Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Your grandmother's shampoo...

In doing historical research for my upcoming novel, By Steams of Water (August 1, 2013), I took a look at hair care for women in the 1870's and 80's.  Some of what I found has some application for us today, I think.  We might not care for our locks in the same way, but we still want to care for our "crowning glory".

Here, in no particular order, are some random facts and observations:

1)  In the 1870's and 80's, women often had their hair cut 1/4 inch per month either at the new moon or the full moon.  They believed that this would prevent split ends and keep the hair strong.  Most people had large families back in the day.  To keep the hair properly trimmed was either a huge task undertaken at home or it meant a big trip to the barber's.  It was convenient to do everyone's hair all at once, and the moon provided a marker of when that should be done.  Today, many of us still believe that a trim once a month (or, at the outside, six weeks) will prevent split ends, though we don't usually tie this down to the waxing and waning of the moon.  I suppose that watching the moon might be one way of keeping track of when your hair was last trimmed and when it might need a touch up.  Today, however, it's easier to mark the calendar on your smart phone.
2) The word shampoo comes from a Hindu word, champo.  Originally, it referred to ingredients used in a scalp massage.  In the middle 1800's, an Anglicized form of this was introduced at Brighton, England, where it became a sort of spa treatment.
3) Some soaps that we find on the shelves today were used to wash hair in Edwardian times:  Pears, Yardley, Octagon, and Castille are just a few.  I don't know if the formulation for these soaps is the same today as it was then, but the companies that produce them are still around.  Even my mother, who came of age in the 30's, occasionally used some of these things on her hair.  I came along during the era when we all started washing our hair everyday and using whatever shampoo might be trendy.  I remember being puzzled that a cartoon character, the ever-glamorous Brenda Starr, was known for washing her hair in Pear's soap, and I asked my mother why she didn't use shampoo.  In the early days of products marked as "shampoo", the formulations were similar to soap.  Washing with soap can be done today and might even have some advantages.  It requires using a rinse to remove a film, though. Old time remedies for combating dullness left by soaps and shampoos are vinegar water rinses for brunettes and redheads and lemon juice rinses for blondes.  Some use these today once in a while to clarify the hair or, in other words, to remove product residue.   
4)  Women in the Victorian era and the Edwardian era did not wash their hair nearly as often as we do.  For one thing, they had a lot more hair to wash, and they had to set aside special time for washing and drying their long locks. In some decades, women had hair reaching as long as they could grow it.  Also, they wore their hair up, and hair with some natural oils in it was easier to dress. (Even today, many think that it's easier to style hair that is at least one day past washing than it is with freshly washed hair.)  Rather than washing often, they kept their hair clean through brushings and combings, which distributed the oils and removed dust and the like.  They would also often cover their hair while cleaning to prevent dust from settling into it.  As you can imagine, since the brush was a cleaning tool, they put a lot of emphasis on keeping their brushes and combs clean.  For those of us whose hair is shoulder length or shorter and for those of us who wash our hair frequently, nightly brushings of one hundred strokes or so are not necessary.  We still do well, however, to keep our brushes and other hair tools, as well as makeup tools, clean and sanitary.
When women began to favor shorter hair, they moved to a once a week appointment at a salon.  For those with means, this was a bridge between the era when women had maids to do their hair and the time frame when women began to do most of their hair care themselves.   
While we wouldn't want to go back to washing our hair as infrequently as our great-great grandmothers did, some are re-thinking the modern idea that we should wash our hair every day or every other day.  Such frequent washings can be drying, particularly as we age.  It strips away natural oils, which must be replaced by conditioners.  Also, there are some health risks that might be associated with shampoos.  Some are trying to extend the time between washings and to find alternatives to modern shampoos for their hair.  I haven't gotten that industrious, but do understand why people are taking this route.    Google "no poo", and you'll find lots of recipes for stretching out washings and doing without commercial shampoos.
5)  In the 1870's, businesses began to market specific hair care products to African Americans.  Prior to that, African Americans had generally devised their own ways of cleaning and dressing hair.  After emancipation, many suffered scalp disease and hair loss from infrequent washings and lack of access to the things that make for good hygiene.  In the Edwardian era, Madam C. J. Walker developed shampoos to combat this problem and founded her own hair products company.  She was one of the first African American businesswomen, and she helped other African American women to prosper in business, as well.
6)  Do you love all of those Victorian and Edwardian updos but fear you don't have enough hair to achieve those styles.  Never fear!  The women of yesteryear, even with their long, long locks, often didn't have enough volume to achieve those looks either.  Hair pieces, rats stuffed with one's own fallen hairs, false fringes, and other devices were often used to achieve those looks.
7)  Have you ever burned yourself with a curling iron?   Be thankful that you likely didn't singe your hair in a noticeable way.  In the Victorian era, it wasn't uncommon for women to scorch their hair, especially when it came to bangs and other tendrils around the face.  Singed pieces around the face were hard to hide. 
8)  Back in the day, seven sisters whose last name was Sutherland toured as an act.  The first part of their performance was singing.  That's not why people came to see them, however.  They were waiting for the moment when the sisters let down their hair Rapunzel style, for they were known as having the longest hair in the world.  Can you imagine such a thing drawing audiences today?


