Mar 26, 2015

Victorian Vanities - Sea Foam Hair Cleanser

In case you didn't like Shampoo Cream, here is another hair cleansing option from The Era Formulary:  5000 Formulas for Druggists, printed in 1893.  This one for a "Sea Foam" and is found with other Sea Foam options on p. 194. FYI, Sea foams don't suds up like modern or not so modern shampoos, or soaps.  However, the ammonia and Alcohol are sure to cut any grease from ones hair whether natural or added.  They are also supposed to create a light foam when used.  I've gotten my nerve up to give this one a try if I can endure the fumes and will post my results later.  However for now, enjoy the recipe:

Sea Foam
Glycerine 1 ounce.
Ammonia 2 ounces.
Alcohol 16 ounces.
Water enough to make 32 ounce


General Observations:
The name is a bit misleading.  I got no suds, no foam.  Now maybe my hair was too clean and on "period styled" hair laden with fat rich products, some kind of saponification might take place, but I have my doubts. 

This stuff smells very strongly of ammonia and alcohol.  Not the most pleasant smelling stuff.

My hair seems very clean and soft (from the glycerin). 

My color treated hair is lighter than before the wash, so I'm guessing the ammonia strips some of the color.  It was time for a touch up anyway.

Would I use it again?
Probably not.  Unless I've used a heavy pomade and need to strip the waxes and oils from my hair.

Mar 22, 2015

Victorian Vanities - Shampoo Cream

The History
Compared to our Victorian ancestors, we wash the dickens out of our hair.  The idea of a daily washing would have seemed at best, ridiculously excessive, and at worst, dangerous to great great great grandma Flora.

In the 1850's and 60's, and to some extent, the 70's and 80's frequent washing was also counter productive to creating a fashionable style. That is because preferred hair styles were smooth and sleek. Wild frizzy hair just didn't cut it, and though there were plenty of styling aids available, natural oils from the scalp do a fabulous job taming one's mane at no additional expense.  During this time, you can find references that swear all one's hair needs for cleansing is careful brushing, a rinse in the purest of water, or if very dirty perhaps a homemade egg shampoo.  

As hairstyles change toward the end of the century and sleek styles give way to frizzy fringes and more pouf, oily hair can't keep up, and cleansing practices change.  We start to see more recipes for hair cleansers that contain soaps, or other oil cutting ingredients.  We also see beauty advice that recommends regular cleansing with gentle washes or the use of hair powders to absorb excess oil.

It is fun to note that even in the 1890's one can find druggists recipes for shampoos that are made with egg.  On page 193 and 194 of The Era Formulary:  5000 Formulas for Druggists, printed in 1893 you can find 4 different recipes using eggs.  Two call for the white, one calls for the yolk, and the last calls for the entire egg.  Depending on the formula, these egg shampoos contained additional ingredients like borax, ammonia, alcohol, rose water, fragrance, and even tincture of cantharides, an extract from the blister beetle which causes skin irritation.

The Recipe
For my Victorian Vanities presentation, I created 2 recipes from the above mentioned book.  Neither contain eggs, but both are unique in their own measure.

The sample recipe I'm sharing today is for Shampoo Cream and is taken from page 193 of The Era Formulary, mentioned above.

Shampoo Cream
Soap (fine, white. in shreds), 1/2 ounce,
rose water, 1 fluid ounce,
solution of ammonia, 1 fluid ounce,
alcohol or bay rum,1/2 fluid ounce,
rain water, 8 fluid ounces.

Dissolve the soap in the rain water by heat, and when nearly cool add the ammonia, rose water and alcohol, stirring constantly.

When I first made up this "shampoo cream", I went back and checked 3 times to see if I had missed something in the recipe because there was nothing cream like about it.  It had the consistency and appearance of water.  However, after standing for 3 days, the solution began to thicken.  After a week of resting with periodic shaking, it was definitely something one might call a cream, albeit a strangely congealed and gloppy one.

