A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Hair Care – Mimi Matthews

Hall’s Vegetable Sicilian Hair Renewer, 19th Century Advertisement.

Since biblical times, a woman’s hair has been known as her crowning glory.  This was never more true than in the Victorian era – a span of years during which thick, glossy hair was one of the primary measures of a lady’s beauty.  But how did our 19th century female forbears maintain long, luxurious hair without the aid of special shampoos, crème rinses, and styling treatments?  And how did they deal with hair-related complaints such as an oily scalp, dry, brittle tresses, or premature greyness?

To start with, shampoo as we know it today did not exist during the 19th century.  In fact, the word shampoo meant something quite different to the Victorians.  Derived from the Hindi word champo, it was an Indian technique of pressing or massaging the scalp and other parts of the body.  In her 1840 book titled Female Beauty, as Preserved and Improved by Regimen, Cleanliness and Dress, author Mrs. Walker describes the process of shampooing:

“To give readers an idea of the practice of shampooing as it exists in many nations, I shall repeat here what Anquetil says concerning shampooing among the Indians.  One of the servants of the bath stretches you on a plank, and sprinkles you with…

Source: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Hair Care – Mimi Matthews

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