Pomade And Hairspray – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care

Pomade And Hairspray - Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care

Hair pomade

Pomade and oil is used for cleansing and healing the scalp, making the hair glossy and smooth. ‘In using oil, the animal and vegetable oils should always be preferred, as mineral oils, especially the petroleum products, have a very poor affinity for animal tissues.

Pomatum is largely used by many in place of oil, as it remains on the surface and gives a full appearance to the hairs, thus hiding, sometimes, the thinness of the hair. It will do no harm or no special good if it contains pure grease, wax, harmless perfume, and coloring matter, but it is often highly adulterated, or, the fat in it decomposing, sets up irritation on the part to which it is applied. I therefore always advise against its use.’ (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883)

Related: 200+ Historical DIY Natural Beauty Products

‘A pomade is a necessary toilet article, particularly after middle life has been reached. This need of nourishment is not usually found when a woman is young, hence the brightness of the hair, even when carelessly kept. But the lack of a pomade is undoubtedly accountable for much of the unlovely hair of people who are not yet in middle life. The hair is being starved. The least bit of the pomade is taken up on the finger tips, and five minutes spent in massaging the scalp before going to bed. First take care that scalp and hair are free from dust. In the morning it will be surprising how the grease will have been absorbed, and it will not be long before the harsh, starved tresses will begin to show signs of nourishment and take on new beauty.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

According to Health And Beauty Hints (1910) after some weeks nearly every hair would curl naturally ‘if oil were applied every two or three days’, because naturally straight hair curls in damp weather. After applying the oil, the hair is laid in waves. In the Edwardian era hair, however, ‘oils and pomatums have gone out of fashion’. (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

Pomade Victoria (The New Cyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, and Practical Housekeeper, 1871)
  • 1/4 pound honey
  • 1/2 oz beeswax
  • 1/4 drachm almond oil
  • 1/4 drachm lavender oil
  • 1/4 drachm thyme oil

Simmer honey and beeswaxs together for some minutes, then strain, add the oils, and stir the mixture till cold.

Violet Pomatum (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 1 pound white wax
  • 1 pound suet
  • 1 pound lard
  • 8 ounces orris powder
  • 8 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces orange-flower water

‘Melt, and macerate for six hours, then strain and stir in orange-flower water’.

Recipes With Rose Petals

Scented Hair Oil (Beauty Culture, 1911)

‘If the hair is inclined to be dry, some bland oil should be rubbed into the scalp with the tips of the fingers. Pure white vaseline answers very well, as it does not turn rancid, but it should be used in moderation, as it has a tendency to darken the hair, especially that of a very blond color.’

  • 3 oz. almond oil
  • 1 oz. oil of rosemary
  • 30 drops oil of lavender

‘A little of the mixture is rubbed into the scalp every two or three nights. […]

If the hair is naturally oily and a perfume is desired for the hair, any essential oil, such as oil of violet, oil of bergamot or lavender, may be used in the same manner, though much more sparingly and only once in a week.

Sometimes the least touch of an essential oil and a bland oil may be given, especially after a shampoo, to give sheen to the hair. Such preparations are known as brilliantine.

Old English Hair Tonic (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)
  • 1/2 pint almond oil
  • 2 oz burdock root
  • 1/4 oz rosemary oil
  • 1/4 oz thyme oil

‘The burdock root is put into the oil, and the jar containing it kept warm for forty-eight hours. It is then strained and the other ingredients added.’

Hair Tonic For Dry Or Sunburned Hair (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)
  • 1/2 pint almond oil
  • 1 1/8 oz coarsely powdered alkanet root
  • 9 1/2 grains each of oil of cloves, mace and rose
  • 1/2 dram oil of cinnamon
  • 7 1/2 grains tinture of musk

Put the powdered alkanet root into the almond oil, ‘the two being kept warm until the oil is colored a deep red. This will take several days.’ Then add the essential oils.

French Jasmin Pomade (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 1 part beef suet
  • 3 parts lard
  • fresh jasmin flowers

‘A frame formed of four pieces of wood, two inches deep and one foot square, with a groove arranged to support a piece of glass, which is to form a moveable bottom, on this spread a layer’ of the suet and lard mixture. ‘Into this stick fresh jasmin flowers, in different parts every day, or every other day, for one, two, or three month, or until the pommade is sufficiently scented.’

Violet Flower Pomade (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 1 part suet
  • 2 parts lard
  • fresh violet flowers

Melt the fats, strain, and follow the instruction for the jasmin pomade above.

Pommade A La Rose (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 4 pounds lard
  • 1 pound suet
  • 1 pound alkanet
  • 5 ounces rose water
  • attar of roses to perfume

Mix lard, suet and alkanet. ‘Macerate with heat to give a faint colour, then allow it to cool, and before it sets stir in rose water’.