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mothers of Adult Children -- Especially Daughters

I read a book recently about relationships between mothers and grown daughters. While some of it didn't apply, one chapter hit me right between the eyes. The authors gave many quotes that describe how adult children of parents, especially adult daughters, worry about their parents' well-being. This can make it harder for them to enjoy their own lives and to mature into adult roles, such as marriage, parenting, and work. Of course, as adult parents, we are going to age and may come to the point where we will need our children's help. The problem comes when we suffer not from real aging or real infirmity, but when we suffer from our own neglect of our spiritual, physical, and emotional health. However, if we take appropriate care of ourselves and we stay happy and involved in life for as long as we can, we do benefit our children. We send the message that it is ok for them to grow up and become adults.

Hmm...I'm convicted that I need to step it up in taking care of myself. Since I am the mother of adult children and the daughter of aging parents, I can see this dilemma from both sides. Quite a few of us are in the "sandwich generation", where we are both parent and child. That means we are busy, busy, and if we aren't careful, we will neglect such things as fresh air, exercise, a little fun, and some quality sleep. Making even small investments in those things will help us stay fit for all of the people whom we love.

How about you? Do you find it hard to make time for the basics of good health? Have you ever worried that your parent wasn't doing all he or she could to take care of his or her health? Do you think much about how your own health choices impact the lives of people whom you love? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Wardrobe for Soft Summers

I'm somewhere between soft and light, and probably look better in clothing for women with light coloring than in clothing for softs. But, I like the colors this wardrobe was built around, even though it is for women with soft summer (soft, cool, and somewhat light). Some of the items may be a little too muted or soft for me to carry off well.

How about you? Do you look best in light, clear colors? Light muted or soft colors? Deep colors? Bright colors?

Soft Summer 1

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

12 weeks to radiant, refreshed skin (I Hope) Otherwise kinown as Tackling skin aging and pre-cancer... Likewise Skin Care

My almost 92 year old father has been battling pre-cancer and skin cancer since he was in his forties. As a young man, my father spent a lot of time outdoors in the South. Though his blue eyes are still bright and twinkling, and his skin is still rosily young for his age, he must undergo regular freezings, treatment with skin sloughing creams, and occasional surgery.

My mother, who could have been the model for beautiful Snow White, maintained her lovely complexion right up until she entered the illness that claimed her life. She, too, had an incidence of skin cancer,

So, here I am, product of the 70's, a time when we all slathered baby oil on our skins and baked until done. For someone with my skin genetics, this proved to be a bad idea. Fortunately, I quit lying out or trying to get a tan a long time ago. Even so, the effect of a youth spent in the sun is showing up on my skin.

I've decided to hit this head on. This fall, I'm tackling benign signs of aging, such as redness, as well as potentially more dangerous skin issues. Let's see if I make progress!

For my first step (after praying:)), I will use a sunscreen every day -- even in the winter, even when just popping out to walk the dog, even when making a quick run to the store, and even when just sitting at my desk by a sunny window. As an adult, I've been good about using sunscreen when I'm outdoors for longer than a half hour or so. I haven't been consistent with daily use, however. Now, my dermatologist has made it clear that consistency is the order of the day.

