“O wondrous, wondrous, is her braided wealth of golden That drops on neck and temples bare.”
The hair is not only invaluable as a protective covering of the head, but it gives a finish and imparts unequalled grace to the features it surrounds. Sculptors and painters have bestowed on its representation their highest skill and care, and its description and praises have been sung in the sweetest lays by the poets of all ages. Whether in flowing ringlets, chaste and simple bands, or graceful braids artistically disposed, it is equally charming, and clothes with fascination even the simplest forms of beauty.
If there is one point more than another on which the tastes of mankind appear to agree, it is that rich, luxuriant, flowing hair is not merely beautiful in itself, but an important, nay, an essential, auxiliary to the highest development of the personal charms. Among all the refined nations of antiquity, as in all time since, the care, arrangement and decoration of the hair formed a prominent and generally leading portion of their toilet.
Besides daily attention to the hair, something else is necessary to insure its cleanliness and beauty and the perfect health of the skin of thehead from which it springs. For this purpose the head should be occasionally well washed with soap and water, an abundance of water being used and great care being subsequently taken to thoroughly rinse out the whole of the soap with the water in which the head has been washed.
The water may be either tepid or cold, according to the feelings or habit of the person; and if the head or hair be very scurfy or dirty, or hard water be used, a few grains of soda (not potash or pearlash) may be advantageously added to the water. This will increase its detersive qualities. After the hair has been washed, which should be done quickly, though thoroughly, it should be freed as much as possible by pressure with the hands and then wiped with a soft, thick towel, which should be done with care, to avoid entangling it. After laying it straight, first with the coarse end of the dressing comb and then with the finer portion, it may be finally dressed.
In ordinary cases once every two or three weeks is often enough to wash the hair and head. The extreme length of ladies’ hair will sometimes render the process of washing it very troublesome and inconvenient. In such cases the patient and assiduous use of a clean, good hairbrush, followed by washing the partings and the crown of the head with soap and water, may be substituted.
The occasional washing of the head is absolutely necessary to preserve the health of the scalp and the luxuriance and beauty of the hair when much oil, pomatum or other greasy substance is used in dressing it.
Medical writers have frequently pointed out the ill effects of the free or excessive use of oily or greasy articles for the hair; but their warnings appear to be unheeded by the mass of mankind. Some object to their use altogether. There are, however, exceptions to every rule, and some of these exceptions are noticed elsewhere in this volume. The ill effects referred to chiefly occur from their being used when not required, and in excess, and are aggravated by the neglect of thorough cleanliness.
To improve the growth and luxuriance of the hair, when languid or defective, the only natural and perfectly safe method that can be adopted is to promote the healthy action of the scalp by increasing the vigor of the circulation of the blood through its minute channels. For this purpose nothing is so simple and effective as gentle excitation of the skin by frequent continued friction with the hairbrush, which has the convenience of ease of application and inexpensiveness.
The same object may be further promoted by the application of any simple cosmetic wash orother preparation that will gently excite or stimulate the skin or exercise a tonic action on it without clogging its pores. Strong rosemary water or rosemary tea, and a weak solution of the essential oil of either rosemary or garden thyme, are popular articles of this kind. They may be rendered more stimulating by the addition of a little ammonia or a little spirit, or both of them. The skin of the head should be moistened with these on each occasion of dressing the hair, and their diffusion and action promoted by the use of a clean hairbrush.
Aromatized water, to which a very little tincture or vinegar of cantharides (preferably the former) has been added, may also be used in the same way, and is in high repute for the purpose. When the skin is pale, lax, and wrinkled, astringent washes may be used.
Strong black tea is a convenient and excellent application of this kind. When the skin and hair are dry, and the latter also stiff and untractable, a little glycerine is an appropriate addition to each of the preceding washes or lotions.
The occasional use of a little bland oil, strongly scented with oil of rosemary or of origanum, or with both of them, or with oil of mace, or very slightly tinctured with cantharides, is also generally very serviceable when there is poorness and dryness of the hair. When the hair is unnaturally greasy and lax (a defect that seldom occurs), the use of the astringent washes just referred to, or of a little simple oil slightly scented with the essential oil of bitter almonds, will tend to remove or lessen it.
All the articles named above promote the glossiness and waviness of the hair, and are also among the simplest, safest, and best applications that can be employed when the hair is weak and begins to fall off.