Hair Care in 1900

I have a book entitled The Woman Beautiful. It was intended as a “complete medical guide for women” and was written by Monfort B. Allen, M.D. and Amelia C. McGregor, M.D. I shall do my best to sum up for you an entire chapter, using key quotes where I can. There is so much discussion these days about traditional methods of washing hair, and how people managed before shampoos became popular. This book was written around 1900.

For those turning away from chemicals, the question often comes up - what did people do for hair care before shampoo?

 

The first step, it seems, is frequent combing followed by thorough brushing.

The oftener the comb and brush are subsequently used in the day, the better it will be for the luxuriance, smoothness and set of the hair.

Obviously the brush is a natural bristle brush and not plastic!

For those who wish to “present an easy, flowing appearance … gracefully affected by the motions of the head and body”, that should be sufficient.

For those, however, who wear their hair in artificial styles, it is recommended that after the hair is well combed and well brushed, the brush be cleaned and then

“it should be slightly dipped into water, or into rosemary-water or rosemary-tea, or any other simple liquid, and, the excess of water having been shaken out of it, applied to the hair, which should be brushed with it, until the latter is slightly moistened all over. In this state, the hair should be parted and adjusted with the comb in the usual position or style of dressing it.”

Besides this daily attention to the hair … the head should be occasionally well washed with soap and water, an abundance of water being used, and great care being subsequently taken to thoroughly rinse out the whole of the soap with the same water in which the head has been washed. The water may be tepid or cold, according to the feelings or habit of the person; and if the head or hair be very scurfy or dirty, or hard water be used, a few grains of soda (not potash or pearlash) may be advantageously added to the water. This will increase its detersive qualities.

How often is “occasionally”?For those turning away from chemicals, the question often comes up - what did people do for hair care before shampoo?

In ordinary cases, this act of cleanliness should be performed once in every week; but if the head be much exposed to dust and dirt, or is very scurfy, or if the party perspires very freely, it should be performed semi-weekly, or even oftener.

(Semi-weekly means twice a week.)

The extreme length of ladies’ hair will sometimes render the process of washing it very troublesome and inconvenient; in such cases the patient and assiduous use of a clean, good hair-brush, followed by washing the partings and the crown of the head with soap and water, may be substituted.

There’s a brief note about dealing with unusually greasy and lank hair, noting mostly that it is extremely rare.

What I find interesting is that hair-washing water is to be lukewarm at best, not hot, and by “soap and water” they clearly mean nothing more than old-fashioned lye soap!

Scurf, as much as I can figure out, refers to dandruff.

So how does your hair care stand up against your great-great-grandmother’s?

 

Just Plain Living

 

 

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