Elizabethan Tudor
Home » Elizabethan and Tudor Make-Up

Elizabethan and Tudor Make-Up

Elizabethan and Tudor Make-Up: While the use of cosmetics has not always been popular throughout history, in the Tudor period and especially the Elizabethan era cosmetics were another way in which the wealthy could illustrate their status.

Not only was it used to indicate wealth it was also a useful tool for hiding the scars and disfigurements which were caused by the common diseases of the time such as smallpox.

Facts about Tudor Times Make-Up


The use of cosmetics was not popular during the early part of the Tudor period, the use of perfumes and lotions however was. The skin-softening products in use at the time were created using sesame seed oil, beeswax, and honey; ingredients which are still popular today.

Elizabethan and Tudor Make Up
Elizabethan and Tudor Make Up

The perfumes that were in use had been introduced to England from the Middle East. Fragrances would be manufactured from roses, violets and water lilies, all of which were helpful in masking the smell of Tudor London at the time. The majority of cosmetics which became popular later in the Tudor period were of the kind used in the Middle East and heavily influenced by the Egyptians.

Did Tudors wear make-up?

The Tudor nobility, rich women and the royalty wore make-up. It was an indication of their status in society as well as to take care of the skin. Creams were popular to soften the skin. Perfumes were also popular and were made from roses, water lilies and violets.

Make-up was also used to hide the scars caused by diseases such as smallpox in the Tudor era.

What did Tudors use for make-up?

The Tudor women used creams that were made from honey, sesame seed oil and beeswax. These creams were skin softening products and were used to hide marks of ageing. Perfumes imported from the Middle-East were also popular.

According to the Tudor beauty standards, an ideal woman was supposed to have perfectly white skin with red cheeks and lips. She was also supposed to have light hair. These attributes could only be achieved by rich women who stayed at home. Middle-class and poor women had to go out for work and could not keep their skin from darkening.

White skin was, therefore, an identification of the upper-class. The Tudor make-up was made of oils, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, celandine etc. Roots and leaves were used to make face paints. Vermillion was often used to bring the red effect on the cheeks. Cochineal was also used to stain the cheeks and lips.

Tudor make-up horrible histories

The desire to remain fair and young created huge social pressure among the women which often had an adverse effect on them. They often used a white make up called ceruse which was made of vinegar and white lead. It was poisonous and damaged the skin.

The pressure to keep a pale white face made women ignore their health. Face paints were also common which often turned out to be poisonous and had a horrible effect on the skin.

Elizabethan Era Make-Up

Elizabeth 1, though considered beautiful when young, grew increasingly vain with age. As she grew older she used heavier and heavier make up on her skin to disguise signs of ageing such as wrinkles. Like much of the population of the time, she too had contracted smallpox, which had left her with some visible facial scarring.

Elizabethan Make-Up
Elizabethan Make-Up

Scarring, which she chose to hide under layers of heavy make-up. She was known to favour thick, white make-up on her face, which she believed helped her to maintain looking young and radiant. Though, in later years she would refuse to even look in a mirror, not happy at the ageing face that she would find there.

Queen Elizabeth make-up facts

Queen Elizabeth used heavy white make-up to enhance her beauty and perhaps even exaggerated it. She used white make-up to hide the wrinkles and sign of age on her face to maintain the illusion of the young queen. That is the reason for her oddly white face in some of her portraits.

She also had a huge variety of wigs and hair dye. The hair dyes were made of cumin seeds, saffron, celandine and oil.

Elizabethan make-up
Skin whitening techniques would often prove to be hazardous

Elizabethan Make-Up for Women Changed between Social Classes

To the Elizabethan and Tudor Make-Up the ideal woman would have a pale complexion this would show that she did not have to work outside of the home, on the land and under the sun. The fact that she was pale would show that she came from a wealthy family, was of noble blood and did not, therefore, need to toil and labour.

Light hair was seen as being preferable to dark, this is probably due to the natural hair colour of the queen herself, after whom all fashion trends were set. As Elizabeth aged her use of cosmetics became more excessive and the white face make-up she wore was applied in increasingly thicker layers.

Elizabethan and Tudor Jwellery
Elizabethan and Tudor jewellery

This ceruse was actually poisonous and a danger to health as it contained a good amount of lead and would have done her skin no good at all. Some noblewomen would take the effort to keep a pale complexion to extremes and actually undergo bleeding in order to make them pale, the loss of blood thus enforcing their pale visage.

Shakespearean Theatre make-up

Make-Up was not very common in theatres during the Elizabethan era. In cases of characters like fairies and witches, silver or pearl were crushed to create the shining effect of the face. Another recipe to make a pale skin was to mix powdered hogs bones with poppy oil.

Kohl was used for enhancing the eyelashes and ceruse, though poisonous, was also applied. Wigs were very common especially for the theatres and were widely used.

Elizabethan make-up ingredients
Elizabethan make-up ingredients

What did the Elizabethan use for make-up?

Elizabethan women mostly used natural products, such as creams made from roots, leaves and flowers for make-up. Cumin seeds, oils and various other substances were mixed to create hair dyes. Cochineal, which was extracted from insects, were used to make dyes and kohl, another product from the Middle-East was used to make artificial eyelashes.

Elizabethan and Tudor Make-Up

Cochineal was used to give a red stain to cheeks and lips while Kohl was used to accentuating the eyes. The dye used to lighten hair to a yellow like the colour was made from a mixture of natural ingredients such as oils, saffron and cumin seeds.

More Info On- Tudor Dresses, Clothing Fashion, Tudor Period Costumes Styles, Tudor Clothing Doublet, Elizabethan Era Hairstyles Fashion

Found info useful?