I should be very sorry were the corrupt fashion of the eighteenth century to
return, in which a woman was considered only half dressed till her natural
complexion was concealed; and hence many a lovely cheek and lip be disguised at
the bidding of those who had no beauty to lose.
At the same time, the face is always exposed, and it does demand at least as much attention as the rest of the person, and cosmetics have their use as well as their abuse.
It seems to me an inexpressibly absurd and inconsistent "crack" of modern middle-class society, that if an honest girl is known to use a soupcon of colour or tinted powder, she is sneered at and laughed at by her virtuous female friends, and so she gives in; but let me remind her that she is also laughed at if she has great feet, or scarcely any hair, or thick fingers, or any other defect. Crows will always persecute their weaklier brethren. There are always crows in every company; and if your mistaken "honesty" forbids you to conceal or improve your bad skin, these benevolent fowls will none the less set upon you with their stinging beaks and hoarse screams. Your honesty will only be another feather to wing the shafts of such enemies; you will not save yourself, but you will succeed in annoying society. If a woman have the misfortune to lose a conspicuous tooth, it is worse than folly not to replace it by art, rather than force upon everyone who speaks to her the extremely unpleasant appearance of her tongue through the gap. If a girl has the trial of a complexion so bad that the sight of it gives one a turn, it is simply a duty for her either not to go into society at all, or, if she does, to conceal it, as she would not scruple to conceal lameness or leanness. You have no right to inflict your misfortune on everybody - it is an unpardonable offence against good taste. You can't alter your great feet; but who will blame you for wearing well- made boots? You can't help losing your teeth; but who will quarrel with you for wearing false ones?
If an emaciated woman pad her dress, she must not overdo it, or pad it in the wrong place - that outrages nature more than if she left it alone. If a woman powder or paint, she must not smear her face carelessly with unnatural tints, like a clown in a pantomime or last-century ladies. I should never recommend unguents injurious or dangerous - belladonna dropped in the eyes, for instance, which, after a time, destroys the sight. There are transparent cosmetics which leave the pores open whilst they tint the skin, and will safely bear contact with soap and water. I should strenuously enjoin the wise use of those which are quite compatible with health and cleanliness. Women have no right to injure their health in order to enhance their beauty quand mÍme.
A lady who squeezes her waist into ten inches, risks her life in order to become a disagreeable object; a thousand grim diseases threaten her, and she ought to be excluded from the company of all aesthetic and sensible people till she sees her sin against herself and against the next generation. The same must be said of a girl who wears heels so lofty that she is half-crippled (the spine as well as the feet being sometimes injured), and whose features are actually drawn with pain.
But when health is not endangered the outcry might subside. Critics should discriminate. The girl who plucks her eyebrows hurts no one but herself, and may reap advantage for the time.
Mrs. H.R.Haweis, The Art of Beauty, 1878