Today, it’s often thought that in the past the hair was washed less frequently than today. But this wasn’t always the case. In the Victorian and Edwardian era, it was recommended to wash the hair between twice a week and once a month. Besides washing the hair, frequent hair brushing was used to keep the hair clean and healthy.
How often to wash the hair
The hair should be washed once or twice a week with pure white soap and water. (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883) Shower-baths cause hair loss. The best time to wash the hair is in the evening in order to not catch cold.
‘Oily hair can be remedied by being washed once in two weeks, while hair with a normal amount of oil should not be washed more than once a month unless one is engaged in dusty work or is traveling constantly.’ (Marin Journal, 1901)
‘If you have very dry hair, do not wash it oftener than every three weeks, and you might let it go for four weeks with prudence. If your hair is oily you may indulge in a shampoo every two weeks, but not oftener. Some girls, during the rage for fluffy hair, were in the habit of washing their hair once a week or oftener, a process which took all the natural life and oil out of the finest locks and left them dry, hard, dead and ready to fall out at the first sign of ill-health.’ (San Francisco Call, 1904)
‘The hair can be treated twice a month to a good shampoo. Or, if the hair be dry, once a month will do. But once a week it should be well washed with hot water and the hands. This will take out the oil and make it inclined to curl.’ (The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, 1905)
‘Do not wash your hair according to the same rule employed by the girl next door who has luxurious tresses. If your hair is very dry, a fortnightly shampoo is sufficient. If it is oily the shampoo must be given every ten days or once a week.’ (San Francisco Call, 1906)
‘At the same time the hair is washed every hairpin and comb, as well as every roll, switch or puff, should be thoroughly cleaned in a disinfecting fluid. Keeping the hair and scalp immaculate is one of the most important points in the care of the hair. If fresh brushes are used daily they will aid very much in promoting a condition of cleanliness, and as a result the hair will not need to be washed oftener than once in three weeks, or a month, although under other circumstances shampooing every two weeks is generally recommended.’ (San Francisco Call, 1909)
‘I am perfectly certain that much washing of the hair with water is bad. As a matter of fact, I wash my own hair as seldom as possible.’ The hair is washed more in winter, and less in summer. It is ‘possible by much brushing to avoid any excessive use of water.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
The hair should be washed once a month. Between the washings, the hair should be cleansed from dust and dirt with a brush, in the morning and evening, and once during the day. To keep the hair clean, wash the hair brush at least once a week. (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
Wash oily hair, especially when living in a city, once a week. The hair may be washed less often, if the hair is dry, and if living in the country. (A Girl’s Problems In Home Economics, 1926)
Drying the hair
‘In this country, sunny, warm days are few, and artificial methods must, therefore, be adopted for drying the hair. One of these is to dry it before a fire, but this is rather a long and tedious process. Various ways have been discovered for rapidly drying the hair.
A method of quickly drying the hair by the fumes of benzoin has been introduced. The lady whose hair is to be dried reclines upon a lounge or sofa with her hair hanging over the end. A pan, properly protected by a cage and containing two or three pieces of ignited charcoal, is then placed in close proximity to it, and a little powdered benzoin is sprinkled upon the lighted fuel. The thick smoke which rises, and is strongly impregnated with benzoic acid, combined with carbonic acid, rapidly absorbs the moisture in the hair, which should have been previously well wiped with towels, so as to be as free from wet as possible. In a few seconds the hair is perfectly dry, beautifully perfumed, and ready for the operation of the brush.
Another clever contrivance for rapidly drying the hair after shampooing heats the air by means of a rotary fan, and drives the heated current rapidly through the hair. An effective method is the use of the hot water comb-a thick metal comb with hollow teeth which are filled with hot water. The hair is combed with this until quite dry.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
‘After shampooing, the hair should be well dried with warm, soft towels, the hair being rubbed or rolled in strands between the folds of the towel. The hair, loose and flowing, should then be exposed to the sun, if possible, or to warm air to dry it.
It is better not to dry the hair with a hot air funnel, or at a radiator or open fire-place. Remember that intense heat makes the hair brittle. Drying in the sun is best; with warm, dry towels next best. Drying will be aided and the possibility of neuralgia prevented by a somewhat vigorous massage given while drying. Rubbing the hair between the hands makes it more pliant and softer.
Combing and brushing the hair should follow the shampooing. If you are giving a shampoo to a patron at night in her own home, a time and place many ladies prefer and for which they are glad to pay extra, it is well to put up the hair as loosely as the patron will permit so as to assure a perfect drying over night and no ill after-effects, such as cold in the head. Caution your patron, if the weather is damp or cold, not to expose herself to it, until her hair is thoroughly dry. Do not let her leave your parlors, in case she has very heavy hair, until you are thoroughly satisfied as to its perfect dryness.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)