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.
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 proper usage of toilets. It was a page full of beauty tips. Check out some of my favorites:
Foul 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 this remedy’s list of ingredients will show that it involves water, and baking soda (bicarbonate of 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 a 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!
To remove dandruff, mix glycerine with a little rosewater.
I was particularly interested in this remedy 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:
- 3 Tbsp rosewater (find rose hydrosol here)
- 1 tsp pure vegetable glycerine (find pure vegetable glycerine here)
- 6-8 drops lavender essential oil, optional (find 100% pure lavender EO here)
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 remedy is not a long-term solution to dandruff, 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.
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.