Healthy, Silky Hair in the 19th Century


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Zella

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#23
Certainly he was wearing a wig! This photo was taken a few months before, earlier in 1875. It seems the cinnamon oil wasn't helping his hair grow.
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Ah okay that makes sense. He also has a ludicrously huge hat in that picture, but I assume that was one of the jokes of the skit. Or at least I hope it was. :smile:
 
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#27
Ah okay that makes sense. He also has a ludicrously huge hat in that picture, but I assume that was one of the jokes of the skit. Or at least I hope it was. :smile:
I honestly assume he put on that outfit and everyone was like, "What a hilarious costume for the skit!"
and he was like, "....... yes....for the skit....."
 
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#28
I have thin, curly hair. I can see where a boar bristle brush would work well, but I suspect I would have the flattest hair on the planet using it
Same here, and yes, if I use the bristle brush, its flat, flat, flat. And I don't like the idea of dsitributing the sebum (with all the smells it has collected) in my hair. I'm probably ruined by Farrah Fawcett Majors in the 70s. Before, we here regarded washing one's hair once a week as normal, and it was decided that it looked best the day after washing. But then the idea of daily washing one's hair became more and more popular, which leads me directly to:

How often did the women wash their hair during that time?
I have heard they washed it once a month and it took a whole day to wash and dry it. Warming up sufficient amounts of water alone must have needed hours. Although rinsing hair with cold water is said to have a beautifying effect, it makes the hair more glossy. Some women washed their hair in portions, one side of the head first, then the other. The hair was then brushed in front of the fireplace until dry, which must have required lots and lots of time and sure could only be done in the upper social spheres…. I'm not sure how often housemaids or farmer's wives could afford the time to occupy themselves with beauty rituals like these!
 
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NH Civil War Gal

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#30
@Eleanor Rose I have NEVER heard of the rum or brandy treatment for hair in New England. And I used to get Yankee Magazine for years when it was the old time Yankee Magazine and they never discussed it and Historic New England in all their books of early life have never mentioned it either.

But it seems like if it wasn't working for the hair, as you went along, you could drink your frustrations away with your bad hair day!
 

Northern Light

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#33
Very interesting, Ellie! Thanks for sharing! :smile:

I always brush my hair from the bottom to the top, which I actually learned from my Cousin Eddie. My male cousin . . . with short hair. :roflmao:

I used to have waist length hair, but it is now a little past my shoulder. My hair was straighter when it was longer because it was so heavy. Or so I thought. Maybe I was just doing something wrong! :laugh:

I'd be interested in more about the stuff they used to set their hair without hairspray. I'm allergic to the stuff, so my hair always seems perpetually disheveled. Maybe there's a 19th-century solution for me. :smile:
My hair has a bit of a wave in it when it is long. When it is shorter, it has much more wave, which I can only attribute to the lighter weight.
I never use hairspray either, except on very rare occasions, hence I share your dishevelled appearance. :laugh: I have a friend who never has a hair out of place, but her hair feels hard and unnatural. It is also thinning to the point that you can see her scalp quite readily. I tell her it is all the years of dyeing and all the hair products she uses that have ruined her scalp. :frantic:
 

Northern Light

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#34
e38425fbff041d1fee20b243fe13d22b.jpg

Young girl with "sausage" curls, circa 1860. Image is by Anson of New York, N.Y.

Did your grandmother ever tell you to brush your hair 100 strokes or so before bed each night? This was often advised in years past as a way to create healthy, silky hair. Well a lot of today’s fashionistas say that’s a myth and can actually damage your hair causing split ends, flyaways and even baldness! So was grandmother right or wrong?

The answer may depend on the type of hair brush you use. In the 21st century, many ladies use plastic brushes to detangle their hair. If you use one of those brushes, it can create static and lead to snarls and frazzled hair. In the 1860s hair brushes were natural-bristle brushes. A woman’s vanity set would have included one or two combs to take the tangles out of her hair and a natural bristle brush to style it. The bristle brush was not used as a detangler. It was used to distribute the oils throughout their hair so it wouldn’t accumulate at the roots. This also served to smooth flyways and to clean the dirt out of their hair.

vintage-clipart-hair-brush-18.jpg

Natural-bristle brush, circa 1880.

