generally known as “office length” nails. And of course, shades of red are perfect if they’re toned down a bit in color for daytime. Thank you!

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