‘The comb and brush are […] agents of the toilet by which the hair is kept clean, vigorous, and healthy.’ (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883) ‘Much washing of the hair with water is bad […] it is possible by much brushing to avoid any excessive use of water.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
Combing and brushing the hair thoroughly once or twice a day was recommended in the Victorian and Edwardian era to keep the hair and scalp healthy and clean.
About Brushing The Hair – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
The Pros And Cons Of Brushing The Hair
‘Although the advisability of brushing has been a debated point, many women who have beautiful hair and many specialists highly recommend it. There is no other way, they say, of giving a well groomed appearance to the hair and bringing out its sheen and luster. The only objection that can be brought against this method is that sometimes a brush is used that is too harsh or one that is not absolutely clean. […] The hair should be given a five minutes’ brushing night and morning.’ (San Francisco Call, 1909)
‘I always spend from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour brushing my hair, so that it may look bright and keep in good condition, and I strongly advise every girl to do the same. If she cannot find time in the morning, because she likes to lie as late in bed as she can, then I recommend her to do it at night before she goes to bed.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
Related: Night-Time Hair Routine – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
‘I believe that it is impossible for a girl to have pretty hair, and I know that she cannot possess luxuriant tresses when an old woman, unless she brushes and combs her tresses before going to bed. To remove the pins, and twist the locks, or let them hang, is as injurious as it is to cloth to lay it away without smoothing. Both must be made ready to rest if they are not to wear out quickly.
It does not take more than five minutes to treat the scalp in such a way as to stimulate it. Of course, if one has the time and energy for massage, so much the better, but this is by no means necessary when the hair is in a normally healthy condition.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)
‘The daily brushing will be quite sufficient to give the hair that wonderful sheen and lustre which are so desirable. […] Another advantage of brushing the hair so much is to give a sensation of great lightness to the spirits. Indeed, a headache can often be cured by massaging the aching part and then well brushing the hair.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
Brush Your Hair Instead Of Washing It
‘Too frequent washing of the head is not advisable, as too much of the natural oil is thus removed, and, under the constant action of water, the bulb which is at the extremity of the hair-root swells, and the hair becomes lifeless, dry, easily broken, and falls out. Once a month, therefore, is often enough to wash the head. In the meantime, both scalp and hair can be kept clean and healthy by the daily action of the brush. […]
The brush will have a stimulating tonic action upon the skin, and a cleansing effect not only upon the scalp, but upon the hair itself, because it will help to free it from the dust and dirt of the atmosphere. The hair, therefore, should be well brushed night and morning, and, if possible, once during the day.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
‘Although I so strongly disapprove of washing the head with water, it is possible […] to keep the scalp and the hair quite clean by brushing it. To do this, perfectly clean brushes are absolutely necessary. My own brushes are washed every day. When once a brush has been used it is never allowed to touch my hair again until it has been thoroughly washed and dried.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
Related: How To Clean Your Hair Brush – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
‘At the same time the hair is washed every hairpin and comb […] 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)
Related: How Often To Wash The Hair – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
‘Brushes and combs should be as individual as the personal towel and wash cloth, and should be kept clean by frequent washings.’ (A Girl’s Problems In Home Economics, 1926)
How To Brush Your Hair
Do not brush long hair ‘for fear of breaking it. And in combing it use the comb gently, beginning at the ends of the hair to take out the tangles. Comb gently from the ends first and occasionally shake the hair. This will take out the snarls better’ than brushing the hair. (Chicago Tribune, 1903)
‘The hair should be combed from the free ends upward, toward the scalp, short sections at a time, until a gentle sweep will carry the comb through the hair from the scalp down and through the ends. If tangles occur, the fingers should be used to disengage the hair before the comb is again applied. Comb the hair first on one side of the head and then the other, making the part about the middle of the scalp. Comb until the entire hair is free and falls soft about the shoulders, then follow with the brush, brushing from the scalp down.
Do not press hard on the brush. The objects of its use are to remove the dead cuticle naturally thrown off by the scalp; to remove whatever dirt has been deposited on the scalp and in the hair by the atmosphere, and to distribute the sebum, or natural oil, secreted by the sebaceous glands, keeping the hair pliant and lustrous. Part the hair in sections or strands to accomplish the best results in brushing. Remember that the hair brush does not take the place of the finger tips of the masseuse.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)
‘For a regular evening treatment there should be at least twenty long strokes of the brush after all snarls have been removed with a comb. The stroking should be even and firm, without causing pain. Such brushing as this keeps the hair glossy and pliable, making it far easier to twist into becoming coiffures. […]
A portion of this treatment consists in combing the hair thoroughly and brushing it, not only flat to the head, but putting the brush underneath and drawing the hair loose and free, so that all parts are ventilated. Each stroke must begin on the scalp so the tips of the bristles are felt.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)
‘A writer in one of our journals advances a new idea with reference to the way in which thin hair should be “groomed,” as they say in Paris, to induce the growth and thickening. It is merely brushing the hair the wrong way and is done as described below. It is said to be more beneficial than a tonic.
