Great White Snark: Random (VICTORIAN!) Product Review

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Random (VICTORIAN!) Product Review

So I hate it when I buy products without reading reviews, because I feel like if I've read the review at least I've done my homework. So here are some reviews of products that have withstood the test of time and been in use, for good reason, for possibly hundreds of years.

Although "the Victorian" only technically lasted from 1837-1901, the late 18th-early 20th centuries get lumped in this category. I don't really mind, but my history major friends might disagree entirely. Anyway, I ADORE this era in history (the 19th century is awesome, particularly in Britain), and some of my favorite cosmetic/toiletry items came about at that time. And I wanted to share some of them with you.

1. Witch Hazel

This is probably my all-time favorite product in this list. It works WONDERS as a facial astringent and is totally acceptable to be used by both sexes. In fact, my dad uses it in place of after-shave. It has a really soothing effect on the skin, deeply cleans pores, and acts as a brilliant facial toner. I use it nightly (mostly because I have the skin of a pubescent 15 year old, but that's beside the point...) and it helps remove the last bit of oil and makeup on my skin before bed. A lot of people complain about the smell, but that's probably my favorite part of it. Although, again, I've grown up smelling it on my dad, so I might be a little partial to it. I love it. It's indescribable apart from "witch hazel" (kind of like, how do you describe how chocolate tastes apart from "chocolatey?"). According to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, it's been in commercial production since the 1870's, and dude, it is definitely one of those things that I think, "THANK GOD someone discovered this!" You can pick it up ANYWHERE (drugstores, grocery, Wal-Mart, etc.) and it usually runs about $1.50. You can get "expensive" witch hazel for like, $3 and it comes in a pretty bottle, but it's no better than the cheap stuff. There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't try it.

2. Rose Water

Like witch hazel, I use this as a facial astringent. It's not quite as deep cleansing as the witch hazel, so I use it a bit less, but it does just feel cleansing, refreshing and wonderful on your skin. Plus the smell is incredible. It has a light scent of roses--nothing overwhelming. My mom has better results with this on her skin than I do, so I think if your skin tends to be a bit drier than oily this might work better. You can also pick up Rose Water with Glycerin, which acts more as a light moisturizer if you have really dry skin. I get mine at Whole Foods, but any organic grocery should have it. If you can't find it there, see if you can find it in an Eastern/Indian grocery. A lot of Indian and Muslim recipes use rose water in place of alcohol for flavoring. Sometimes I dab some on my neck and wrists before bed for a really light rosy scent. I've also mixed rose water, and rose and jasmine essential oils and occasionally spritz my sheets with it. It has about a million uses, and if you're a fan of rose scent, it's totally worth picking up.

Get it here if you can't find it in stores.

Speaking of roses....

3. Smith's Rosebud Salve

Apart from being edible and beautiful to look at, roses have about a million other uses. They tend to be really softening for skin, and Smith's has got making roses into awesome cosmetic products down to a science. Formed in 1895, Smith's has been producing rosebud salve for over a century, and doing an awesome job doing so. You can use it on your skin, but as previously mentioned, my skin needs no extra moisturizing, and rosebud salve would be a really thick moisturizer. If you have dry skin, by all means, try it! I love this for my lips. It smooths out any and all cracks and dry spots, prevents chapping, and helps keep them moist and supple WITHOUT being too thick and greasy. Awesome to use as a lipstick base too, ladies. I also LOVE that they've since come out with one infused with mint! I love mint lip balm. I'm so used to Burt's that it's weird for me to use a mint-less lip balm, and while this still hasn't quite taken Burt's place, it's a very close second. I know Books-A-Million used to sell Smith's, but I'm not sure if they do anymore. If you can't find it, Sephora sells it and again, it's worth picking up.

4. Caswell-Massey Products

I recently picked up a set of Caswell-Massey's Elixir of Love No. 1 bar soaps and OH. MY. WORD. I am enamored with it. The scent is incredible. Caswell-Massey was founded in 1752 (I KNOW, RIGHT????), making it the oldest perfumer in the world that is still up and running, WITH GOOD REASON. My family has always used Caswell-Massey products and I always sort of wrote it off as being too heavily-scented and cloying for my use. I was totally wrong. I adore the Elixir of Love scent. It's equal parts light and floral and flirty, and sexy in a "Oops, I showed my ankle" way. It has a really neat backstory, too, and is based on a Victorian era (mid to late 1800's, I believe) recipe. Heck, if it was cool back then IT'S COOL TO ME. Every ingredient in the fragrance supposedly helps you fall in love. HOW AWESOME IS THAT. From the inside of the box:

"-Jasmine: With buds that open by moonlight. The scent of dreams, imagination, longing.
-Lavender: Like magic it both soothes...and excites...the hearts of men.
-Artemisia absinthium: The ritual symbol of Lovers. Caswell-Massey's time-honored way to add tempting warmth to fragrance.
-Egyptian Musk: a fabled aphrodisiac. Once deemed so precious, only royalty could wield its rosy power.
-Passionflower: The name says it all: Desire bursting forth in all its glory.
Softly blended, they create a beguiling web of scent...The original potion for Love Everlasting."

HOW BADASS IS THAT, YOU GUYS. I can totally imagine Victorian women, in their nine layers of clothes, getting all blushy reading that when they got a box of this as a gift from some admiring gentleman or best friend. AWESOMESAUCE!!!

The soap lathers up into an awesome foam of bubbly goodness and then rinses away super cleanly (enough even for my skin). Each bar is hand-pressed in an antique mold, making the bars themselves miniature works of art. The packaging of CM products is lovely, too. This is the only brand my dad favors instead of witch hazel, and while I always think of it as a more manly scent, my mom adores Caswell-Massey's Sandalwood which has some of my favorite product packaging EVER. They have a lot of lighter smells (Lily of the Valley is nice, Vanilla Orchid is really nice too), and tons for guys (No. 6 was George Washington's fav). Unfortunately, most of their stores have closed, but you can get it at their website. Also, I picked mine up at Stein Mart, so you might check there too to see if you can find and smell it before you buy. I've shopped with the website before and my experience was very professional and expedient. Not sure about their return policy, as I've never returned anything.
If, like me, you get off on the idea of using products used by the likes of George Washington, John Adams, the Kennedy's, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn and EDGAR ALLAN POE, then definitely try out Caswell-Massey's stuff. It might seem a little old-ish and stuffy, but some of their scents are much lighter. And I think it's incredibly sexy when young people rock "old stuff" in a young, refreshing way. Costly, but soooo worth every penny.

Oh, also. On a semi-related note, since Witch Hazel and Rosewater tend to come in ugly bottles, I made some pretty ones so they look nice sitting on my bathroom counter.

I just bought the bottles at my local craft store, printed up some Victorian product labels, literally TAPED it on there, embellished with ribbon and stickers, and BOOM. Done. :)

That's it! I hope you guys enjoyed it, and let me know if you use or end up using any of this stuff! I'd love to hear about it.

Also, this is just out of my own curiosity, but have any of my gentlemen readers ever shaved with a straight razor? I'm equal parts horrified and fascinated with the idea and just wondered if any of you had ever tried it and how it worked (read: if you came out ALIVE).

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