Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Pomatum or Pomade for Glossy Hair

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Loretta reports:

Isabella and I have had a few discussions about what women might have used to keep in place those complicated coiffures I showed last week.

Part of my problem in pinning things down, I realized, was thinking in terms of a specific product for a specific purpose, as we have today:  hair sprays, gels, lotions, creams, mousses, Moroccan oils, and so on.

What they had in the early 19th century were hair oils and pomades/pomatums.  Bear grease was a popular pomade, but it seems that not all bear grease in England came from bears.  If you want to make your own bear grease, though, Wild Edible will tell you how.

My recent research tells me the most popular pomatums were made from lard.  Certainly the exact same recipe appears in one publication after another.  As our loyal readers are aware, copyright was not protected, and publications stole freely from one another.

Parisian Pomatum was one I came across again and again, in all kinds of books and magazines.  I'm listing several here, to show both variations and the extent of "borrowing."

A New Supplement to the Pharmacopoeias of London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Paris: Forming a Complete Dispensatory and Conspectus; Including the New French Medicines and Poisons (1833).  Recipe here.

The Complete Servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams (1826).  Recipe here.

The Art of Preserving the Hair (1825) Recipe here.

The Art of Beauty (1825). Recipe here.

The Duties of a Lady's Maid (1825).  Recipe here.

Finally, in the London Magazine (1826) you’ll find this lovely rant about the advice offered in The Duties of a Lady's Maid.



Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

Your post about hair pomades reminded me of a story I heard from a tour guide at Fort Warren, on George's Island in Boston Harbor. This scary story involves a hair pomade made of lard and rats. I found it online here Beware of putting animal fat in your hair! This story has given me the willies for over 25 years.

Undine said...

Between this post and Heather's link, I'm starting to think there's a lot to be said for baldness.

Unknown said...

I have a fondness for extant recipes so thanks for including them. I may give one a try using coconut oil. I am not a vegan or vegetarian but the idea of lard in my hair... just don't think I can do it. Lard is for piecrust!

Thank you, Ladies, for sharing your research.

Isis said...

Lard can be substituted with Lanolin, though, of course that is a fatty substance you get from wool, so it is still animal-based.

The modern hair product that best mimic old time hair pomatums are soft hair wax.

Unknown said...

I loved the rant from the London Magazine! Very similiar to modern exposes on fancy, pricey cosmetics. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Karen said...

The lady who owns this business is a friend of mine (disclaimer!) and I have used a number of her products although I haven't used this one yet. A little nicer than lard!

Julia said...

@Shelli Bennett:

My thoughts exactly. An acquaintance of mine works in a cosmetics branch and I'll just have to print out that rant for her. I can't tell you how much I sneered and smiled at the recent fashion of adding protein of pearl, orchid, soy, and what-not to shampoos. Pour the refuse from orchid farms through a sieve and suddenly it's an extract!

I guess these days a few ingredients like vitamins, essential oils or pantheol are backed up by research. But mostly the formula seems to be: mineral oil + water + perfume + *insert hyped ingredient*.

"The more things change" indeed.

Jbirdesigns said...

Rules for Downton Abby show a recipe for pomatum: "How to make pomatum for dry hair After washing, hair may become dry and rubbing in a little pomatum with the palm of the hand will restore its gloss. To make it, you will need: 8oz olive oil 1oz spermaceti Drops of essential oil Drops of essence of lemon." Mix well and keep in jar. (Location 673)

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