Our lovely Vintage Queen no 17, the fabulous Fleur de Guerre, vintage lover and Forties aficionado, is letting us in on a little secret: how to get luminous, flawless skin just like hers. Here are her vintage beauty tricks!

I am so often asked how I get such perfect skin and so I have decided to let you all in on a little secret … it’s not actually all that perfect at all! I seem to be lucky enough to have the type of skin that looks great in pictures, even the skin of my body looks pearly white and smooth in the flash of a camera. But in reality, I’m as prone to breakouts as many, and my skintone leaves a lot to be desired, sometimes.

But I do have a skincare routine to which I am dedicated, and I think it helps ensure that my skin is the best it can be. And in this modern age of parabens, silicones, and ingredients with names as long as your arm, I find myself turning more and more to the beauty routines and habits of my grandmother’s era.

It may be something of a cliche that all grandmothers have lovely, soft skin, but mine certainly did. And luckily, she passed on some of her tips to me. So now I am passing them on to you.

Pears-SoapFirst, cold water and a mild soap are all you need in the morning. I, like most women, have dabbled with many different facewashes and soaps over the years, but always end up going back to basics. My granny, and my best friend’s too, swore by Pears Soap.

The smell of Pears is incredibly nostalgic for me, and so I do like to use it from time to time, alternating with a fragrance-free wash from Simple. The cold water is just the thing for waking you up, refreshing you, and leaving your skin tingling. I have to confess here that the light day cream I use is not remotely vintage, being from Tescos’ surprisingly high-quality organic cosmetics range.

IMG_2708My second, old-fashioned beauty secret is witch hazel. Witch hazel astringent was first produced in the 1800s, although Native Americans were well aware of the plant’s medicinal properties long before. I was introduced to it as a child, if I grazed or bruised myself, my mother would always apply witch hazel to the area. Its smell also evokes a lot of memories of being young. Witch hazel can even be used to treat various maladies, from laryngitis to, ahem, piles.

The reason it works so well against these complaints is the same reason that it’s a wonderful facial toner – it shrinks blood vessels and pores fantastically well. I use it morning and evening to remove all traces of cleaner and tone my skin. It is wonderfully refreshing on a hot day when wiped over one’s face, and even one’s tired feet. And at 99p a bottle, it is extremely recession-friendly to boot.

Read on for more of Fleur’s tips
IMG_2704My absolute desert-island beauty product is also the one that’s been with us the longest. Cold cream has been around for centuries, and it was something that our grandmothers would never have done without. There is a very good reason that this traditional product was so popular for so long, it really works. Use it as a cleanser, a deep-cleaning face mask, and even a moisturiser and eye-lash conditioner. It leaves skin baby soft, never tight or dry. And it’s incredibly cheap.

Cold cream’s main ingredient, mineral oil, has got rather a bad reputation in recent years as being comedogenic, or pore-clogging, but this isn’t strictly true. Actually, the best way to draw oil and impurities out of your skin is to use oil. It might sound counterproductive but the theory is sound. Oil dissolves oil, rather than stripping it off your face and causing your sebum glands to overcompensate and produce even more. It really is wonderful stuff. If you’re still not convinced, just take a look at Eve Lom’s  celebrated cleanser. Retailing at £48.00 ($79) for 100ml, a quick glance at the ingredients reveals it is nothing more than simple cold cream, with a few fancy botanicals and parabens thrown in.

bootsoriginalbeautie1I choose Boots’ Traditional Cold Cream Cleanser because I love its retro packaging, and you get even more for your money than with Pond’s, but many vintage girls swear by the latter too. Using it in my evening ritual never fails to make me feel glamorous. I apply it in my bathroom mirror, wearing my vintage dressing gown, thinking of all the Hollywood stars and glamorous grannies that did the same all those years ago. I massage a generous dollop of it into my face, and remove with a steamy flannel, following with some more refreshing witch hazel.