Carefully divide the hair into many small parts and then, with a huge and stiff brush begin the work. Holding the extreme end of the strand to be brushed in the left hand, start at the bottom of it and brush upward toward the head. After each strand has gone through this process smooth each hair back into its original position. Follow this up and brush the hair in this manner each night and morning. It serves as a stimulant to the sickly hair.’ (The Ideal Cook Book, 1902)
‘To make the hair glisten you can touch the brush with a little oil of sweet almonds. Pour a few drops in the palm of the hand, rub the brush upon the hand and go over the hair swiftly. Do not use more than three drops if the hair be inclined to natural oil. But dry hair can be made to glisten by this method of brightening it.’ (Chicago Tribune, 1902)
The Best Hair Brush
‘The best brush that can be used for ladies’ hair is one know as the air cushion brush. The best grades are those made of genuine bristle, and of course are the most expensive, although there is a similar wire brush made of good quality as serviceable, and answers the purpose almost as well. The air cushion brush is different from the ordinary hair brush from the fact that it is more pliable and elastic, which enables one to brush snarls from long hair better than the solid back brush.’ (The Manual On Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis And Chiropody, 1906)
A brush consists ‘of a collection of hairs or bristles, fastened in a frame of wood, bone, or ivory; with, or without a handle’ (Domestic Encyclopedia Or A Dictionary Of Facts, And Useful Knowledge, 1802) ‘Hair brushes are generally chosen by the whiteness and delicacy of the hair, it is therefore prepared (which is injurious to them) to suit the taste of purchasers. Dark white, coarse thick Foreign bristles make the most durable brushes.’ (The Workwoman’s Guide, 1840)
‘When a brush is selected, let it be one with long soft bristles. Never use wire brushes.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911) The brush ‘should not be too hard, and should have moderately long bristles.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2) ‘The brush must have long bristles, rather far apart, in order that they shall reach to the scalp, and the stroke stimulate as much as polish the hair.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910)
‘Two brushes should be kept, both with bristles long and stiff enough to penetrate to the scalp, but not so harsh as to injure it, and each day after using one of the brushes should be washed in a disinfecting fluid, which can be purchased at any drug store, and then rinsed and thoroughly dried, with the bristles down.’ (San Francisco Call, 1909)
‘The brush with moderately stiff whalebone bristles may be passed gently over the hair several times during the day, to brush out the dust and the dandruff, and to keep the hair smooth, soft, and clean; rough and hard brushing the hair with brushes having very stiff bristles in them, especially the metal or wire bristles, is of no service, but often irritates the parts and causes the hair to fall out.’ (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883)
‘Brushes with metal or whalebone bristles must be rigorously avoided. These unnecessarily tear the hair, and frequently scratch and injure the scalp. A hard brush should very seldom be used […] The most satisfactory brush that can be used is one with bristles of the best Siberian boar. These are rather expensive, but with care they will last for many years. The bristles should be of graduated lengths, as in this way they more easily penetrate the hair without causing any strain.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
The Best Hair Comb
‘The hard rubber comb is the one that has taken lead among the hairdressers recently. It is one that is strong and serviceable. The teeth are more easily kept clean, on account of their pyramid shape. They are almost unbreakable. These combs are made with all coarse teeth, or with one-half coarse, and one-half fine. Probably the latter is the best for all uses.
There is a horn comb with metal back much cheaper and quite durable, but does not give the same satisfaction. The aluminium comb, among the cheaper grades, is probably the best, from the fact that it can be sterilized. The celluloid comb should never be used in singeing the hair, as it is inflammable and dangerous.’ (The Manual On Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis And Chiropody, 1906)
Related: Cutting Vs. Singeing The Hair – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care
‘The comb should be of flexible gum, with large, broad, blunt, round, and coarse teeth, having plenty of elasticity. It should be used to remove from the hairs any scurf or dirt that may have become entangled in them, to separate the hairs and prevent them from becoming matted and twisted together.
The fine-tooth comb, made with the teeth much closer together, can be used in place of the regular toilet comb just named when the hair is filled with very fine particles of scurf, dirt, or when parasites and their eggs infest the hairs. It should, however, always be borne in mind that combs are only for the hair, and not for the scalp or the skin, which is too often torn and dug up by carelessly and roughly pulling these valuable and important articles of toilet through the skin as well as the hair.’ (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883)
‘If the hair is thick, a comb with rather coarse teeth should be used; a fine-toothed comb is of very little use in disintegrating tangled hairs.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
‘Fine combs or combs of metal of any kind should not be tolerated. These not only injure the scalp, but pull out the hair and may, by reason of such a wound, cause serious disease of the scalp and, through blood-poisoning, even death. […]
The comb should be of hard rubber with teeth well shaped and rounded at their sides so as not to present sharp cutting edges, and these teeth should be uniform throughout – not a comb half coarse and half fine. Never use a fine-tooth comb – especially on the head of a child.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)
9 thoughts on “About Brushing The Hair – Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care”
Thanks, Rachel! 🙂
My mother (born in 1898) never cut her hair, keeping it braided in two plaits and washed it infrequently (I am not sure how often). We did not use shampoos back then (I started using Halo shampoo made of chemicals in the early 1950s and it gave me bad scalp problems). We washed or hair about once a week using a toilet soap like Palmolive and towel dried it. My two elder sisters also never cut their hair until after leaving school to work.
Gayle, Western Australia
Thanks for stopping by, Gayle! 😀
My, what a lovely post indeed. I’ve been reading all your posts regarding Victorian lifestyle for quite some time, and I must say, I’m absolutely impressed with the amount of research and hard work you put into it. I adore this blog, and I’m looking forward to more of your posts. I myself have chestnut brown waist length hair, and I smile while I read your posts because I follow quite a few of these tips and tricks.
Thank you so very much and please do keep posting more.
Zenith Lily Woods
Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Zenith Lily! 😀 Soon I’ll post more about historical beauty care and lifestyle! 🙂
Yesplease, I love your posts! I stop by every week!
It’s been a while since I got back to this post , it’s as lovely as ever.
Thank you! 😀