I love reading old cosmetic books. One of my favourite is The Toilette Of Healthy, Beauty, And Fashion, a small volume published in 1834. Unlike other books, it doesn’t just feature lots of DIY cosmetic recipes, but also explains to its readers how and why they worked (or how the author believed they did). Here are a few examples:
1. Ointment for the Hair
Take an ounce of beef marrow, to which add an ounce of grease skimmed from unsalted pot liquor, and boil them together in a pipkin. Strain this mixture, and add to it an ounce of the oil of ben. Let this be used occasionally, and the hair well combed and brushed, both before and after its use, to remove the previous scurf, and to work the preparation well into the roots of the hair, and along the tubes.
Obs: beef marrow applied moderately to the hair of the head nourishes it, and communicates to it a fine gloss as may frequently be seen among butchers, who often apply it. Whatever therefore nourishes, strengthens. The marrow also gives it a disposition to curl. The oil of ben has long entered into preparations for making the hair grow, and if a little of the essence of lemon, burgamot, or other perfume were added, it would, at least, improve its fragrance, and preserve it against rancidity.
2. Oil for the Hair
The following preparation, it is said, causes the hair to grow again very rapidly.
Take half a pound of southernwood, and let it be slightly pounded, boil it in a pound and a half of old olive oil, and half a pint of port wine ; when these ingredients are throughly impregnated, take them off the fire, and strain out the liquor well through a linen cloth. Repeat the operation three times, with fresh southernwood; and this being done, add to the filtered liquor two ounces of bear’s grease.
Obs: the southernwood being an aromatic, may preserve the oil and bear’s grease from becoming too soon rancid and the alkaline salt which it contains may otherwise correct the too emollient properties of the oil, by partially neutralizing it. In any other respect it may not, as far as our knowledge goes, possess any advantage over similar oleaginous compositions for the hair. The same attention to cleanliness, and preventing the greasy accumulations on the scalp about the roots of the hair, and to prevent the hairs themselves from matting, and attracting dust, is necessary, as already directed.
3. Hair Water
Take three table-spoonsful of honey and three pugils of vine-tendrils. Pound the tendrils well, and express the juice. Mix it with the honey. With this composition the part where the hair is wished to be long and thick, are directed to be washed.
Obs: this composition, we apprehend, would be somewhat too clammy without the addition of some liquid — for this purpose, we recommend a gill of Jamaica rum and half a gill of water. The hair-brush will be requisite after the use of the water; not so much, however, after its immediate use as after it has been for some time impregnated with the hair. From its gentle adhesiveness, it will give the hair any form that may be wished.
4. Another Ointment
Take two ounces of bear’s grease ; half an ounce of honey; six drachms of laudanum; three drachms of the powder of southernwood; three drachms of the balsam of Peru; one and a half drachm of the ashes of the roots of bulrushes, and a small quantity of the oil of sweet almonds.
Obs: the two first ingredients we believe constitute the essential part of the preparation. The others may assist in preserving the mixture from becoming rancid, and communicating to it an agreeable odor.
Fascinating, isn’t it? For even more recipes, check out The Toilet Of Healthy, Beauty, And Fashion at archive.org. It’s free.