20 Tips For A Healthy, Happy Life – Victorian And Edwardian Beauty Routine

Sleep, Sun, Diet & Be Optimistic - Victorian And Edwardian Beauty Routine And Recipes
Making the best of it. Enthusiast. “This is really admirable! — I get my swim — and a Shower Bath in!” Punch. (11 October 1856): 148. (George P. Landow, The Victorian Web)

In the Edwardian era, women strived to get beautiful skin and a good figure naturally. Enough sleep and rest, exercise in the fresh air, protecting the skin in the sun, and a healthy diet with plenty of water, were all regarded as important for beauty. A woman should also try to be positive and avoid anger and sadness.

Related: 200+ Historical DIY Natural Beauty Products

Beneficial for nervous persons is ‘open-air exercise, plain and nutrious diet, and health-treatment generally.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

To be considered pretty, an Edwardian woman would need to have the following seven items: a good complexion, beautiful hair, ‘an erect, well-set-up figure, good teeth, a graceful carriage, pretty manners, and a sweet expression.’ (Three Meals A Day, 1902) Mothers were advised to preserve the gifts with which a baby was born, because a girl’s ‘looks are the pretty binding which attract people to glance inside the book’.


6 – 10 Hours Sleep

‘I am sure every woman, or nearly every woman, could manage nine hours in bed every night if she would give up parties, as I do, if her work does not allow her to remain in bed late in the morning. Nine hours’ sleep regularly every night will restore most tired nerves, and if a woman’s nerves are in good order she is bound to feel well and to look well.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘The old idea that people could “oversleep themselves” is now exploded. No child in a well-ventilated room will sleep a moment longer than she needs to recuperate her powers’. Some grownups need ten hours sleep, while others just need six.  ‘To expect all members of a family to sleep the same time is as absurd as expecting them to eat the same sized helping at each meal, yet how often it is done!’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

Take A Nap

‘If, however, your position forces you into society and you are obliged to be up late at night, sleep an hour every afternoon. Before going to bed take a hot bath and remain in the water only a few moments. Then drink a cup of bouillon, and a small glass of Malaga wine. Sleep will soon follow, and last until the natural time of awakening, which is about ten o’clock in the morning under these circumstances.’ (Household Companion: Book Of Etiquette, 1909)

Keep Bedroom Dark & Ventilated

The bedroom should be well-ventilated, as well as darkened with dark curtains or Venetian blinds – lace curtains or blinds aren’t ideal. To have enough air in still summer nights, the ‘best plan is to have the head [of the bed] in the centre of the room, with a screen round it to ward off draughts. It is surprising how much better many people find themselves sleep by adopting this plan.

Fresh Air & Sun

Wear A Sun Hat & Sunglasses

Fresh air and sun are as important as sleep. However, a woman should never go uncovered into the sun if she doesn’t want her skin to resemble ‘mahogany parchment’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2). The ‘English climate is kinder to complexions than that of the Continent or of America’, however, the skin should always be protected in the sun. But not with a thick veil because it doesn’t let through enough fresh air. (Three Meals A Day, 1902)

Related: Edwardian Summer Hat

‘Dark glasses are unsightly […] but they disfigure for less time’ than wrinkles (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910).

Wear Make-Up

White toilet powder applied after washing, together with a hat, is a good protection against sun rays in summer and winter. A morning should never ‘be spent on the beach’ – with or without a swim – ‘without plastering the face with cold cream and powder’: Rub cold cream into your face, dust powder on with a puff, and rub in the cosmetic with a soft cloth. After some minutes, apply more cream or powder if necessary, and rub in again. To remove this makeup after the sun-bath, use a borax solution, toilet water, or alcohol.

Related: Face Powder & Make-up – Victorian & Edwardian Beauty Routine & Recipes

Drink Water & Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy & Rest After A Meal

Indigestion, even without pain, may cause a bad complexion, a shiny nose, ‘a shiny or flushed face’, blackheads, and enlarged pores. So, a healthy diet is likewise important for the skin. Remember to eat slowly, drink ‘little at meals, and plenty of water between them’, rest for ten minutes after the meal – don’t read while resting – and eat nothing between meals. For a good digestion drink a teaspoonful of olive oil in some lemon juice half an hour before breakfast. (The Ideal Cook Book, 1902)

‘Learn not to eat when tired […] Eat little while you work. Eat enough once a day, and do no work for two hours afterwards and don’t sleep within two hours of hearty eating. […] Eat simple things and change your diet frequently. Eat regularly – always at the same time’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903).