After a months time sitting on a shelf, it has separated, but a quick shake and it's back to it's gloppy self.  I have no idea how this works.  I'm still a bit hesitant to try it. 

Mar 14, 2015

Victorian Vanities - Cold Cream

If your following my blog day to day, you might find it odd to see a post on cold cream right after a post on choosing a design for a new bed, but it takes time to decide, plus I have a cold and until it's gone, I don't foresee "getting my build on".  So to honor said cold in hopes it passes quickly here's a bit about cold creams.  

Cold creams can be traced back to ancient Rome where they are believed to have their roots with Greek Physician, Galen of Pergamon around 150 A.D. The first cold creams were created by melting olive oil and beeswax together, then adding water when nearly cool and whipping the bejeezus out of it.  

This concoction  had a short shelf life, it was prone to separation, and the oil went rancid with time.  By the early Victorian times, this formula had changed only slightly replacing the olive oil with almond oil, and the water with rosewater.  The cold cream smelled nicer, but still had a short shelf life. 

Cold creams were used as moisturizer, face pack, cleanser, balm, and even as a shaving cream (by men).  In the 1940's they served as a primer/adhesive for facial powders, and are still popular with many women today. 

Why Call it "Cold" Cream?
When applied to the skin, the water evaporates giving a cooling sensation.  This cooling sensation is one possible explanation for why we call this concoction cold cream.  Another possibility is that the name comes from the cream being kept in cold or cool storage to prolong it's shelf life.   

In 1876, Vaseline(introduced in 1870) made it's way into some cold creams replacing the almond oil and creating cold creams that were cheaper and would not go rancid.

In 1883 Adoph Vomack introduces a formula with borax.  The borax worked with the beeswax to form an emulsion that would not separate, even if oil was used instead of Vaseline.  These borax beeswax creams were slightly pearlescent which many Victorians took as a sign of quality.  

In 1890 we see the first commercial cold cream that contains both Vaseline and borax.

This is a traditional almond oil, beeswax, and rose water cold cream created from a recipe found on p. 233 of The Druggist's General Receipt Book by Henry Beasley printed in 1878.

This reciept/recipe calls for:
4 parts almond oil
1 part white wax (beeswax with scent and color removed) 
3 parts rose water.  

The resulting cold cream smells and feels amazing.  I find that the beeswax help protect my hands in the winter when they are prone to chapping from frequent washing.  In the picture below, you might be able to see the downside of this formula.  less than one month after creation, even stored in ideal conditions, droplets of water are starting to separate out.  In a previous recipe, I added a small amount of borax to this recipe and the cream remained intact for nearly 2 years, even though the oil had begun to smell less than fresh.

The Vaseline cold cream below was made from a recipe on p. 170 of The Era Formulary written by D.O. Haynes and printed in 1893.

The recipe(#1842) calls for:
  75 parts white wax
  75 parts spermaceti* 
450 parts almond oil
200 parts Vaseline
200 parts water
  10 parts borax
       perfume q.s. (as needed)
*( I use Jojoba oil as it is the closest readily available substitute)

This recipe is very stable including both borax and Vaseline.  It is easy to make and feels great, but I do think I prefer the previous recipe freshly made or with borax added.

Want to DIY Some Cold Cream?
  • Check out the books I've mentioned above.  They both have recipes for other cold cream variations listed on the same pages as the recipes I've given.
  • Melt your wax and fats/oils together slowly in a double boiler set up.  Remove from the heat and slowly add the water while mixing with a hand held electric mixer.  Originally, this beating was done by hand and took a very long time.  Using a hand mixer gets the job done quicker and you end up with a very uniform product.
  • As with all cosmetics, try and use at your own risk.  Please remember common perfuming oils like orange, bergamot, and lemon are photo sensitizing (they will increase you risk of sunburn where applied)
If you DIY your own cold cream, please leave me a comment and/or picture and let me know how it turns out.