Hair Care

By Charlotte Tate (nee Masters)

During the war one could not buy shampoo, conditioners or perms. Most girls grew their hair long and took great care of their "crowning glory," as it was called.

Hair was washed with the mildest soap available and rainwater from the water butt was used. It made the hair soft. Brown and auburn haired girls rinsed their hair with beer to feed the hair, heighten the colour and give it gloss. Blond hair was rinsed with lemon juice or a beaten egg. To lighten blond hair one rinsed it with a heavy salt and water solution and dried it in the sun. This bleached the hair and the salt was carefully rinsed out afterwards. Setting lotion was made with a solution of sugar and water.

If the scalp was flakey, it could be cleared by rinsing the hair with water that had boiled nettles. It was massaged into the scalp.

Hair was brushed every night with a soft, bristle brush to make it glossy. To add to the gloss the hair was massaged from top to bottom with something made from pure silk, such as a scarf or a handkerchief.

To get a straight, sleek hairstyle, curly hair was ironed straight through a damp cloth. When curls were in fashion they could be created in many ways. Metal curling tongs were heated in the fire or in the gas stove jets and tested on newspaper until it no longer singed the paper. The ends of a lock of hair were wound around the rounded tong and secured by the hollow tong, scissor fashion, the rest was rolled round the closed tongs up to the head and held there until it was curly enough and the tongs had cooled a little. Also used as curlers were pipe cleaners, twisted paper strips or rag strips. Locks of hair, damp from washing, were wrapped around and around these items and the two ends were knotted to secure the hair. When the hair was dry, the pipe cleaners, papers or rags were removed and the hair would have bouncy curls, or if the hair was long, ringlets were formed.

© QLHS 2005


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