I used to go to a salon that had a television screen at each station that would flash bizarre beauty myths, outdated or unfortunate makeup trends, and fun facts. Thanks to hours in a chair with bleach in my hair, I became fascinated with the toxic beauty regime of The Virgin Queen, Queen Elizabeth I of England. In celebration of her birthday week, let’s remember the world’s worst beauty routine! (Honorable Mention: We love you and we see you Tammy Faye Bakker.)
Queen Elizabeth I was the Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until she died (of suspected blood poisoning by MAKEUP) in 1603. Queen Elizabeth’s father was King Henry VIII and her mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn. The Virgin Queen was the last of five sovereigns from the House of Tudor.
Elizabeth was fiercely dedicated to her throne, refusing to wed, insisting that she was married to her domain. Historians suggest that the Queen didn’t want to “relinquish the power her single status gave her.” There certainly was power in her independence! Some suggesting that she “exploited” the uncertainty of her intention to marry “for political advantage.”
But a woman on the dating scene, with various English noblemen and foreign dignitaries visiting regularly, has to stay youthful-looking and attractive. Unfortunately for the Queen, eco-friendly beauty products weren’t exactly a priority back in the day.
At the time of Elizabeth’s reign, porcelain white skin was all the rage. Between wanting to stay trendy and covering up vicious smallpox scars, the Queen coated her poor skin in toxic face paint that included ingredients like lead and mercury. Spoiler alert: these ingredients are DEADLY!
She is sadly remembered as being insecure about her facial scars. So insecure that she pursued new and innovative (cough, fatal) solutions to hide her face from her court. One “solution” was called “Venetian ceruse.” She would apply the makeup all over her face and neck. Clutch your pearls, the ingredients included white lead and vinegar! Venetian ceruse was officially considered a poison 31 years after Queen Elizabeth died.
It’s no secret that sleeping with makeup on leads to premature aging. When I was younger, I remember my Mom telling me that sleeping in your makeup one night would age your skin eight days but I couldn’t actually find that statistic anywhere. God Bless Momma and her scare tactics. Elizabeth, however, didn’t get the memo. She would have her makeup applied only once per week. Leaving it on an entire week until her next application. This allowed the lead to sink into her skin, aggravating it even more. Not to mention, towards the end of her life, they would paint her face nearly one inch thick!
When it was time to wash her face, the ingredients continue to be appalling. Soap and water? Hell to the no. After mixing eggshells, alum, and mercury, the Queen would remove last week’s war paint. Experts stress that the use of mercury likely “ate away at her flesh.”
Elizabeth was also famous for her blood-red lip stain. Fruits and berries? Nope. The lip stain was created with cinnabar… a toxic mineral that contains our dear friend… mercury.
There were rumors of hair loss, which would be a likely consequence of the constant contact with lead. There is also evidence of mercury poisoning leading to “memory loss, irritability, and depression.” All symptoms that Queen Elizabeth I of England is said to have experienced as she approached death.
While there is speculation surrounding the official cause of death, it is likely that her toxic beauty regime led to the end of The Virgin Queen.