Pommade Aux Fleurs (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 4 pounds lard
  • 1 pound suet
  • jasmin or orange flowers

‘Melt, and stir in jasmin or orange flowers to scent; let it stand for three or four days.’

Pommade A La Vanilla (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841)
  • 1 part powdered vanilla
  • 2 parts oil a la rose
  • 12 parts pommade a la rose
  • 1/3 part bergamot
  • 2 parts suet

‘Melt in water bath and stir well for one hour, then let it settle for two hours, and pour off the clear.’

DIY Hairspray Recipe - Victorian Rose Bandoline
DIY Hairspray Recipe
Oil Curling Fluid AKA The Curly Girl Method Of The Edwardian Era (Los Angeles Herald, 1915)

‘I do not admire heavy, oily hair, but I sometimes think that if the hair is inclined the slightest bit to be wavy a little oil applied to it would make it curl. It is, I know, the common idea that dry hair will curl better than that which is oily. This is a mistake, for you have all noticed that some straight hair shows an inclination to curl when the weather is damp. The dampness gives weight and body to the hair, and I believe – on the same principle – that if oil in small quantities is applied to the hair it will curl.

Sweet almond or cocoanut oil, scented with a favorite perfume, will answer the purpose. Apply a very little bit with the palms of the hands three or four times a week. After using the oil arrange the hair in soft waves, pinning them into position with invisible hairpins if necessary. Tie a thin veil about the head and do not remove it until you are ready to go out. Hair once trained in the habit of waving will be much easier to manage than when it is straight.’

Oiling The Hair (Chicago Tribune, 1903)

Massage the roots of the hair nightly with the ‘fingers dipped in an oily tonic […] just enough to keep the tips of the fingers moistened’.

Oiling The Hair (Chicago Tribune, 1929)

‘Give yourself a hot oil treatment once a week […] First, part the hair from the center in one inch parts, then apply […] olive oil with your finger tips and go over the entire scalp. If the hair is excessively dry, let the oil remain on all night; otherwise, let it stay on a couple of hours. When you shampoo be careful not to use a strong caustic soap, and under no circumstances add borax or ammonia, lemon or vinegar rinses to the water. A bit of the olive oil should be rubbed into the scalp every day before the hair is brushed, or you may use your brilliantine.’

A Cooling Scalp Tonic (Beauty Culture, 1911)
  • 1/2 pt. almond oil
  • 1/8 lb. burdock root
  • 1/4 oz. oil of thyme
  • 1/4 oz. oil of rosemary
  • 2 dr. oil of bergamot
  • 1 dr. oil of lemon
  • 1 dr. oil of rose geranium

‘This can be applied at any time by massaging it in, but is best done at night, covering the pillow with a towel. Do not advise a nightcap to protect the pillow, as a nightcap would be heating and offset the benefit derivable. Nightcaps, anyway, except for persons very bald, are objectionable.’

Pomade And Hairspray - Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
Antique silver hairbrush


Hairspray, called bandoline in the Victorian and Edwardian era, was used to set curls. If bandoline is ‘applied to the hair before it is wrapped in curlers [it] will make your curls survive a rainstorm and several days of cloudy weather’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1914). Bandoline was either made with quince seeds, Irish moss, linseed, gum arabic or gum tragacanth. Bandoline with Irish moss or gum was considered the best. And in the 1920s, bandoline was still used: 1924 bottle of bandoline hair dressing.

Traditional Bandoline With Quince Seeds (Three Meals A Day, 1902)

Quince mucilage or bandoline ‘is sometimes used as a bandoline, but it soon decomposes, and, therefore for that purpose, only very small quantities should be prepared.’ (Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, 1872)

Simmer quince seeds and water down to a 3/4 pint, add alcohol, and scent with cologne. Curl the hair with paper or pins, ‘dampen with bandoline and leave up over night, or until thoroughly dry. This will be found to resist the warmest day.’

Bandoline With Quince Seeds (Quince Culture, 1896)
  • 1 part quince seeds
  • 40 – 50 parts warm water

Cover the seeds with warm water, ‘which soon produces a mucilage […] Many ladies prepare it for themselves to keep their hair in place. It can be perfumed with any kind of odor. By the addition of a little alcohol it can be kept for a long time.’

Quince Seed Curling Fluid (Chicago Tribune, 1902)

‘The old fashioned quince seed curling fluid is not at all bad.’

  • 1 tbsp quince seeds
  • 2 tbsp water

‘Take a tablespoon of quince seeds and add two tablespoons of water. Let simmer, strain, and just barely touch the hair with the mixture. This will make the hair stiff, but it will “stay in,” and there are times when one wants the hair to remain in curl, no matter how stiff it may feel to the fingers. The long, pretty neck ringlets are kept in by the quince seed curling stuff’.

