Historical Foundation, Trotula CCLXXVIII

An oil based face whitener that would modernly be described as a foundation. This cream is similar to the Roman cream found in Southwark. It has a strong, thoroughly medieval scent that is not necessarily appealing to a modern user. The consistency is pleasant and it would be particularly appropriate for someone with dry skin or living in a dry climate.

Materia Common Name Ingredient Used Scientific Name Reason for Substitutions.
Oliua Rosa Rose Oil Rose Oil Rosa damascena essential oil
Anxungia Galline Hen’s Grease Coconut Oil Coco nucifera To make the display more accessible, I chose coconut oil for its comparable consistency.
Cera Alba White Wax White Wax Beeswax
Albumen Egg White Egg White Egg White
Cerusa White Lead White Lead Substitute Zinc Oxide & Kaolinite White Lead is universally recognized as toxic.
Camphora Camphor Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Nux Muscata Nutmeg Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
Gariofilus Cloves Cloves Syzygium aromaticum

I added rose oil to the coconut oil and heated it until it started to smoke. Fats and oils don’t truly boil, but at the smoke point it seems to.

The first time I did this step I added the egg when the oil and melted wax were too hot and I fried it. When I let it cool a little it worked better and then it did indeed need to be cooked again.
When determining the ratio of pigment to oil & wax I was guided by the ratios I use in the Roman cerotum. This worked well.

By this point the cerotum has lost any trace of rose scent, so these three ingredients are added for their fragrance

To be honest, I’m not really sure what is meant by waiting for the cerotum to smell good. I wrapped it in parchment paper and let it sit for several days until it lost any lingering smells from cooking. It’s still not pleasant in a modern sense, though I have to say it appeals to me.

I really liked this cream. It is moisturizing and leaves a subtle paleness on the skin without looking like clown white, which is far too heavy for the proper medieval aesthetic. That’s part of why they used lead, something my own experiments with lead exemplars, opacity, and texture bear out very clearly Applying the lead exemplar next to my substitute exemplar on my arm yielded similar looks, but the lead exemplar felt creamier on the skin.

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