Vintage Natural Beauty- Hair

In the second of this series where I raid history for natural beauty hints, I’m focusing on our crowning glory- our hair! To judge by all the Victorian paintings in which ladies (and chaps) are sporting rather awesome tresses, it would seem that our ancestors knew a thing or two about looking after their hair. 

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Delaware Art Museum)*

One Victorian who certainly knew a thing or two about all sorts of things was Mrs Beeton. As well as recipes, her book also contains advice about hair care. Mrs Beeton recommended “to improve the growth of, and beautify the hair” a hair oil containing olive-oil and rosemary oil. She also adds “oil of origarnum”, which I think is probably oregano oil. This is another essential oil that is readily available today, and it is reputed to help with hair growth. Dilute the rosemary and oregano essential oils in the olive oil, and rub into the scalp. 

Lots of beauty bloggers recently have been talking about the benefits of coconut oil for your hair (including this blog- see You might think this is a new phenomenon, but in fact coconut oil was used by the Victorians in numerous hair preparations. An 1898 edition of Henry Pye Chavasse’s book Advice to a Wife on the Management of her Own Health, observed that “it might be said that it is utterly impossible for a lady to keep her hair tidy unless she use some application to it. If such be the case, either a little scented castor oil, or cocoa-nut oil, may be applied by means of an old tooth-brush, to smooth the hair.” If you struggle with flyaway hairs- especially those little annoying wispy hairs- this is a method you could try. In the early 20th century coconut shampoo was being commercially produced, with “Watkins Mulsified Cocoanut Oil Shampoo”. This was a product endorsed by movie stars such as the silent-era actress Norma Talmadge. If you want some chemical-free glamour, rub a small amount of coconut oil through your hair to get that movie-star shine. 

Another tip from history to curl your hair without the need for heat or chemicals is the technique of rag curling. From what I can tell, rag curls have been around since the Regency period, and were popular well into the twentieth century. Begin by cutting 1 inch strips from a piece of old cloth- an old sheet works well. You might have to play around with the length of the strips, but 12 inches will probably be about right. Dampen your hair, or just wait for it to dry a little after bathing or showering. Then take a strand of hair, and tie the cloth strip round the strand. 

Roll the strand of hair round the strip until you have rolled all the way to your scalp.

 Then using the loose ends, tie the rag roller in place. 

Continue until you have rolled all your hair. Leave for a few hours (overnight is good) and then undo the rags. Tease out the curls gently with your fingers- I find that brushing the curls makes them lose definition. 

In the next article, I will be pitting this method against a modern equivalent- foam bendy rollers- and seeing which gives the best curls. 

Love, Becky x 

p.s. For a great historical song about hair, try Ernest Le Messurier’s 1924 ditty “Shall I have it Bobbed or Shingled?”. A “shingled” style is a rather daring shorter version of the bob. 

(* Lady Lilith attribution: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, GFDL ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

1 comment:

  1. 3 Researches PROVE How Coconut Oil Kills Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally burn fat by consuming Coconut Fats (in addition to coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 studies from large medicinal journals are sure to turn the conventional nutrition world upside down!


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