Victorian females were taught to properly brush their hair. This meant starting at the roots and pulling the brush down the hair shaft. This helped make their hair silky smooth, but it took time, especially since long hair was the most popular style.

tumblr_mxni83qtmp1qh1z3go1_500.jpg

Portrait of a Woman, circa 1870.

The 1830s sculpted buns and 1870s up-dos were easier to achieve with natural hair. In many of the photographs of Victorian women with long hair, you’ll notice that it’s slightly wavy and feathers as it near the ends. Healthy, long hair naturally takes this shape if properly cared for. Victorian hair brushing practices pulled the natural oils near the base down the hair shaft towards the ends.

While Victorian ladies didn’t have access to hairspray, they did have a variety of styling oils, waxes and creams to help hold their hair in place. Often the natural sebum in their hair was enough. They also had access to chemical hair treatments. However, many ladies were afraid to risk them because they could be quite harsh. Curling irons were very popular. They were heated by a stove or lamp. Just like today, our Victorian friends had to be really careful not to burn their hair.

tumblr_mxxgxgxVQA1s6qzq7o1_400.png

Group of young Victorians, circa 1870.
In the 19th century women didn’t just style their hair differently than we do today; they cared for their hair differently. While they used pomatums, powders and oils frequently, they used soap as a last resort because it was considered to be drying.

So is the old advice about brushing your hair 100 strokes or so before bed each night good or bad? Well it probably depends on your hair brush. A boar bristle brush seems to be the key. It’s a simple addition to any vanity set and works best for smoothing back hair for a sleek ponytail or getting a little natural lift in your roots. Of course everyone’s hair is different, so what hair care methods work best for one person may not work well for others.



Source: The Pragmatic Costumer
Great article, as always, Eleanor!
I had read that the requisite hundred strokes were no longer needed because we wash our hair much more often than they did back in the day. The brushing moved the oils through the hair to distribute them away from the scalp. When you wash your hair daily or even every other day, the oils do not accumulate and so that much brushing that much actually can damage your your hair.
 

Northern Light

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#35
I start a few inches from the bottom and work my way up, brushing down.

It actually tangles less for me and is less painful! I have fine hair but a lot of it. People always assume I have thick hair because of the amount of hair I have, but the individual strands are quite thin.

I could see how it might not work at all for someone with thicker individual strands of hair. My college roommate and step mom both have such thick hair that they don't brush it. They can't!
This is how I brush my hair as well. If I start at the top, I cannot get through the tangles without pain and hair damage.
 

Northern Light

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#37
I have thin, curly hair. I can see where a boar bristle brush would work well, but I suspect I would have the flattest hair on the planet using it. I wonder if Fuller Brush still makes brushes, and if they have ones for women? ( My husband has one of their brushes)..
Remember visits from the Fuller Brush Man? He always used to leave a little treat for we kiddies, such as a little comb or a shoehorn.
 

Northern Light

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#38
Here's some more hair care advice from The Pragmatic Costumer.

Always brush your hair before going to sleep. Never sleep with clips, barrettes, braids or hair ties in your hair (it tugs and tears at the hair as your head moves on the pillow). This one surprised me. I had the impression a lot of Victorian ladies slept with their hair braided. Maybe I got this impression from movies. When I was little my grandmother sometimes braided my hair at night. I woke with lovely waves the next morning. @JPK Huson 1863, do you have any knowledge about this. I consider you my Victorian expert.

Never use products which contain sulfates. You don’t need a lather to get your hair clean! Sulfates will dry your hair and encourage breakage.

Never use a brush in wet hair. A wide-toothed comb is gentler.

Always allow your hair to air dry when possible. It's healthier for your hair. Personally I love to do this. It's a luxury when I have time to do so.

Never let your hair loose if the weather is very windy. The tangled mess will be difficult to untangle without damage. I know firsthand that this is good advice. I always wear a scarf or do an updo.

Our Victorians sometimes placed a piece of silk over their brush head and brushed with that. I've never tried that or known anyone else who has.

Anyone else have Victorian tips you can share? Anyone tried placing silk over their brush head? @grace, I'm wondering if you've tried this.
Livie Walton always had a braid when she was going to bed. I think Grandma did too.
I always tie back my hair when I am getting ready for bed. Loose longer hair is not a pleasant thing with which to sleep, in my opinion. It always seems to be in the way, getting over you nose or wrapped around your neck. It is especially unpleasant when the weather is hot.:frantic:
 
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