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Image of the Week: Glycerine and Cucumber

19 Dec, 2014

L0029207 Beetham's Glycerine and Cucumber

In our image of the week this week, Carly Dakin looks at how to achieve soft, smooth complexion free from redness – the 19th century way. Just reach for “the queen of toilet preparations for all seasons” and save yourself from chapped skin with Beetham’s glycerine and cucumber!

This image above is a 19th century advert from Beetham’s chemists for their glycerine and cucumber cream – a beauty essential for many Victorian ladies keen to prevent the harsh winter weather affecting their skin.

Centuries earlier in 1653 just before his death, the botanist Nicholas Culpeper listed the cucumber in Complete Herbal, his comprehensive A to Z guide to herbs, their medicinal properties and the methods by which those properties could be extracted for use in preparations such as skin creams and tonics.

Of cucumber juice Culpeper said, “The face being washed with the same water, be it never so red, will be benefited by it, and the complexion very much improved“. It is still used in many skin soaps and creams on the market today, as is the alcohol-based vegetable extract glycerine.

This advertisement relates specifically to glycerine and cucumber cream from M Beetham and Son, a chemist based in Cheltenham, England. Beetham’s products were stocked and sold world-wide throughout the 19th and 20th centuries they produced many advertisements for this particular product aimed at a female audience, targeting the desire for eternal youth, beauty and the pale complexion which was fashionable at that time.

Image credit: Wellcome Library, London – CC-BY-4.0

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

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