And Now You Know: Hair and skin care – at home in the early 1900’s

Published 7:24 am Saturday, October 21, 2017

By Mike Louviere

In Orange’s early days there were a couple of pharmacies, and notions stores, but few that sold many of the things that the ladies needed for care of the hair and skin. One edition of the Orange Daily Leader had nearly a full page of concoctions that ladies could mix and make at home to help them keep their hair and skin in top condition……

“Why will some women continue to have their hair dyed? (The writer asked) The result is inevitably deadness. Let dye alone. Many recommend the use of brilliantine for it is the only application of oils that a woman can hope to make up these natural ones dried out by dye.”

The following was the mix recommended to counter the damage done by dye: “Mix one ounce of pure olive oil, ¼ oz gum benzoin, and 4 oz alcohol. Dissolve the gum in the alcohol and add 2 oz castor oil and half a dram each of oils of geranium and bergamot.

At night part the hair at close intervals and rub the mixture into the scalp with a narrow brush or fingertips. Omit a night, if the hair is becoming too greasy.”

Neglect of the hair was said to be a major problem…… “The greatest trouble with women when it comes to beautifying is that they will not stick with one particular method long enough to see if it benefits or not, but must try every method under the sun for two or three nights. This is especially so in regard to different methods concerning the care of the hair.”

The writer stated that “One’s tresses need just as careful and regular care as one’s husbands and babies. Select one method which you think fits your case and stick to it.”

Proper combing was stressed also; “To disentangle the hair use only a coarse comb and be sure every tooth is firm and smooth so as not to break the hair. Brushing the hair has been sadly over estimated. A dozen or two strokes each night is sufficient to remove the day’s dust and dirt and to promote circulation.”

Milk was highly recommended for skin care.

“Milk is a cosmetic that women of today would do well to include in their list of complexion washes. For skin that is tired, hot or windblown, one of the one of the best lotions to use is a hot milk compress. Put hot milk in a basin then use two soft muslin pieces, each large enough to cover the face. Saturate the cloth with milk as hot as the hand can stand, then wring out and lay down. Spread the compresses over the face. Leave on until the milk has cooled. When one cloth cools, apply another. Continue for at least 10 minutes, then wipe face with soft cloth dampened with water and thoroughly dry. After this treatment, the skin should be found soft and white with none of the dull or hard look that comes from exposure.”

In the 21st Century milk baths may be a joke, but in the early 20th Century it was a serious skin care treatment.

“The milk bath for the whole body is beneficial and has the added merit of being inexpensive. Rich quality is desired because of the extra amount of cream. For an ordinary tub six quarts to three gallons may be used. Add enough hot water to cover the body. Lie in the bath 15 to 20 minutes. The effect will be softening to the skin, as well as restful.”

A use for sweet cream as a facial cosmetic was also given to the readers. “A small amount of sweet cream mixed with one half teaspoon of boric acid and dissolved in a wine glass full of milk can be used as a cold cream. It will feed the tissues and soften the skin in a remarkable way. It is not to be put on until after bathing in warm water; then rub in as much as the pores can hold.”

“And now you know”