Erin Griffey, an art historian with a keen eye for beauty, has noticed a striking similarity between the beauty products of today and those of Renaissance Europe. "I'm one of those people who reads the backs of beauty products," she says.
She noticed that many ingredients in beauty recipes from the 16th to 18th centuries appear on modern beauty packaging. For instance, rosewater is used in modern skin-hydrating mists and sulfur is found in some over-the-counter acne creams. While the ingredients and formulations have changed over
Beautiful Chemistry: Uncovering the Secrets of Renaissance-Era Cosmetics What did people use cosmetics for in the Renaissance era, and how did they work? These are the questions that Dr. Griffey and her colleagues sought to answer with the Beautiful Chemistry project. To begin, they looked at recipes for cosmetics from the era. These recipes often listed strange or even dangerous ingredients, such as bile acids, calves' ho
The team began their research by studying "sticky recipes" from the Renaissance period. These recipes, which are found in many sources, include rosemary flowers in white wine, myrrh powder with egg white, and the velvety covering
When it comes to cooking, the devil is in the details. This is especially true when trying to recreate historical recipes that are often vague and varied. To get the most accurate results, chemist Michel Nieuw
When it comes to recreating a centuries-old recipe, you can't just wing it. That's according to Seattle-based chef and author Ethan Stowell, who, along with his team, recently set out to make a dish from a 16th-century cookbook. The dish in question is
Nieuwoudt and her team recently published a study in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry in which they took a closer look at the chemical composition of rosemary-infused wine. To create their concoction, the researchers boiled rosemary flowers in round-bottom flasks each filled with a different solution: sweet white wine, dry white wine, ethanol in water or
Nieuwoudt's findings suggest that the Renaissance-era recipe for a potion that would "make the face fair" actually worked by
The team has also made progress on unlocking the secrets of myrrh powder and egg whites. Experiments suggest that myrrh draws out proteins from egg whites and the egg whites extract resins, sugars and volatiles from the myrrh. That results in a serumlike product that has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and probably stimulates collagen growth, Nieuwoudt says.
The researchers are still teasing out results for what deer velvet and bean flour may have been used for. And they have yet to tackle recipes with dangerous ingredients.
The researchers hope to perfect their re-creations and bring the products to drug store shelves. The appeal for people to use Renaissance products is that they are natural and safe. The beauty for the researchers lies in "digging [the recipes] out and understanding them."