Heat, Hair & Hair Color – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care

Heat, Hair & Hair Color – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care

Daytime hairdressing

It’s restful for the scalp if the hair isn’t all the time dressed in the same way: ‘In the early part of the day, when simple frocks are worn, it may be twisted or braided at the back, making an elaborate coiffure for afternoon. This insures the head being cool in all places at different times.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

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‘It is a good thing, about noon, to take out one’s hairpins and to toss the hair loose. It looks pretty and it does the hair a world of good […] letting the air circulate through it.’ After washing and drying the hair, ‘leave the hair hang loose for two hours. […] The girl with the prettiest hair in the world makes it her pleasure to let her hair hang down the day it is shampooed. She braids it loosely and she ties it with a picturesque bow of ribbon. Then she puts on a lovely afternoon gown and is at home to her friend. Her coiffure, or the lack of it, is put down to novelty. Certainly it is becoming.’ (Chicago Tribune, 1907)

No-heat hair care

Resist the temptation of a ‘quick dry’: ‘One of the most common errors in washing hair is to dry it by heat. This is harmful, for shampooing extracts so much of the necessary natural oil which acts as nourishment that to absorb more by steam or electricity is decidedly hurtful.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910) Curling with hot irons is likewise injurious to the hair, making it brittle. To prevent the hair from overheating at night, sleeping on a horsehair pillow is better than on a feather pillow. (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2) ‘Night caps are very injurious, by heating the head […] and shutting out the air, they weaken the hair, and provoke a tendency to fall off […] Instead of night-caps, ladies […] should wear a net over their hair […] Curling is best effected in the usual way, by papering.’ Curling the hair with hot irons and curling fluids are ‘apt to injure the hair’. (The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, 1856) ‘Do not use hot irons on the hair if you wish to keep it silky and long. Tight crimping pins are also injurious. If it must be curled, do it up loosely in kids or soft paper. A soft curl is much prettier than crimps.’ (Marin Journal, 1901) ‘Remember that headache is one of the greatest foes of the hair. When my scalp is feverish I sometimes apply a rubber cap filled with cracked ice for a half an hour or longer, until the congestion is removed.’ (My Secrets Of Beauty, 1914)

Fashionable Hair Color

In the early and mid-Victorian era, it’s fashionable to have dark brown hair, hardly a fashion plate depicts a woman with blond hair. There were also recipe for dyeing the hair black: Boil ‘leaves of the mulberry, myrtle, fig, senna, raspberry’ or ‘the bark of the walnut, sumac, skins of beans, [or] gal-nuts’ in wine and wash the head ‘several times a day’ with the dye. Another recipe says to take ‘one pint common wine, two drams common salt, four drams green copperas; boil for some minutes, and then add oxide of copper two drams; boil for two minutes, take off from the fire, and then add four drams powdered nut-galls. Rub the hair with this composition, and some moments afterwards with a warmed linen cloth, and then wash with common water.’ (The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, 1856) In the 1880s, blond hair is now chic (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883); while in the 1890s, ‘Titian blonde hair is more fashionable than yellow blonde’ (The Delineator, 1894). In the Edwardian era, dark brown hair is again the fashionable hair color with ‘large, dark eyes’ (Three Meals A Day, 1902).

However, bleaching or dyeing the hair is never recommended: The natural hair color is the most becoming to the eyes and skin.  ‘The use of hair dyes, false hair, etc., is almost as much to be condemned as painted cheeks and penciled brows. […] They indicate a senseless desire for fashion, and an equally unladylike desire to attract attention.’ (Manual Of Useful Information, 1893) ‘Nature does not make mistakes […] so that a brunette desiring golden hair, […] by means of peroxide of hydrogen, is the one making the mistake. When she has succeeded in thus “improving” her hair, she finds that she must, unless she wishes to present a bizarre appearance, use many cosmetics in order to make her complexion tone in with her golden hair. Nor is Nature failing, as a rule, when she touches the hair with strands of silver. Like the supreme artist she is, she tones the hair so that it shall form a pleasing frame for the face now taking the tints of autumn.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘Woman may show her character more by her hair than by eyes, nose, lips or expression. Golden hair, of a soft, pale gold, without undulation, shows gentleness and tenderness, but no force of character, if with pale blue-colored eyes, it is indicative of coquetry; if with pale blue gray eyes, a sentimental, but inconstant person. Women with pale, blonde hair are affectionate, impulsive and easily moved to jealousy. Chestnut hair of a soft silky texture, and not very thick, shows a romantic disposition; this hair is never seen on commonplace realistic people. Fine black hair shows a high-strung and sensitive nature. Dark brown hair is indicative of loyalty to a worthy object that cannot be shaken by ill fortune.

People whose hair is harsh have amiable but cold natures. They are always ready to listen, but it is difficult to arouse their feelings. They rarely have good memories; they forget easily, are procrastinators and bad at keeping appointments. Coarse hair denotes obstinacy. It must be borne in min that there is a great difference between coarse hair and hair that is harsh, although it requires an expert to distinguish it. For example, hair may be as fine as silk, but it cannot be trained in graceful waves; that is because the hair is harsh. Close-growing hair indicates violent temper; without any wave or curl, a melancholy disposition; wavy or curling and thick hair shows force of character and a certain ardor in love matters.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

About hair and the summer sun

Long exposure to the summer sun dries the hair as much as curling irons. ‘Eventually it causes the locks to fall’. Additionally, the hair color will change in undesirable ‘streaked effects. For example, light brown hair may become soiled yellow in spots, black locks rusty, while naturally blonde tresses take on the look of ash. […] at the first appearance of any change of shade it [the hair] must be given a touch of glycerine and water.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910) For the glycerin lotion mix 1 teaspoon glycerin with 1/2 pint of water. In the morning and evening ‘after combing, and just before making the coiffure’, rub a bit lotion between your hands, then pat ‘the head evenly’. A woman ‘who comes back to town in the late summer should set herself to work for the improvement of her hair quite as much as she does to make her gowns pretty.’

Resting the hair

‘The hair, especially when it is abundant, should be rested frequently. This is accomplished by loosening it, combing and brushing it somewhat vigorously and sitting for half an hour, or even longer, in sunlight.

The sitter is not to face the sun, but have its rays fall on the top and back of head, moving occasionally so the light may visit the sides also. Not only is this practice highly beneficial to both hair and scalp, but, after several sittings, it is likely to become peculiarly agreeable, a very delicate, exquisite sensation.

The mind of the sitter should be lightly occupied either in gay conversation with a friend, or in pleasant reveries, or with some not too exciting novel or book of essays. The sitter should also move the lower limbs, particularly the feet, from time to time, so that the blood should not be flowing too vehemently toward the head.

Indulgence in this natural and very simple performance, especially when women have an unusual or a very thick and heavy crown of hair, will often cure a headache, and will serve to prevent many headaches, or ward off any tendency of that kind. There is no hair tonic in the world so effective as the sunlight. But caution your patron not to overdo what is good. Many persons, when they get a good idea, instead of possessing it, get possessed by it and push it to extremes.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)

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