Renaissance BEAUTY

SEE ALSO Borgias Home Page I 15th Century Italy I Renaissance Family Life I The Discussion Forum

Page Symbol Beauty During the Renaissance
Characters - The   Borgias Fan Wiki


Renaissance women were proud of their hair. The ladies styled their hair trying to have a high hairline. If a Renaissance woman did not have a high forehead she may have plucked her hairline in order to achieve the desired effect. Blondes were the epitome of beauty during this era. Darker haired Renaissance ladies came up with many ideas to lighten their dark locks.

Saffron an onion dyes, along with alum, sulfur and soda were used to try to achieve the sought after blond locks.
Sometimes these dyes did not work and very often led to some very unusual hair colours during the Renaissance period. Many dark haired women of the Renaissance who dyed their hair had very damaged and brittle locks.

Some women opted to just hide the fact that they did not have the desired high foreheads and used the fashionable turbans and other popular headdresses to hide their hair. Under the headdresses the women would pull back their hair very tight and braid it to give the illusion of a high forehead under the headdresses.
Women who were happy with their hair colour still sometimes chose to decorate their heads with jewels, pearls, ribbons and hair combs. Some Renaissance women also used very thin shimmering veils under the popular high peaked hats.

French Renaissance women who did not usually want to conform to the norm used fresh flowers that they had mashed up like a powder then made into a paste and then dyed white, blue, yellow and pink and put into their hair! Italian women would sit outside covered from head to toe except the tops of special hair-bleaching hats would be cut out so the sun's rays would lighten their hair to the desired blonde colours.

Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Sandro Botticelli, c. 1480)
Portrait of an Ideal Woman (Botticelli 1487)

Fair skin and hair were considered beautiful in Renaissance times.


During the Renaissance women strived for pale skin so much that they risked their lives for it! Fashionable women of the Renaissance used whitening agents composed of sometimes dangerous compounds, lead oxide, carbonate, hydroxide and many other compounds.

These agents caused several health problems like muscle paralysis ad much more and causing death.
Cosmetics during the Renaissance era included powders made with lead, mercury and vermilion (derived from cinnabar).

Women greatly valued a very pale look it was considered to be healthy looking to be pale! Renaissance women did feel like there should be a touch of colour to the cheeks. They mixed mercury with lead based powder to lightly apply to the cheeks and also they applied this to their chests to attract attention to their bust lines.
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Eyelashes were cut short and made thin and brows were thinned out and cut to remain light and airy looking.

Isabella de Medici (?) Bronzino, 1560s
Possibly Isabella de Medici (Bronzino, 1560s)

Did you know?

Signora Toffana
In Italy during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Signora Toffana instructed women to use her 'special face powder'
(made form arsenic) and to wear it around their husbands. She caused over 600 husbands to die and they left wealthy widows and eventually led to the arrest an execution of Signora Toffana!
The Glazed Look
Women used egg whites all over their faces to create a healthy "glazed look'.
Wigs actually got their start during the Renaissance because so many women were losing their hair do to constant bleaching with lye. Lard was used at times to hold the wigs in place. The lard caused women to have constant lice and other pests.
Charles II
During the reign of Charles II the trend of pale faces changed.
Beauty Marks
Beauty marks became popular during the Renaissance.
Spanish Prostitutes wore pink makeup to constant with high-class women' pale faces. Also 13th century Italian women wore pink lipstick just to show that they could afford makeup.

The Meaning of Colour During the Renaissance Period

meaning love
Yellow Hostility
Fidelity (except in the low countries Blue represented adulterous wives)
Black & Gray Lower status people
In the 15th century black and grey was worn by aristocrats and nobility!
Meaning royal, only royalty could wear purple

How to apply makeup today for the Renaissance period look:

Apply a thin layer of sunscreen or primer. Sunscreen did not exist back then but it will help keep your makeup in place.
Determine if you have a 'warm' or 'cool' skin tone, then apply the lightest foundation that looks good on your skin.
Set your makeup with a white powder, brush a very white loose powder on your face with kabuki brush.
Brush your cheeks with a vivid red colour being careful to apply colour to the cheekbones only.
Decide on a lip colour Renaissance women wore shades of dark, rich reds. Stay away from pinks, browns an other colours. The more dark and rich the colour the lighter your skin will look.
Apply a thin line of black liquid eyeliner an using black mascara. If you use eye shadow be careful to use only the colours that match your skin tone.
Draw a beauty mark somewhere on your face. Renaissance women drew beauty marks on their face to hide pimples, etc.

Renaissance Makeup, Hair and Beauty - THE  BORGIAS   wiki

Portrait of Alda Gambara (Altobello Melone, 1515-16)

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