In the victorian era, a healthy and natural complexion was valued (or pale and delicate look), especially for young people. However, makeup was used, but it was a bit of a taboo and certainly not to be revealed to others. Here is a fragment from An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa M. Alcott, the writer of Little Women. I would not recommend it for reading since it’s quite full of Victorian morals for young girls and therefore quite boring, but it does have some good bits.
Maud went; and as soon as the door was shut Tom rose on his elbow, saying, in a cautiously lowered voice:
“Fan, does Trix paint?”
“Yes, and draws too,” answered Fanny, with a sly laugh.
“Come, you know what I mean; I’ve a right to ask and you ought to tell,” said Tom, soberly, for he was beginning to find that being engaged was not unmitigated bliss.
“What makes you think she does?”
“Well, between ourselves,” said Tom, looking a little sheepish, but anxious to set his mind at rest, “she never will let me kiss her on her cheek, nothing but an unsatisfactory peck at her lips. Then the other day, as I took a bit of heliotrope out of a vase to put in my button-hole, I whisked a drop of water into her face; I was going to wipe it off, but she pushed my hand away, and ran to the glass where she carefully dabbed it dry, and came back with one cheek redder than the other. I didn’t say anything, but I had my suspicions. Come now, does she?”
“Yes, she does; but don’t say a word to her, for she’ll never forgive my telling if she knew it.”
“I don’t care for that; I don’t like it, and I won’t have it,” said Tom, decidedly.
“You can’t help yourself. Half the girls do it, either paint or powder, darken their lashes with burnt hair- pins, and take cologne on lumps of sugar or belladona to make their eyes bright. Clara tried arsenic for her complexion, but her mother stopped it,” said Fanny, betraying the secrets of the prison-house in the basest manner.
“I knew you girls were a set of humbugs, and very pretty ones, too, some of you, but I can’t say I like to see you painted up like a lot of actresses,” said Tom, with an air of disgust.
“I don’t do anything of the sort, or need it, but Trix does; and having chosen her, you must abide your choice, for better or worse.”