Book review: The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty

As we all know, American Duchess have released a new book in early july!
I was super excited for the release because the first one was great.
I did experiment with 19th century beauty recipes in the past year and I always struggled with pomade to dress the hair properly.
I pre-ordered my book on january 8th and it arrived on july 29th. Thats more than three weeks after the release date which made me a little bit mad.
BUT this is not American Duchess’ fault but the distributing companys and Amazons!


But now let’s talk about the book itself.
It consists of ’40 Projects for Period-Accurate Hairstyles, Makeup and Accessories’. You find recipes for 3 pomades, 2 hair powders, a rouge and a lip salve. To be honest I was disappointed. That’s not much make up and hair care at all when you think of the title.
18th century make up is more than hair and red cheeks and lips. I would have loved a deeper dive into hair and face tonics, lotions, creams and beauty patches and also little tips and tricks how to look more authentic. (Like burned cloves to color the eyebrows and lashes!)
You also only get a 21th century version to clean your hair and not an authentic one.
Instead of that you get A LOT of sewing projects.

You have sewing projects for the different haircushions but you get a lot of caps, hats and stuff like that (I believe 15! – 5-8 would have been plenty…) which I was not really interested in.

The hairystles are great and I love that they included every hairtype and how to powder and pomade it for the best results. AD were super inclusive!

I would also have loved to read more about Abbys experiences about her time when she was living with 18th century hair and make up for a year but instead she only had two pages to squeeze a little bit of ‘no rats, no vermin in the hair and it was not gross at all’ in. It would have been super exciting to read how she dealt with the hair in modern day life (make it more appropriate) and read little anecdotes.
I also loved the article Cheyney McKnight has written about african hair! But it was the same like Abbys article. Only two pages which is a shame.
If you want to learn more from Cheyney about african hair you should check out the podcast episode from American Duchess where they talked about this topic and her youtube channel!

At this point I would rate to book with 4 out of 5 stars because I really love how great the hairstyles and instructions for them are.
But sadly I have to talk about the dealbreaker of this book now: The ingredients of the recipes.

As a european (austrian) I am not able to recreate the pomade recipes at all from start to finish.
The mutton suet and lard American Duchess used come from a company called “Fatworks”. This is an US based company which sells already rendered animal fats.
Great when you live in the US but it’s impossible to get those fats in europe!
I now have the problem, that I have instructions for pomades but no ingredients.
Exactly the same problem, I had before I had the book. I need to source the raw ingredients and instructions how to render them. (I’m currently working on a pomade-series where I explain how to render fats, make different pomades and other beauty products based on pomade!)

Also AD used leaf lard which is not the same as normal lard. Leaf lard is made with a special fat from the pig and does not have a piggy smell like normal lard.
Many months ago I tried to make pomade with normal lard and it was disgusting, so please make sure to use leaf lard!
Also mutton suet is not available in a rendered form at all. You MAYBE can get the unrendered fat in a oriental supermarket. I couldn’t find one who could get this fat for me.

And now I have to talk about something I really feel unconfortable with but I cannot really ignore because it would make me feel even more unconfortable…

Many months ago I was pretty taken aback when I saw on Instagram that American Duchess were using an ingredient when they were writing the book. I left a comment under the picture if they are going to have another recipe for a lip salve because alkanet is toxic but I have to say…my comment disappeared magically…
This made me pretty sad to be honest and this is also why I now write about it.

Alkanet root is toxic and can cause liver failure, birth defects and many more awful things if you’re very unlucky. The use of it in cosmetics is also forbidden by law in the EU! You can read more *here* and in german *here*
Also the FDA has forbidden to use Alkanet as a color additive. You can read it *here*. (It’s at the end of list 4!)
Since this is a LIP salve recipe you’re likley to swallow product due to speaking, eating and drinking throughout the day and I find it VERY concerning that AD used this ingredient at all. And even if they consulted someone to ask if there is a risk with this ingredient they should have stated it in the book.
I personally cannot recommend using this recipe since there are many non harmful 18th century recipes out there for lip salves.

Now I said it..or wrote it. I personally can give this book only 2 out of 5 stars because of this topic which makes me really really sad, because the rest of the book is good…

And to avoid any misconceptions: I do not hate American Duchess or want to bash them.. I DO like them a lot. I love watching their live streams, videos and I read the blog regularly.
I also love the shoes they create and own and love two pairs and can’t wait to get more.
I just don’t like the book because of the reasons I mentioned in this blog post. I hope you understand that. I was just giving my honest opinion and tried to back it up with as much information as I could get.

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