Beauty Tips and Tricks at Home From the 1800s

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Beauty Tips and Tricks at Home

These beauty tips and tricks at home highlight the way people lived many years ago and teach us simple and natural tricks like natural remedies for dandruff!

A few months ago Matt and I were shopping in a nearby city and stumbled into the most charming little General Store. One of the first things I picked up was a publication full of interesting information from the 1800s.

Beauty Tips and Tricks at Home from the 1800s

I’m always intrigued by the way people lived hundreds of years ago. They didn’t have the conveniences we have now, but they had methods that were tried and true for every area of daily living. It seems much of what we write about on this website is information they would have known: how to clean with natural products, how to garden, how to prepare your own personal care products, and how to make homemade gifts for your loved ones. Our mission is to help people return to simplicity and self-sustainability. Previous generations knew this lifestyle well.

I digress. Let’s get back to the book in the General Store.

As I glanced at the tips in this nostalgic pamphlet, Children’s Manners and Morals, certain things stood out to me. I flipped to the section on “Toilet Tips.” (I may or may not have laughed like a middle school boy when I read this title.) No, it was not about the proper usage of toilets. It was a page full of beauty tips. Check out some of my favorites:

Bad Breath Remedy

The best remedy for foul breath is powdered charcoal, half a teaspoon, spread on a piece of bread, and eaten once a day for two or three days.

This one cracked me up, because I just imagined a proper little girl in her frilly dress, looking up from her bread and smiling across the table with a mouth full of black teeth. Very proper, indeed.

I guessed this remedy was referring to the equivalent of activated charcoal, not the type you would start your charcoal grill with. Upon further reading, I learned that charcoal biscuits were commonly used in the 1800s to remedy stomach problems or excessive flatulence.

Activated charcoal is often used today in cases of accidental overdose or poisoning. Charcoal has the ability to bind itself to certain things in the body and help flush them out, undigested. Perhaps the idea behind this bad breath remedy was that the black powder bound in a similar way to the bacteria in the mouth when taken orally. I love this thinking, however, I won’t be eating a bread and charcoal sandwich anytime soon.

Greasy Skin Remedy

To remedy greasy skin, mix one half pint of distilled water, 18 grains of bicarbonate of soda, and 6 drops of essence of Portugal, and bathe the face with it.

A quick look at this remedy’s list of ingredients will show that it involves water, and baking soda and something called essence of Portugal. With a little bit of online digging, I determined it is something like orange essential oil. This makes perfect sense as orange oil has natural degreasing properties.

This portion of the pamphlet was perfect evidence that what once was old is new again. I love baking soda for my face. I keep a small container of baking soda in the shower and use it to scrub my face about once a week. It absorbs excess grease and does a wonderful job of gently exfoliating without being too harsh. (I may consider adding a few drops of sweet orange essential oil to the dry baking soda I store in my shower!) It’s kind of like frugal microdermabrasion.

I sprinkle a little baking soda in my hand, add a little water from the shower to form a paste, and rub it gently all over my face before rinsing well. My face feels so smooth and clean after using the baking soda wash.

This remedy is a great one to try at home if you’re looking for something for oily skin!

Natural Remedies for Dandruff

To remove dandruff, mix glycerine with a little rosewater.

I was particularly interested in natural remedies for dandruff since I have struggled with a dry scalp my entire life. I’m willing to try anything to eliminate the flaking and itching I constantly deal with. The dry winter weather and massive amounts of chlorine in our city water only exacerbate my problem.

I mixed up the following scalp spray:

I didn’t want greasy-looking hair so I used more rosewater than glycerine. I sprayed this mixture on my dry scalp for a few days, checking the results each day. RESULTS: It worked!!! I noticed a huge difference after the first day, and it got better after each application. Another bonus: my scalp and hair smelled all flowery and nice!

I must note that this natural remedy for dandruff is not a long-term solution, because after I stopped using the spray my scalp returned to its dry, itchy state. But if you’re looking for an immediate fix for flaking and itching, this worked for me and is worth a shot. You could also try using more glycerine with “a little rosewater,” as the remedy suggests – this might give longer-lasting results.

Check out our other home remedies for dandruff.