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

‘That it is necessary to take a little medicine in the spring is a theory which has given place to the new one of take more exercise and less food. Eat the vegetables and fruits which are blood purifiers and improve your health and complexion in a way that is entirely harmless. […] If girls would take less meat and more fruit, their skins would grow velvety and resemble the rose leaf complexion that very one of them would so dearly like to possess. […] One of the best agents for clearing the system and giving a fair skin is the onion. Eat it as a beauty diet’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903).

Related: Fruits Essential For Health (1920s)

‘Greens and salads promote the digestion of […] foods, rich in starch and sugar’ (The Saint Paul Globe, 1902). Preferably add some olive oil to your salad. (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Eat Eggs To Beat Fatigue

A working girl who ‘finds herself on the verge of a nervous and physical collapse from overwork or worry, […] who cannot eat breakfast and must go to work’, may be given ‘a glass of milk, in which two raw eggs have been shaken […] It will keep her nourished until the middle of the morning […] Fourteen [eggs] a day are none too many if little solid food is eaten.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

One Meal A Day

And you may be surprised, but the idea to eat only one or two meals a day already existed in the Edwardian era. ‘There is no doubt that two good meals a day are sufficient for most people’ (Modern Theories Of Diet And Their Bearing Upon Practical Dietetics, 1912). In the 1900s, the OMAD – one meal a day – diet was considered too extreme for most persons. But 16/8 intermittent fasting or the “two meals a day” diet was considered OK. You can read more about Edwardian intermittent fasting here in the book “Modern Theories Of Diet And Their Bearing Upon Practical Dietetics” from 1912.

Low Carb Diets

And to lose weight, diets were promoted in the Edwardian era which are popular again today. Diets that were considered to be effective in the 1900s were a “high protein, low carb diet” and a “low carb, low fat diet”. You can read more about the diet rules here in the book “Beauty Culture” from 1911.

High Carb Diet

And in contrast to the low carb diets, there was also a “high carb diet”: ‘the fleshless system of diet” was considered to be ‘the most ancient both in theory and practice […] Greek and Roman athletes affected the fleshless diet. Caesar’s armies conquered the Western world on maize and oil, and his writings bear testimony to the serious grumbling of the soldiers when mutton and beef were substituted.’ (Modern Theories Of Diet And Their Bearing Upon Practical Dietetics, 1912)

Drink Enough Water

‘Water is an invaluable aid to beauty. It should be taken before retiring, as well as in the morning – and between meals, in generous quantities – a full goblet at least each time. Many persons lapse into a state of chronic poisoning because they do not take enough water to wash impurities through the system.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

Drink at least 3 pints of water daily for a clear complexion. Sip each glass slowly, ‘not gulping in large quantities’.  Even a working class girl can drink enough water: a girl, ‘behind the counter, keeps her glass of water out of sight, but within reach’. (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Hot Drinks

‘Some warm drink [such as milk, cocoa, or hot water] or easily digested food […] will rest a person, nervously and physically.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee

‘If you want a face that looks like leather, become a confirmed tea and coffee drinker. Coffee taken in moderation will hurt no one, and the moderate use of tea sustains the body under severe muscular strain without causing subsequent exhaustion. It is only excessive use of either with is to be avoided.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

Don’t drink more than one cup of coffee as coffee ‘affects the nerves’ and thus the ‘complexion and eyes’. When you’d like to drink coffee, rather eat some nourishing food. The fatigue ‘will disappear as surely, and without nervous exhaustion later’. (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Healthy Sweets For Kids, But No Tea & Coffee

‘Children do not need stimulants, and many of the most beautiful society debutantes never touched tea or coffee till they “came out.” Good sweets are wholesome at meal times, for sugar is a heat-producer and muscle food, and is necessary to children, but perhaps this food may be better administered in the form of brown sugar on bread-and-butter, and golden syrup’, so that the child doesn’t feel any hardship and buy sweets for herself. (Three Meals A Day, 1902)

