Beauty – Introduction


The old cosmetics were both useful and effective.  For long storage, the preservatives included sassafras root bark, salt, borax, boric acid, aspirin powder, and willow bark.

Hair Control

Glycerin leaves the hair glossy. Rub a few drops of baby oil, odorless kerosene, or any vegetable oil into the hair. Pomade was a mixture of crushed apples and lard; it was used as a hair dressing by poor people. Mayonnaise is a good treatment for dry hair. See “Hair waving.”


Pour 1 cup of melted lard into a can or jar. Cool and cover the lard with cheesecloth or use cheesecloth moistened with olive oil instead of lard. Pack the jar with flower petals, fresh orange or lemon peel, mint, sassafras root bark, or pine bark and needles. Replace with fresh herbs or add a few drops of ammonia whenever fragrance decreases; repeat for a month. The fragrance can be extracted quicker by mixing the herbs with plain salt and placing the sealed jar in the sun. The scented lard can be used as a room deodorizer, or a small amount can be rubbed on the skin. For toilet water, cut the lard into small pieces and cover with 120-180 proof alcohol; shake the jar every day for 2 weeks, and then allow to sit for 2-3 months. Pour off the alcohol, and, as optional fixative, dissolve a little powdered gum (dried sap) from a staghorn sumac tree or a sweet gum tree. Sassafras oil, which can be extracted from root bark with this method was an ingredient in most cheap perfumes.


For oily skin, apply a paste of powdered oatmeal and water and allow to partially dry; rinse with whey and then with water. This leaves the skin feeling silky. A peaches and cream complexion was obtained by grinding a peach and mixing with a little heavy cream. Yogurt makes a good facial. Pour hot vinegar over mint and cool for a good skin toner. See “Dry skin” and “Complexion problems.”

Dry Skin

Gel from the Aloe vera plant was used by Cleopatra to keep her skin soft; it still works. Apply any oil or petroleum jelly just after bathing, when the skin is saturated with water, and at bedtime. Mayonnaise is a good skin moisturizer. Mineral oil or petroleum jelly prevents skin drying as well as anything. See “Complexion problems,” “Facial,” and “Skin lotion.”


An open container of vinegar makes a good room deodorizer. Or place pine needles, mint leaves, or orange peel on a cookie sheet in a warm oven. Our ancestors sometimes threw citrus peels or pines cones into the fireplace just before visitors arrived. A saucer of chlorine bleach or household ammonia can be placed overnight in a closet or drawer to get rid of a mildew odor. Lavender fragrance from Lavendula spp. makes a good sachet; a mixture with cinnamon bark makes good potpourri. The odor of an old sachet or potpourri can be intensified with a few drops of household ammonia. For a pine-scented deodorizer, melt paraffin in a double boiler and stir in green needles; wait 20 minutes, strain, and cool. See “Fragrances” and “Incense.”