London Bandoline (The Druggist’s General Receipt Book, 1886)
  • 1 oz gum tragacanth powder
  • 1 pint rosewater

Put gum and rosewater ‘into a wide-mouthed vessel, and shake them together daily for 2 or 3 days; then strain with gentle pressure through fine linen or cambric. If required to be coloured, infuse cochineal in the water employed, before making the mucilage.’

Homemade Hairspray, With Gum Arabic, Rosewater
Victorian rose bandoline recipe
Very Good Bandoline (Dr. Chase’s New Receipt Book, 1889)

To keep crimps in place in damp weather.

  • 1/2 oz gum arabic or gum tragacanth powder – ‘the Arabic is most used while the tragacanth is the best’
  • boiling water
  • ca. 1 oz alcohol

Pour just enough boiling water over the gum ‘to dissolve it; then adding alcohol enough to make it rather thin […] Let stand open all night, then bottle for use.

Directions—Wet the bangs with this mixture at bed time, and twist or curl the bangs upon the forehead, as desired; then put over a bit of lace, or a gauze band (French bandeau), to keep it in position till dry, or rather, till morning; then remove the bandeau, and pull the crimps out with the fingers until they are soft and fluffy. […] It will not come out, even in damp weather. If there is any gum on the hair, rub it off with the fingers, and if it looks dull, touch the fingers to a little of the glycerine and rose water dressing above, and pass them lightly over the hair to give it a shiny appearance.’

Gum Arabic Bandoline (The Commoner, 1910)
  • 1 1/2 ounce gum arabic
  • 1/4 pint water
  • optional: perfume

The ‘mixture is made of a small quantity of clean, clear pieces of gum arabic left to dissolve overnight in a little cold water – an ounce and a half in a quarter of a pint of water, will make a good deal. Strain the dissolved gum through a piece of thin muslin, add a few drops of perfume, and use to shape the curls […] This will give a glossy appearance to the hair. […] The hair should be clean, but not freshly shampooed, as the shampoo takes the oil out of the hair.’ ‘Wet the hair with this, shaping it into little rings, or twisting up on kid curlers, or bits of paper, or clean rags; when dry, brush lightly’.

Gum Arabic Bandoline (The Richmond Palladium And Sun-Telegram, 1909)
  • 3 oz gum arabic
  • 1/2 pint rose water
  • 1 drop aniline dye

‘A mixture that is helpful in keeping riotous hair in place, and may be used with benefit on the pompadour, made from three ounces of clean gum arabic dissolved in half a pint of rose water. This, when clear, is tinted with a drop of analine dye in solution. It may be scented in any way one wishes. It gives a luster to the hair. To apply, a few drops should be poured into the palm of one hand, rubbing the other into it, then gently smoothing the hair after it is brushed and ready to dress. Those who object to gum arabic and wish merely to hava a lustre will get it by tinting glycerine with analine dye and scenting it.’

Gum Arabic Curling Fluid (San Francisco Call, 1902)
  • 1 dram gum arabic
  • 1 dram granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces rosewater

‘Dissolve the gum arabic and sugar in the rosewater, then filter. Lotions are usually filtered through white blotting paper, but two or three folds of muslin answers equally well.’

Victorian Rosewater Glycerin Lotion Homemade Moisturizer
Victorian Rosewater Glycerin Lotion
Curling Fluid With Glycerin (San Francisco Call, 1902)
  • 4 ounces rosewater
  • 3 drams alcohol
  • 1 dram glycerin
  • 1/2 dram carbonate of potash

‘Mix all well together and shake before using.’

Curling Fluid With Soap (San Francisco Call, 1902)
  • 1/4 pound castile soap, cut in small pieces
  • 1/2 pint alcohol
  • 1 dram each of essence of ambergris, citron and neroli

Pour alcohol over the castile soap and perfume the curling fluid.

Gum Tragacanth Curling Fluid (San Francisco Call, 1902)
  • 1 ounce gum tragacanth
  • 1 pint water
  • 8 drops essence of rose

‘A good curling fluid is made by pouring a pint of water over one ounce of gum tragacanth, let it stand until well dissolved, which may be a day or more, stir frequently. Filter and let it stand a few days, then filter again and add 8 drops of essence of rose.’

Bandoline Or Hair Fixature (Recipes For The Million : A Handy Book For The Household, 1891)
  • 1 dram gum tragacanth
  • 1/2 pint water
  • 3 oz proof spirit
  • 10 drops otto of roses

‘Soak for twenty-four hours, then strain.’