5 Exercises To Tone Your Body And Lose Weight From The Edwardian Era


Exercise Every Day

‘Take a daily allowance of exercise. Let it be housework, a long walk, a game of golf, or light gymnastics in your bedroom.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903) ‘Exercise must always be taken to the extent of inducing perspiration.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)

For a beautiful complexion and figure, exercise every morning before dressing 5 minutes in front of an open window. Wear a ‘light flannel dressing sacque’, as well as woolen slippers for the exercises. (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Related: How To Be Graceful In The Edwardian Era

Practice Good Sitting Posture

‘Sitting in a chair seems a simple matter, yet rarely is it done properly. […] In my opinion no one position does more to make or preserve a good figure that to practise correct sitting for at least five minutes three times a day.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Sit-Ups, Squats & Yoga Poses

In the 1900s, exercises, such as sit-ups and squats, and yoga poses, such as Dancer Pose and Warrior 3 Pose, were already practiced by women. ‘Lying on your back, arms extended by the sides, […] lift the trunk to a sitting posture without touching anything, then raise the legs straight up, first alternately, then together.’ (The Saint Paul Globe, 1902) ‘The “sitting up” exercise used in the army in particularly effective. Start in a perfectly straight position […] Then, keeping the back perfectly straight and bringing the arms up level with the shoulders as the knee movement is made, bend the knees so as to assume a squatting position. Then take the original position’ (Beauty Culture, 1911).

Jump Rope

‘Rope-skipping is bound to be popular, for it puts the finishing touches to the figure, making it lithe and graceful, imparting the suppleness of an acrobat with the lissom movements of a professional dancer.

Reduced to simple rules, the exercise is taken by using both hands and jumping forward, then backward. […] As a waist reducer, skipping the rope is a positive delight. By its means, if used faithfully every day, the waist will gradually taper into sylph-like proportions.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

Medicine Ball Toss

Ladies ‘have succeeded in taking off twenty pounds or more by tossing the “medicine ball.” It is a mild form of exercise and is attractive. […] For people who take on weight easily the exercise will do much to reduce them. […] The costume to be worn during these exercises is a simple one. No corset is used. A sweater or jersey, a pair of bloomers and rubber shoes are essential’ (San Francisco Call, 1903).

Outdoor Exercise

‘When one is blue and moody […] One should get out of doors. Exercise moderately and rest a good deal.’ (The Ideal Cook Book, 1902)

Deep Breathing & Exercises With A Pillow

‘Do you want to lose flesh? […] It isn’t done entirely in a day, but you can make some improvement in a day. And if you will keep at it you can make a great improvement in a week and still greater in a month. The newest method is the Viennese method. […] Its first principle is that of fresh air’ three hours a day, not in the morning or evening, but at midday or the early afternoon.

‘The principle upon which this Viennese reduction works is that […] the causes of fat is poor air. […] with poor air, deep breathing is impossible. And as deep breathing is impossible, the lungs and abdomen cannot be properly exercised. […] the very poor, the poor of the tenements, the women grow very stout’ because of ‘the poor air which they breathe. […] Compelled to work hard and eat scantily, they still grow fat. Women who work in the fields are, on the other hand, generally slender and shapely. […] So, in the battle against fat, the Viennese doctors who reduced King Edward and are reducing their other aristocratic patients are putting them upon the fresh-air diet. […]

The second treatment by the Viennese method is that of playful exercise […] one hour a day. […] The room, which is a cold one, has open windows, and the air circulates freely through the room. The best implement for these playful gymnastics is a sofa cushion […] One of the best motions is that of kicking the pillow. This is held out in the hand at arm’s length and is then kicked with the toe of the shoe. […] it is a game at which dozen can play.’ Pillow fights are also good. ‘The pupils toss pillows at each other and duck […] this way and that way’ (The St. Louis Republic, 1904).

