Bizarre beauty secrets from the past

A dinky little book just landed on our desks which is packed full of ingenuity, imagination and interest. We take so much for granted, beauty-wise, that it's refreshing to look back and realise the lengths that women went to, to be beautiful. But as the book points out (quoting from 'A Complete Guide to Personal Loveliness', published in 1937), 'The quest for physical beauty is essentially as old as woman herself.' So...

Anyone for a face make made of minced and boiled pigeons?

Fancy swapping your hair conditioner for bear grease?

Want to lighten your tan? Try grated horseradish, stirred into sour milk.

Some of the recipes, though, are just as viable today as they were in - say - 1755, when this recipe for an aromatic bath was published in a book entitled 'The Toilet of Flora'.

'Boil, in a sufficient quantity of river water (!), one or more of the following plants: laurel, thyme, rosemary, wild thyme, sweet marjoram, bastard-marjoram, lavender, southernwood, wormwood, sage, pennyroyal, sweet basil, balm, wild mint, hyssop, roses, pinks, clove-july-flowers (NB we think these are carnations), wallflowers, stocks, anise, fennel or any other herbs that have an agreeable scent. Having strained off the liquor from the herbs, add thereto a little brandy or camphorated spirits of wine. This is an excellent bath to strengthen the limbs; it removes aches and pains proceeding from cold, promotes perspiration, and causes the body to exhale an agreeable odour.'

The Finishing Touch: Cosmetics Through The Ages is published by The British Library, so as you can imagine, brilliantly researched - and a fun little read. Keep it by your bedside, dip into it at night - and thank your lucky stars to be living in the 21st Century!

UK readers find The Finishing Touch: Cosmetics Through The Ages at£10 - buy here