Hair Waver (Chicago Tribune, 1902)

‘Glycerin and water will not mix well, but if you will combine them, half and half, and wet the hair you will be rewarded with a little stiff wave which is better than no wave at all. Glycerin, with twice as much rosewater added, will make a fairly good hair waver.’

Sugar Bandoline (Chicago Tribune, 1902)

To make hair ‘curl, after it has been shampooed and is soft, take a little gum arabic and let it melt in enough hot water to cover it. Add a few grains of sugar and moisten the hair with it before putting up in curlers.’

Linseed Bandoline (The Druggist’s General Receipt Book, 1886)
  • 1 tbsp linseed (not bruised)
  • 1/2 pint water

Boil linseed and water ‘for 5 minutes and strain.’

Pink roses, pearl necklace, vintage crochet lace

Flaxseed Bandoline (The Manual On Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis And Chiropody, 1906)
  • 1 oz flaxseed
  • 1 pint water

‘Boil together 15 minutes, strain and add:’

  • 1 oz gum tragacanth
  • 1 quart rosewater

‘Let stand 24 hours, strain, and add any scent desired.’

Irish Moss Bandoline (Facts Worth Knowing, 1856)
  • 1/4 oz clean Irish moss
  • 1 qt water
  • 1 tsp rectified spirit to each bottle

Make Irish moss mucilage by boiling moss and water ‘until sufficiently thick’. Add ‘rectified spirit in the proportion of a teaspoon-ful to each bottle, to prevent its being mildewed. The quantity of spirit varies according to the time it requires to be kept.’

Bandoline (Facts Worth Knowing, 1856)
  • 1 1/2 drachm gum tragacanth
  • 1/2 pint water
  • 3 oz proof spirit (made by mixing equal parts of rectified spirit and water)
  • 10 drops otto of roses

‘Soak for twenty-four hours and strain.’

Bandoline (The White House Cook Book, 1899)
  • 1 qt rosewater
  • 1 1/2 oz gum tragacanth
  • 1 drachm oil of roses

Let rosewater and gum ‘stand forty-eight hours, frequently straining it, then strain through a coarse linen cloth; let it stand two days, and again strain’. Add rose oil. ‘Used by ladies dressing their hair, to make it lie in any position.’

Victorian And Edwardian Homemade Cold Cream Recipes
Cold cream
Bandoline (Mackenzie’s Ten Thousand Receipts, 1865)
  • 4 oz gum arabic or 1 oz gum tragacanth
  • 1 pint water

Dissolve gum in the water.

Rose Bandoline (Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, 1872)
  • 6 oz gum tragacanth
  • 1 gallon rosewater
  • 4 drachm rose oil

Steep gum in rosewater for 30 hours, ‘stirring frequently; strain through a cloth, and let it stand for a few days; then strain again’ and add rose oil.

Rose Bandoline (Goodwin’s New Hand Book For Barbers, 1884)
  • 3 drams gum tragacanth
  • 4 pint rosewater
  • 15 drops rose oil

Mix gum and rosewater. ‘Stir occasionally as it swells, then carefully press through a coarse clean linen cloth,’ and add rose oil.

Eau Collante (The Druggist’s General Receipt Book, 1886)
  • 8 oz clear gum
  • 2 lbs distilled or rose water

Dissolve gum and water without heat, ‘and filter through coarse filtering paper.

Scenting The Hair

The hair may be sprayed with ‘lavender-water, eau-de-cologne, or other simple perfumes.’ Another way to scent the hair is to dip the comb or brush in perfumed water between each stroke of the brush, or wear a scent cap at night. (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘Fragrant hair is quite a fad these days. If fragrant locks are desired, take a drop or two of rose of attar and massage it into the parting. It can be diluted by the druggist with spirits of cologne, so as to make sufficient massage for the whole head. If rose is too expensive, use oil of rose geranium. Or ask the druggist for oil of verbena or any other oil you like. But be sure to dilute it, both for the sake of economy, and because it will burn the scalp. […]

Hair can be scented by wetting it with perfume before doing it up in curlers. The perfume wears well and is easy to apply. Moisten, but do not wet the hair; wrap it in the curlers and let it dry. There will be a faint, delicate odor clinging to the locks.’ (San Jose Mercury News, 1904)

5 thoughts on “Pomade And Hairspray – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care

  1. I’d love to see how well these old pomades actually work. You should make some of them and do a review! Easier said than done though I suppose 🙂

  2. Hello, the blog is beautiful and I have no idea how you managed to dig deep enaight o get receipies, but very well done. :)) Congratulations.

    But I have question. What should we understand by rosmery oil? Essential oil in big quantities can not be used so… I am not sure what to use. i want to do “scented hair oil”.

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