Housework Is A Good Exercise

‘Simple exercises closely connected with daily life will aid in the good work. Not to speak of washing clothes and scrubbing floors, any exercise that causes a woman to bend downward from the waist is beneficial. Thus she may wash her hands and face in the morning from water in the bottom of the bath tub, or may button or lace her shoes with her feet on the floor.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)

‘Housework is excellent exercise for a girl who wishes to develop a round, pretty figure […] Sweeping is one of the best methods of rounding the arms, as well as giving correct poise. A woman whose shoulders are well thrown back, when she grasps the broom firmly, and sways her whole body, with each stroke, may add grace to her figure.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

Keep Calm

‘Cultivate Repose. So many people needlessly and recklessly wast their nerve energy. They drum the chair or the desk with their fingers or tap the floor with their toes. They hold their hands. They sit in a rocking chair and rock for very dear life. If they write or sew they get down to it with a vengeance and contract their brows and wrinkle their foreheads and grind their teeth. If they have an unusual task to do they contract and contort every muscle of the body, making themselves tense and rigid all over, when the work perhaps required but one set of muscles or perhaps the mind only, as the case may be.’ (The Tyro Daily Life, 1905)

Relax your muscles when sitting, because often the muscles are tense as if ‘holding the chair, instead of sitting on it.’ To refresh yourself when tired, ‘wring out hot cloth and lay them over […] eyes and forehead.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)

‘It is not yet fully realised how closely connected are ailments of the nerves and ailments of the skin. If you are pale, of weak and capricious appetite, if you sleep lightly and insufficiently, and are subject to headaches and irritability, suspect “nerves,” and get your doctor to prescribe. He will probably give you iron.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

How To Be Happy

Try To Be More Optimistic

‘Breathe deeply, bathe daily – think joy, not sorrow – eat wisely and never speak unkindly. […] A cheerful disposition and an optimistic view of life do much toward making the beauty suppliant, plump of outline and charming of countenance. When one is blue and moody, the appetite fails, the stomach sulks, digestion and assimilation are interfered with and the entire body suffers from malnutrition. […] Age need make no difference in these days of progress – the woman of fifty is as attractive and as much admired as her young daughter.’ (The Ideal Cook Book, 1902)

‘Try to keep happy. If you keep happy you keep well. […] I am never ill unless I get unhappy. Then I run down at once. For this reason I would entreat every woman to look on the bright side of things. It is amazing how soon one can get into the habit of doing this, or, at any rate, of shutting one’s eyes to the dark side of things.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘Don’t do it. If you feel like committing suicide, either carry out your intention or keep away from people until the mood is over. Suffer if you must – that you can’t help – but even if it’s a pain that gives you no moment’s rest, that gnaws you like a serpent, keep it to yourself. Choke over it if necessary, but don’t show it […] and laugh, laugh, always laugh. It’s so easy. After you’ve done it a few times it’s almost mechanical, and the muscles get used to it.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

Don’t Get Angry

‘Another maxim of my life is never to get angry. “Anger is worse for the face than smallpox.” […] It is the spirit which informs the flesh, and I am certain that everything we do which makes for beauty of spirit and serenity of mind will help us to get beauty of poise if we cannot have beauty of feature, and, after all, this is most surely a gift worth having.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

Think Highly Of Yourself

‘Think well of yourself. Do not underrate yourself, aspire high.

Most of us have some friend among our acquaintances who, as the children have it, “thinks too much of herself.” A beautiful knowledge that she is right in everything is her leading characteristic, and because of this self-confidence she is anything but a nice girl to know.

Yes, as a general rule, perhaps there are far too many girls who err the other way. That humility shich we are at times implored to cultivate has with them become too much of a habit […]

The girl who lacks self-confidence may have very pleasing conversational gifts which others never have an opportunity to enjoy because she dare not make use of her power. Many a girl, too, is afraid to take the initiative in any question, though her judgment is invariably right. How many of us have friends who spend their lives in some inferior position because they think so little of themselves, and they dare not aspire to a higher post, while one is continually meeting the girl who makes terrible mistakes simply because she is afraid to follow the teaching of her own mind.

