Findmypast investigates some of the more unusual beauty tricks Irish women have have used down through the centuries
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The beauty of Irish women has been renowned across continents for centuries. References to belles of the Emerald Isle can be found in popular poetry, literature, and of course, alehouses from Derry to Cork. As the great Irish poet Yeats declared, “love comes in at the eye”, and with their abundance of natural charms, it’s no wonder that Irish ladies have captivated imaginations – and hearts – so effectively over the years.
But how to achieve this irresistible allure? Fear not, we’ve done some digging and discovered the some of the more unusual Irish beauty secrets ladies kept to themselves for generations …
Get a Gaelic glow
Golden glows and bronzed tans may be all the rage today, but there was a time when Irish women actually strove to be alabaster pale, with skin kept in super-fresh condition thanks to the soft, humid atmosphere which prevails across much of the country.
Of course, everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and lord forbid a rogue dry spell mess with your visage. According to the Dundee Courier, circa December 1932, courtesy of the British Newspapers on Findmypast, the answer lies – as with so many matters close to the Celtic heart - with the potato.
Prepare your skin first by taking an ounce each of spermaceti (wax from the head cavities of a sperm whale...) and olive oil, reducing the mixture, then adding an ounce of lanoline and half an ounce of glycerine. Stir the mixture with a clean wooden stick until it sets, then place it in a jar.
Spread this mixture on your face, wipe it off with a cloth, and then repeat. Your skin should be a bit greasy, but not too greasy.
Now comes the spud. Scrub and peel a large potato, wash it thoroughly, then shred it to a fine pulp. Plaster this over your face and cover with a muslin that you’ve soaked in milk and potato juice then wrung dry. Recline with the muslin in situ, and allow nature’s gentle breezes to dry your face mask. It should take about 15 minutes. Once it’s hardened, simply scrape off the potato flakes and rub your face with a pad of cotton wool. Your face should now be covered with a delightful starchy powder, leaving your skin feeling satin-smooth.
You literally can’t be too glowing.
Run out of potatoes? Never fear, there’s no shortage of starch in Ireland to rescue your lackluster features.
Another favourite Irish beauty mask can be made out of very fine oatmeal mixed with beaten egg whites. Just spread the resultant dough over your face, leave it to dry, and then remove using soft towels, wrung out with warm water. If your skin is particularly greasy, dab on some lemon juice afterwards.
The pièce de résistance
Now that you’re pale and GORGEOUS, the easiest, most economical way to maintain your look can be found right on your doorstep. Or to be more specific, a bit beyond. Next time there’s a light rain shower outside, wrap a towel around your hair and sally forth without an umbrella to allow the beneficent soft moisture to work its magic on your mug.
Now all you need worry about is how to keep the hordes of enamoured suitors at sufficient distance whilst you execute your next potato facial.
For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.
* Originally published in July 2015.