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Hair care through the ages – 8 hair care facts from history

MHD - July 13, 2017 Hairdressing Education, Hairdressing History, Humour

Hair care through the ages – 8 hair care facts from history

Most of us take health and hygiene seriously and wash and cleanse our body and hair on a daily basis. But it wasn’t always so. Throughout history, different civilisations have had different approaches to sanitation and cleanliness, and hair care was often pretty low on the scale of importance. Much of the emphasis was placed on reducing unpleasant odours and dressing.

So, let’s take a journey back in to the mists of time to discover some of the odd potions and techniques our ancestors used for their historical hair care.

1 Ancient Egypt Hair Care

Ancient Egypt was a hot, dry place in the desert. A bit like modern Egypt. Hair moisturisers gave protection from the arid climate, and Egyptian women would use a healthy dose of castor oil and almond oil, which they believed also promoted hair growth by massaging it into the scalp.

Egyptian hair care

Cleo didn’t just use asses’ milk. Probably.

2 Assyrian Hairstyling Tips

Assyrian kings and nobility around 1500 BC liked curly hair, and to achieve the look they had their hair curled with iron bars heated in a fire, starting a trend that lasts today – albeit a little more safely.

Assyrian hair care

The Assyrian’s wore hats, but underneath they had curly hair. Probably.

3 Renaissance Hair Care

An early Renaissance era hair gel recipe from around 1300 used lizard tallow blended with swallow droppings. Tallow is rendered from the fat of animals. Like the soap in Fight Club. Women also conditioned their hair with dead lizards boiled in olive oil.

Renaissance hair

Mona Lisa loved a bit of lizard in her hair.

4 Elizabethan Hair Care Ideas

In the 1600s, at the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, women would set their hair with lard. The smell would attract rats at night, so they would sleep with nightcaps, or in more extreme cases, with cages over their heads to ward off the little nibblers.

Elizabethan Hair Care

I wonder if Cate Blanchett’s stylist used lard for this look?

5 Fine French Hairdressing

Try this recipe for a French pomade from the 1700s,

“Take some beef marrow and remove all the bits of skin and bone. Put it in a pot with some hazelnut oil and stir well with the end of a rolling pin. Add more oil from time to time until it is thoroughly liquefied. Add a little essence of lemon. Bear grease can be a substitute for bone marrow.”

It also doubles as a soup.

French pomade hair care

Kirsten Dunst’s stylist definitely used bear grease for this updo. Probably

6 Wig powder

Lice were a major problem during the Enlightenment, so men would shave their heads and wear wigs instead. In the 18th Century the predominant style was for the wig to be as white as possible. If you were poor, this meant adding copious amounts of flour to the wig. The rich would use a combination of starch and pleasant smelling oils such as lavender.

George in Blackadder wig

Prince George discovers what his wig powder is made from.

7 The world’s first commercial shampoo

A German chemist named Hans Schwarzkopf developed a water-soluble powder shampoo and sold it in his pharmacy. It was an instant hit and he soon was taking orders from every pharmacy in Berlin, then Holland and Russia. He followed this up with the first liquid shampoo in 1927, establishing Schwarzkopf as the world’s first hair care business empire.

The world's first and hair care products from German chemist Hans Schwarzkopf

The very first shampoo and hair care products from German chemist Hans Schwarzkopf

8 New York Times Hair Advice

In 1908 the New York Times printed,

“…specialists recommend the shampooing of the hair as often as every two weeks, but from a month to six weeks should be a better interval if the hair is in fairly good condition.”

It went on to recommend white castile soap or tar soap, while split ends could be treated by singeing and clipping.

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