Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hair care in the 1820s-1830s

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Hair for evening 1828
Loretta reports:

Susan’s recent posts (here and here )about 1770s hair care sent me to my beloved The Lady’s Stratagem by Frances Grimble.* to see how much had changed (or not) in the 1820s-1830s, the setting for my books.

For those fluent in French, the text from the original, Elisabeth Celnart's Manuel des dames (published between 1827-1833), is here.  Those, like me, who aren’t fluent, will be grateful for Ms. Grimble’s translation.  You will note that, as Isabella pointed out, clean doesn’t necessarily mean what a modern reader thinks it means.  Recipes abound for oils and pomatums.  Shampoo?  Not so much.  It’s more or less a last resort, as you’ll see.

“Your principal task must be to keep your hair extremely clean.  Every morning, before arranging your hair, disentangle it with a large comb, holding it upright in a straight line in order not to break the hairs...When your hair has been well cleansed*...rub it with a square brush with a handle, whose bristles are very soft, or better yet are replaced with fine rice roots...

“When night comes, very gently undo your coiffure, first removing all the black pins which you find there, and shaking out the locks as you let them down.  These steps are especially necessary when your hair has been dressed by a hair-dresser.”

After this the lady is urged to comb her hair well and plait it.  Unplaited hair becomes damaged.  It also easily escapes one’s night cap and soils the pillow.
Hair product c. 1860

“When by nature, or by the prolonged or exaggerated use of oils and pomatums, your hair is greasy to the point of being dull, dense, and flat, you must resort to soap solutions.  Pour a demi-tasse of lukewarm water into a saucer.  Soak a very lightly-perfumed toilet-soap in the water for a few moments, and stir it a little.  Soon the water will be foamy.   Then spread the locks of your hair well apart, and with a sponge dampened with the soapy water, wash them well from all sides.”

You dry the hair with warm linen, then brush it with the rice brush.

Madame recommends that blond hair be “washed very rarely.”

*More about this fabulous compendium here and  here and here and here.)

**by combing


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the resurging trend of using only conditioner to wash hair. I know that to remove styling waxes, oil is recommended and conditioner is the best for removing hair oil treatments. It's kind of the "nail polish" theory: the second application dissolves and helps removed the first. I have super oily fine hair and never thought it would work, but after three or four conditioner-only days, my hair was no greaser than when I used shampoo, but it was much softer. Our ancestors were onto something!

Shelli Bennett said...

I think I found this in a short story by Edna Ferber...the main character in the story decides she wants to wash her hair and she thinks it's been something like six weeks since she's last had a shampoo.

Elinor Aspen said...

I seem to remember that on the PBS 1900 House series, the mother found it very difficult to rinse soap out of her hair (soap leaves more residue than shampoo). That is probably why the compendium recommends that soap be applied so sparingly to the hair (just a little dissolved into a teacup of water and sponged onto the hair, rather like one would sponge/spot clean a gown or coat rather than subject it to the laundry techniques of the era).

Alina K. Field said...

Just reading about 19th century hair care makes my scalp itch.

DLM said...

I've got long hair as well, and have been tempted by the "no 'poo" movement (http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/2013/01/no-poo-sherlock.html) myself. It's definitely true that when I got a horrible haircut (more than ten inches), I had to wash my hair ALL the time - every single day - and when it is long, I only need to do it every-other. I use as little shampoo as possible, too, but did not find success with conditioner-only when I tried that. Might have been a brand formulation issue, though.

More and more tempted with these posts, though, to try. Oh, but that three-weeks-of-hell part ... Hmmm!

Hrithik said...

Which remedy good in these modern days?

Jeffrey O. said...

Can't get enough of the everyday life of women in past times. What a lot of FUSS with hair (and hair ornaments) and undies and stockings and corsets and garters... All that religate to the world of fetishism. And we've not even got to the dress yet.

ab said...

My great grandmother once told me she used to wash hair with a coconut bar soap when regular shampoos were not widely available. I tried it once and was amazed by the results: it worked just like my high end anti-residue shampoo. Maybe they were really on to something!

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