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That Time the French Aristocracy Was Obsessed With Sexy Face Stickers

People have worn patches on their faces since ancient times, often to cover up scars or pockmarks. In the 17th and 18th centuries, artificial moles and birthmarks became fashionable, especially in France. The stickers were beauty marks, meant to bring distinction to a face that might otherwise look like everyone else's face.   

The beauty patch took off at a time when French men and women alike wore extensive makeup, including white powder in their hair and white paint on their faces, accented with rouge on the cheeks and bright vermillion lipstick. Religious conservatives and other cultural critics, particularly those in more pious England, frequently denounced the dishonesty of cosmetics like patches.

In his 17th-century book, Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transformed; Or, The Artificial Changeling, British author and physician John Bulwer took an anthropological approach to popular body modifications in various cultures around the world. Bulwer included an illustration in the 1653 edition comparing the European affinity for face patches with tattoos, henna, masks, veils, and piercings in other locales, deliberately exaggerating the trend by depicting a woman wearing a patch in the shape of a horse-drawn carriage.

Men wore face patches, too. Shown here is Charles Cathcart, who wore a crescent-shaped patch under his eye to cover -or possibly accentuate- a battle scar. Read about the fad of beauty patches and the different ways they were used at Collectors Weekly.

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