I use more than one brand of sunscreen, and I rotate sunscreens depending on what the day holds. However, this is the one my dermatologist particularly recommends for my type of skin (dry, sensitive). I plan to rely on it often:
I not only have the Likewise facial moisturizer/sun protectant, but also a Likewise moisturizer/sunscreen for the body.

Along with the two Likewise sunscreens, which I am already using, I purchased the Likewise face and body wash, as well. According to my dermatologist and the product label, this gently cleans and exfoliates.

Likewise products are said to be good for rosacea, as well, and it's possible that I do have mild rosacea. (That will be a second article). We'll see if these products clear away any bit of redness that the sun and time have painted on my face.

Step 2: Since I will be using so much sunscreen, I will need to check with my doctor about my blood levels of Vitamin D. I have been low in the past (along with everyone else in North America it seems.

A year or so ago, after reading a book about natural health, I tried to get all the Vitamin D I needed from the sun. I have the type of skin that can absorb all it needs in a mere 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I also have the type of skin that can begin to burn in 15 minutes, especially during Tennessee summers. So I have, for now at least, given up the idea that natural sun exposure is my best route to having great stores of Vitamin D.

Perhaps, you fare better in the sun. If so, you might remember this easy rule of thumb -- Fair skins absorb all the Vitamin D needed for a day within 15 minutes of sun exposure. After that, cover up and/or use sunscreens. Darkest ebony skins take slightly longer periods of time to absorb healthful sun, but only up to 30 minutes a day. No matter what your skin tone, it's not necessary to bake your skin to a crisp in order to reap the sun's benefits.

Step 3: I will stay in touch with my dermatologist. Today, my dermatologist took three small skin biopsies, and she applied liquid nitrogen to several spots. I also have some places on my arms that have been healing for three weeks, when she also applied liquid nitrogen.

Stay tuned for more experiments in skin care, as well as a recording of what progress I make.

Be lovely!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Inner and Outer Beauty -- Appreciating our Spiritual and Physical Blessings

In her book, "A Woman's Path to Inner Beauty," Ginger Garret tells of time when an older woman said to her, "How you catch a man is how you have to keep him." Garret drew from this the fact that if, as a single woman, she focused all of her attention on her outer beauty and drew a man to her solely through that, she would create in a man the unrealistic expectation of always looking beautiful and young. If she drew a man to her whose main concern was outer beauty, she could face unhappiness as outer beauty began to be affected by age. However, if she focused on inner beauty and drew a man to her on that basis, her marriage would only grow through the years as a woman who follows the Lord continues to grow in inner beauty. If she married a man whose primary concern is godliness, the marriage would be built on firmer ground.

If we are single, it is wise to pay attention to how we present our outer selves. Let's be honest. As women, are we drawn to choose a mate who is slovenly, negligent, prone to avoidable health problems by unhealthy habits, unkempt, and the like? Likewise, men, who are hard-wired to appreciate the beauty of a healthy and well-kept woman, are drawn to women who do keep their appearance neat. This is being good stewards of the body God has given to us, not being in the dumps because we cannot meet the unrealistic beauty standards of a materialistic culture.

In the same way, once we are married, it is not fair to our spouse to indulge in neglect -- to become unkempt or negligent in our appearance. We do invest in marital happiness by paying a little attention to our looks and health. This signals to our husbands that we do care about them. It is one way of showing love. Again, we are to be good stewards of the bodies God has given us, rather than to bemoan the extra challenges that come with aging.

I've learned the hard way that neglecting your health and beauty in the vital decades of your thirties and forties makes it all the harder to get back health and a neat appearance when you are in your fifties. Not only that, but the woman who sets herself up to enter her middle years and beyond with the best possible health will be more productive than someone, like myself, who is struggling with chronic health issues. In my case, there is nothing I could have done to stop the health issues from developing, but much that I could have done to work with my health to keep them from being as ravaging as they are. The good news is that it's never too late to start where you are and improve.

Having said all of that, I find Ms. Garret's premise to be absolutely true. If you build the early years of your marriage on superficial things, time will erode the connections you have unless you start where you are and build deeper connections. If, however, your marriage is based on eternal things, your marriage will only grow deeper and sweeter over time. I'm so thankful that my husband has been a good example in this. He sees beyond my surface appearance to my heart and my soul and my mind. The spiritual values we share grow deeper through the years.