Of course it is difficult to hit that happy dividing line which separates every virtue from its corresponding vice. At the same time in a good many families the “sitting-on” process which is requisitioned in order to destroy deceit too often destroys also the self-confidence which does so much towards success in the world.’ (The Washington Times, 1905)

Acts Of Kindness

‘The woman who does things in expectation of being rewarded for them is a fool. […] If doing kind things doesn’t give you a happy feeling around the heart, then, in heaven’s name, don’t do them, for that’s all the compensation you’ll ever get.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1903)

Be Polite To Your Partner

‘It is a mistake to suppose that the forms of civility can be safely dispensed with in family life. With the disappearance of the forms, the reality may also disappear. Husband and wife think that they may omit small courtesies because they understand each other, but they cannot. More coldness and quarrels in married life come from a disregard of courtesy than from any other cause. […]

I knew of a couple who were happy in a marriage that lasted sixty-four years. Talk-of their married life, the old man used to say: “Me and my missus never argued.” To be polite and pleasant to each other, and never to argue, is the way for husband and wife to retain love for each other after marriage. A friend who was with me at a hotel said of a couple who were also staying there: “I did not know they were married, for the lady always converses with the man and is so polite to him.” What a satire on other couples who take geniality for granted, instead of granting it!

True home geniality is too rare. Too often there is “joy abroad and grief at home.” A man is politeness itself in his club, and his wife at home “starves for a merry look.” He is suave and tactful at his place of business, but before starting for it in the morning, he depresses his wife and children for the day. He is painfully funny when dining out, but mute and murmuring at his own table. […] Before marriage women speak with their eyes, after it with their tongues; but even with their tongues they are not as courteous to their husbands as they are to strangers. […]

The whole day is rendered dismal and disagreeable when there has been “a storm” in the breakfast tea-cup between husband and wife. So far as happiness goes, each must confess in the evening, “I have lost a day!”

“Oh, what matter! It’s only my wife.” So spoke a man in my hearing when accepting an invitation to join some friends at the hour he had promised to be at home to help his wife to entertain a party of guests. “Only my wife!” Only a wife, only a husband! Why, no two people can torment each other more than husband and wife, therefore they should be especially careful not to break appointments or disregard in any way each other’s feelings.

A lecturer on marriage, after telling wives to make their husbands speak to them as they speak to strangers, went on to advise husbands to kiss their wives as they did in courting days. An old man meeting the lecturer the following day said: “That about kissing in your lecture was all nonsense. When I went home and put my arm round my old woman to kiss her, she pushed me from her and said: ‘what’s gone wrong with you, you idiot? ‘ ” That softening of the heart should have been mistaken for softening of the brain, showed how lamentably deficient the husband had been in manifestation of affection. […]

he was “never too busy to be kind.” Smaller men think that they have no time to be attentive to their wives and children. They leave home early in the morning, stay away all day, and come back in the evening morose and uncommunicative. This is to be busier than they ought to be, and to neglect true riches. They should make less money and more wealth or well-being.

And there are wives who are not less rude to their husbands. They are all smiles when they welcome other men to their drawing-rooms, and if, when they are conversing with them, they are called away they say, “Excuse me for a moment.” But politeness like this is not shown to husbands.

The appalling intimacy of domestic life tends, when not guarded against, to deteriorate manners. People put on silk and velvet to go out into the world, and think that anything will do to wear at home. […]

Home should be a place of peace; the shelter, not only from injury, but from doubt and division. […] When the manners of husband and wife are not what they ought to be, the children take after them. What can be expected of those who are reared in an atmosphere of rudeness? On the other hand, if “a gentleman, always a gentleman,” and “a lady, always a lady,” are the examples set by papa and mamma, the children will take them in almost through the pores of the skin. […] In China parents are held responsible for the manners of their children […]

members of a home say things to each other which they would not dare say to outsiders. A little bracing criticism may do good, but we protest against the cynical spirit that prevails in some families. In these everyone has a nickname, and the slightest enthusiasm is snubbed. Censoriousness is not a mark of good taste, but just the reverse. A person of good taste is the first to discover excellence in persons and in things. […] Self is the shadow that darkens our lives and prevents us from being bright companions. Occupied with thoughts of our own unhappiness, we become a cloud on the sunshine of those with whom we live. […]

But if some families are uncourteously censorious to their members, others go to the opposite extreme, and see no good in any person who has not the honour of belonging to them. They seem only to care to talk to each other, and praise each other so much that you become uncomfortable in the presence of perfection. This is bad manners towards any stranger who may be within the gates of the mutual admiration society. A good manner is the art of putting people, either at home or outside it, at their ease. Whoever makes the fewest uncomfortable, is the best-mannered person in a room. Politeness is real kindness kindly expressed’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2).

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