The stars of yesteryear would probably have finished with a Vanishing Cream, such as the one Boots are doing as part of their Original Formula range, but I don’t find I need to use moisturiser at all. A caveat: a girl can have too much of a good thing, and if I use cold cream in the morning, or fail to remove it well at night, it can lead to breakouts, so use with caution!

IMG_2713My final vintage beauty essential is one so popular today that supermodels have been said to swear by it. Created in the Thirties, allegedly to soothe the legs of its creator’s beloved racehorses, Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream is a staple in many modern stars’ and makeup artists’ cosmetic bags, and one that never leaves my bedside table. Some people aren’t fond of the smell, being slightly medicinal; but I adore it, and can never go back to boring old Vaseline (itself a vintage classic, of course).

Last year, (on 8 August 2008 to be exact) , Elizabeth Arden brought out a commemorative vintage container, glass, with a metal lid. So much more chic than the plastic squeezy tubes. It’s pricey, but lasts a long time, and it can be used on rough skin, cuticles, grazes, sunburn, the list goes on. Try it – I guarantee its soothing vitamin E and salicylic acid formula will ensure you wake up with lips as kissably smooth as those Golden Era glamour girls’, and ready for that ruby red lipstick!

For more vintage beauty essentials in divine packaging, have a look at Boots’ Original Formula range. And do keep your eyes peeled for my next beauty article, which will feature vintage make-up classics.

Fleur has recently done an update of this post on her blog, do check it our for more tips!

10 Responses

  1. Midnight Blue

    Fantastic first article Fleur. It made for a great read, and has me itching (not literally!) to get out to the shops for some new old-style goodies!

  2. Sara Brendel

    Wow, I am so going to pick up that cold cream and witch hazel. I have truly been searching for the proper routine, tired of wasting money on products that are just…not what they claim to be. I appreciate the information.

  3. Rebecka

    yes, you are so right about the cold cream – love that boots returned to their old fashioned packaging again! haven’t tried witch hazel yet (i use camomile tea with rose essential oil) but will have a go. also right one doesn’t need night cream – used to get lots of break outs and spots, but when i stopped splashing on the face cream over night they mysteriously disappeared..

  4. Lauren H

    I have insannnnnnely sensitive skin. Occasionally I use chemical products if I need my skin to look better for the next day, but then I spend the rest of the week battling what I had done. My skin is not very good with soaps either so I tried out the witch hazel suggestion after washing my face for the past week or so and it has been working out very(!) well so far. Thank you for the article! Very helpful! I will definitely be checking out the rest of your suggestions!!

  5. Summer

    This sounds perfect! I have sensitive skin and witch hazel works wonders! I was just curious about how long the night cream actually stays on?

  6. Lady Carmen

    Fleur you are lovely inside and out. Loved how you described your cold cream ritual it makes me feel the same. CO Bigelow’s rose water cold cream is a little trip to heaven and contains no mineral oil. It has been around for centuries and their witch hazel and rose water toner is just as fabulous. The rose water old fashioned scent really makes one feel quite nostalgic.

  7. tina

    Thanks for all of the good info! I rememeber my Grandma using nothing but pond’s and witch hazel as well and her skin was always so soft….think I’ll go and take hers and yours good advice and stay with the tried and true and stop wasting money on the rest!

  8. Eva

    A comment on an old post, but one that’s cleary worth reading any time, good old-fashioned benzoyl-peroxide is brilliant on breakouts! In fact, it has been the only thing to keep my acne at bay. Thanks to a novel set in the thirties!

    comes in many different strengths, so start with the weakest solutions.

  9. Lu

    i like your advice and you skin looks lovely, i want to add witch hazel to my routine, but will destiled hamamelis water do the trick? its the only one i could find in my country…so far.

  10. Katy

    I love the tips, my mum also used to use witchhazel if we had bumps or bruises, I didn’t know it made a good make up remover