The illustration above is a word cloud that I was playing around with listing buzz words from a few Bible verses, including Phil. 4:4-8. In this wonderful verse, we are presented with qualities that make good food for mediation. A mind that dwells on these things will emanate a loveliness that cannot be defined in purely physical terms.

Because our society exaggerates the natural attraction of physical beauty and places a level of importance on it that it simply cannot bear, we are all tempted at one stage or another of our lives to become insecure about outward looks. Keeping in mind that eternal, inner beauty is the only truly lasting beauty helps us to be secure. We can be secure when we are preteens and just learning how to live in maturing bodies. We can be secure when we are in the prime of our years. We can be secure when we start seeing time march across our faces and bodies, leaving its footprints. If we are secure inside, making our outsides as modestly lovely as we can becomes a more pleasurable process. We are not desperate to live up to some unattainable standard. We are simply caring for the wonderful bodies God has given to us to dwell in on this side of heaven.

When we are secure in heart, we can appreciate all of the wonderful things our bodies can do. Our hands, for example, can work and serve and love and comfort. Our eyes can see and notice and appreciate and move us to concern. Our ears can hear and love music and take in wise words and provide a way of caring to someone in need of being heard. Our mouths can speak words that encourage, enjoy foods, sing praises, and recite poetry. The list of good things our bodies can do is long and lovely.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

14 days to better skin -- Palmolive, doctors, and hope in a jar/bar of soap

I've noticed and even sampled several anti-aging products that promise younger, smoother, or otherwise prettier skin in periods of 2 weeks to a month. Today's product claims sound credible -- because of new understandings of the benefits of ingredients like retinal and other alphahydroxy acids, as well as new methods of formulation which supposedly allow vitamins to be absorbed into the skin.

Yet, in looking at some vintage ads, such as the one to the right, I found that there were many ads for Palmolive soap through the years which claimed that doctors proved that if you used Palmolive soap, you could have lovelier skin in 14 days. These ads are from days well before the age of modern cosmaseuticals.

Camay evidently had similar ads promising that you could have beautiful skin after using just one bar of Camay.

According to a book containing research from many home economics books, women in the early part of the 20th century had methods for exfoliating the skin (I don't know if they called it that) with a wash cloth and soap.

In young healthy skin, the cells turnover about evey 21 to 28 days. As we age and also are exposed to the weather, the sun, and other things in the enviornment, our skin begins to slow down its cell turnover rate. Older, duller, damaged skin cells stay on the surface longer, causing our skin to appear duller. Many older and many newer skin products do work by stripping away this layer of old dull skin. They also cause very mild skin damage which causes the skin to respond by increasing circulation and skin cell production. The goal is to re-create the healthy skin cell turnover rate seen in the very young. Thus, decades worth of products have held out the promise that we might, indeed, see younger -- or at least prettier -- skin in the mirror after just 2 to 4 weeks.

Whether every product that makes this claim delivers or not, I cannot say for certain. Nor, can I say for sure that our modern products are better than our grandmother's soap or cold cream and wash cloth, though I do think that there is reason to believe they are more advanced. Whatever method or product we might try, it's nice to think that pampering the skin for three weeks or so could produce a visible change in our appearance.

Some women, myself, included, have to be careful about using some of the stronger products in today's skin care offerings. I have been trying out the CVS Skin Effects line to see if it will work with my sensitive skin. Of course, the best skin product is a good sunscreen, and I buy mine from my dermatologist.

The author of the Japanse Skin Care revolution promotes a lovely, gentle, and potentially inexpensive method of giving yourself a skin mask. This is more of a hydrating technique. Check it out if you are interested in skin care.

What skin care products and methods do you use?

Health and Beauty to You!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What was Grace Kelly's favorite perfume?

Font size
Did you know that Grace Kelly's husband, Prince Ranier, commissoned the House of Creed to make a perfume for Grace for a wedding present? The perfume is the famous "Fleurissimo".

Note: While Fleurissimo is still available today, perfume companies do change their formulas slightly over time to account for changes in available ingredients, public taste, etc. Not having been around when Fleurissimo was first invented, I don't know if it still smells exactly as it did when Grace wore it. However, it's still a lovely thought that we might enjoy a bit of her elegance through this famous perfume. Fleur, of course, means flower.