Today, it’s often thought that hair was washed less frequently in the past. But this wasn’t always the case. In the Victorian and Edwardian era, it was recommended to wash the hair between thrice a week and once a month.
‘Washing the hair is imperative, as a matter of personal cleanliness. The frequency of a shampoo depends upon two conditions, the necessity arising from the surroundings and individual peculiarities. Some persons’ hair becomes more oily in a given time than others, from the nature of their glands; others perspire more freely naturally, or are made to do so because of their occupations.’ (The Fountain Of Youth, 1905)
Besides washing the hair, frequent hair brushing was used to keep the hair clean and healthy.
How Often To Wash The Hair – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
The hair should be washed once or twice a week with pure white soap and water. Avoid ‘daily shower-bath, which […] excites local irritation, and, as a result, loss of hair quickly follows. […] The most acceptable time to wash the hair […] is just before retiring, in order to avoid going into the open air or getting into a draught and taking cold.’ (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883)
‘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 perspiration causes itching, shampoo frequently, but not oftener than thrice weekly.’ (The Saint Paul Globe, 1902)
‘To keep the hair fluffy as the style demands, you may wash the front locks every other week with castile soap and fan them dry. If your hair is oily, massage with alcohol three times a week. The other four days you may massage with cold water and dry in the sun. […] Do not yield to the temptation to wash the hair often for the sake of making it fluffy. Many women are shampooing every week. This is too much of a good thing. The cold water massage and drying are sufficient’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1904).
‘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)
‘The regulation of a shampoo once a monce recommended by the hair-dressers will do for many; but for others, as often as once a week, or once in ten days, may be required. As soon as the hair feels sticky, mats together easily or comes out, it is evident that the hair needs shampooing. […] Gray hair has to be washed much more frequently than any other to keep it in proper order. Once a week or once in ten days is required.’ (The Fountain Of Youth, 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)
‘The really successful woman prefers to shampoo her hair once a week‘ (The Washington Herald, 1908).
‘There is an old fashioned notion – I was going to say superstition – that the hair should not be washed oftener than once in two weeks […] The hair should be washed as often as needed, once a week if necessary’ (San Bernardino Sun, 1909).
‘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)
WW1 & 1920s
‘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)