Final Thoughts

So let’s review the advice we have here from the 1800s: take your bread with charcoal and you’ll have fresh breath, wash your face with baking soda to eliminate shine, and avoid embarrassing flaking by spraying a floral mixture on your scalp. While I would NOT recommend using charcoal without a medical professional’s advice, I love the other two remedies.

I get a little giddy when I can learn to simplify and become self-sufficient with advice from the past. Especially when it’s easy, frugal, and practical – and it usually is!

What do you think of the tried and true tricks from former times? If you have some we missed, be sure to share with the community below!



  • Children’s Manners and Morals. Nashville, IN: Historical Folk Toys, 2006.

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

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  1. Melissa says

    I love using baking soda and fresh lemon juice as a facial scrub.
    It leaves the skin exfoliated and evens my skin tone.
    I do this once a week in the shower.

  2. Nicole Hegstad says

    Okay I wanted to repost as, I had posted above about the dandruff. After reading this about the flouride, and the chlorine, I asked a co-worker if they put chlorine in our water (I’m new to the area) and she said they did. So I went to the store and bought distilled water. That was the problem! My entire life I’ve been dealing with dandruff only to discover it’s the water!!! I’ve only washed my hair twice, but the first time I was able to go three days without washing, with only a third of the dandruff build up that I normally get. And I washed again last night, I can already feel natural oils building up, and no itching!! I love it! So thank you so much for your suggestions!! I knew there had to be an answer out there, but it’s so relieving to have found it!

  3. Anne says

    I am working on no shampoo still. I tried it for a full week the first time and my hair was SUPER greasy. I used baking soda and water, apple cider vinegar, and even a peppermint liquid castile soap variation. I have extremely thick hair (Native American) …has anyone tried something that worked for no poo? I appreciated your info on flouride. Your site is what inspired me to go chemical free 8 months ago! I now teach my friends what I have learned. The no poo thing has me stumped though. Thank you!

  4. leona says

    I live in an area where there is a lot of fluoride in the water naturally. Too much fluoride causes teeth to become brittle and chip. I try to discourage anyone from using commercial toothpastes as almost all have fluoride as an ingredient. I use baking soda and my teeth feel much cleaner than when I used commercial toothpaste.

  5. Lois says

    I take 4 T of coconut oil a day..2 in the am in my protein shake & 2 in the evening in lemon far as the saurated fats r concerned…should I be concerned about it..I take a whole peeled lemon…seeds & all & put in my vita mix/coconut oil…with a cup of water..alittle stevia…lemon is good to keep blood insulin at bay & that in turn helps me with my sweet cravings..also…the coconut oil is good for sweet cravings…I love reading all the info ur passing along…

  6. Janice says

    This contains so many interesting ideas that I will pass on to my son-in-law. Thank you. I liked reading the “Apologies…” article, it was more visually interesting….Use that for an editors trick every now and then.

    As always your articles are so professional. Great job!


  7. Nicole Hegstad says

    I’ve been using the Baking Soda mix for awhile now, I love it. However, I’ve always had dandruff problems. I’ve tried the honey/olive oil mix, using olive oil for conditioner. I’ve even gelled my whole head with aloe vera, or Cetaphil lotion. All of these have been temporary fixes, where it would calm it down, but never make it go away. I’m really excited to try the above recipe, and actually have the rose water and glyceran in the mail as I’m typing. I recently went and bought a big bottle of Aloe Vera gel and a little bottle of tea tree oil. I dumped the whole bottle of tea tree oil in the aloe vera, and slathered it on. It felt really good. My only concern was whether that was enough to clean my hair, so I’ve been adding a little baking soda to about a 1/2 cup of the mix and using that. It works for a few days. But my strong hope is to find something that will stop the flaking and itching. I don’t care if I have to re-apply it, but I’m in sales, and I can’t have it flaking all the time. After reading the amount that you use, Betsy, I’m wondering if I’m using too much Baking soda, which would cause this reaction as well. Back to experimenting…

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I would be more worried about the amount of tea tree oil you’re using, and not so much about the baking soda. Tea tree oil can be drying, and it sounds like you’re using a lot. You’ll want the tea tree oil to be at about 1% concentration in the aloe vera solution. Using more essential oils usually does not make them more effective. But yes, experimentation is the key with these DIY solutions. 🙂 Hope that helps!