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. 

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