Hello dollies! How are you today?
One of my favourite pastimes lately has been reading historical books on beauty. I’m absolutely fascinated by what ladies of the past and all around the world did for the sake of being beautiful. Some historical beauty secrets seem very strange to us now, or outside the culture in which they were born! I’m sure we’ve all heard about lead face powder and belladonna eyedrops, but did you know that Heian Japanese ladies would paint their teeth black to protect them from decay, or that Renaissance European ladies plucked their hairlines to achieve the high forehead popular at the time?
However, many historical beauty tips are wonderful examples of using natural, easily-obtainable ingredients to bring out the best in your looks. I think this appeals to a lot of Lolitas— we do so much to get that flawless look of doll-like perfection, and all the bleach, dye, foundation, eyelash glue, and heat styling can really take its toll on both our skin and hair, and our purses. On top of that, it’s great fun to use historical beauty recipes to pamper yourself on your days off.
This mini-series is about the natural methods your grandmothers and their grandmothers might have used to enhance their beauty, using just the things you can find in your kitchen cupboards. So without further ado, I present Natural Beauties!
We may not bleach our hair with lye or dye it with oak-apples any more, but there are still some wonderful historical home recipes for changing your hair colour.
Everyone knows about henna, but there are dozens of other ways to colour your hair all-naturally. While you won’t get a vivid colour (they’re very much tints), you do have the upside that most of them will wash out within a couple of weeks and many of them will improve your hair’s condition, so if you don’t like it you can easily get rid of it and have healthier hair for your trouble. Here are some of my favourites!
and coffee— did you ever
“age” paper by soaking it in black tea or coffee? I was surprised to learn
that the same principle applies to your hair! Boil a strong pot of coffee
or black tea, let it cool until it’s no longer burning hot, and rinse it
through your hair several times.
When your hair is thoroughly soaked, wrap it in a shower cap or an old towel, leave it for a few hours or even overnight, and rinse it out with clean cold water. It will darken hair, and coffee in particular will add some lovely golden tones, with the added bonus that caffeine is supposed to make your hair grow faster and stronger. This works best on light to medium brown hair.
(Honourable mention: rooibos tea! I’ve tried this one myself on some old hair extensions and it works very well, giving hair a golden-red tint. It would definitely look nicest on dark blonde or light brown hair, giving it a lovely caramel tone, so if you’re a natural mousy brown like me it’s worth a try. However, some people report that it can dry your hair if left in too long, or if the tea is too strong, so have your deep conditioner at the ready.)
skins— save your onion skins when you cook, and boil them in a
saucepan with enough water to cover them for about an hour. Rinse it
through your hair and leave, again, for a few hours or overnight. Wash
your hair in clean water when you’re done— apparently your hair will not
smell of onions, but if it does, try rinsing your hair with a teaspoon of
vinegar in a pint of water to neutralise the smell!
Yellow onions will give your hair a golden tint, and red onions a more burgundy one. The first is most suitable for blonde to medium brown hair, and the second for brown to black hair.
cinnamon contains low levels of naturally-occurring hydrogen peroxide, and
while it will only lighten hair a few shades, you won’t have to contend
with ammonia and the other nasty chemicals in conventional bleach. To get
the most out of it, mix a tablespoonful of it with set honey (which also
contains natural peroxide) and olive oil, rub it through your hair, and
leave it overnight. Be careful not to use too much cinnamon— it could
potentially sting! When you wake up, wash your hair as you normally would.
There’s a video here showing how it’s done and the results you can
expect with very dark hair; lighter hair will probably show even more of a
and beetroots— for red tones or to make naturally red hair brighter, boil carrot and beetroot
skins in water for a few hours and rinse the decoction through your hair as with the onion skins. According to people who have tried this, it will
wash out quickly: within a few washes, so if you like it be prepared to do
it several times a week (and eat a lot of carrots— how healthy!).
- Lemon juice— this is a tried-and-tested method, but still a good one! To get sunny highlights in blonde to light brown hair, squeeze the juice of one lemon into half a pint to one pint of water, rinse through, and sit outside in the sunshine for a while (remember your sunblock!). Wash your hair out with clean water and condition it well. This can be repeated over a number of days for the result you want.
These are some of my favourites! Next Sunday: skincare!
Do you know any more recipes that have been handed down through the generations?
"Lady Lilith" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; "Mariana in the South" by John William Waterhouse