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  • Writer's pictureFiona McNeill

An invitation to visit our updated website

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

It has been sixteen weeks since we launched the Toxic Allure website. The time has flown by! We have been slowly adding pages to the site and blogging every week. There are now twenty-one website pages to visit and eighteen posts on the blog page. We will continue to add pages and blog posts. A big thank you to our hundreds of lovely visitors, we hope you continue to come back as we add more about what we find!

When we launched the site, we had a very large menu bar at the top of the page. We were so excited about the world seeing every single page! However, we have now added so many pages that this menu arrangement was clunky. So, we have simplified the menu to make it easier to navigate. We invite you to take a look. There are now five themes on the main menu bar: Home, The Science, Wearing the Makeup, Lady Coventry and the Blog.

Home: Here you will find pages which tell you who we are and why we are doing this project! You can also see photos from our Instagram feed which we update twice weekly. We are @Toxic_Allure_ over there if you want to give us a follow.

The Science: Here we explain the science we are doing in layman's terms. We love our research and want to tell you all about it. Of course, lead is very toxic, so there is a safety page warning you not to do this work at home! Please be very careful if you encounter products (like oil paint) that contain white lead.

The science is challenging (but fun!) and the results are intriguing. We have a page to explain how we are testing whether lead from 18th century makeup recipes can be absorbed through skin. We have a page to explain how we are trying to find out what the makeup really looked like on a woman's skin. You can see how my skin compares to a pig and the colours of lead makeup when painted on pigskin. We have a page explaining what we know about the effects of lead on young women's health. If Lady Coventry was lead poisoned, we might expect her to have suffered some of these effects.

Wearing the make-up: For fun, I have made several modern (non-toxic!) versions of 18th century makeup recipes. I have worn the makeup and photographed it to get an idea of what white lead makeup looked like. This also gave us a sense of the makeup texture and how easy it was to apply. So far we have posted pictures of me wearing three recipes. We have given the makeup short nicknames: Sforza, Abdeker, Boston 1833. We created nicknames because the recipe book titles are insanely long! In this photo I am wearing Boston 1833, a wax-based formula. Quite subtle, no?

Lady Coventry: The story of this young women started this whole project for me. I was intrigued and wanted to read about exactly how toxic this makeup was. I discovered nobody really knew! I realised there was a role for science in this story. However, the stories of Lady Coventry and the George II court were such delightful gossip! They give our science some human flavour. It is good to be reminded that our science is trying to understand whether a real woman could have been killed. I decided to share the little I have read about Lady Coventry. There are pictures of her, information about her makeup and clothes, and a spicy tale about Kitty Fisher.

We are studying 18th century white makeup. We are not advocating skin whitening. Please read our statement here.

The Blog: you are here! I post a blog every weekend*, with whatever Toxic Allure related topic takes my fancy. It is supposed to be posted on a Saturday, but sometimes it slides to Sunday if I'm off enjoying my weekend.

It is exactly two years since I first started thinking about Lady Coventry's story. I was intrigued from the get-go. It has been a leap of faith for me to start this new research and website. I have absolutely no regrets. I have never enjoyed a project as much as this! I hope you enjoy navigating through our website, reading about our work.

* The Toxic Allure blog is going to be on a short hiatus at the end of December so the team can take some time off and enjoy the holidays. We will start posting again in January!

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