Victorian Secrets: How Your Great-Great-Grandmother Got Pretty


Did you take yesterday's beauty history quiz? If you haven't, be forewarned: I'm about to reveal all the answers, along with some other oddball facts about the lengths to which Victorians went to look pretty. Are you sure you can handle reading about the lard-based beauty treatment? If so, then read more


First of all, here are the answers to the quiz.

What did women rinse their hair with to make it soft and shiny?
Rum and rosewater, my friends. Victorians used to wash their hair with a frothy mixture of egg whites, then rinsed it with a blend of rum and rosewater.

What was the name of the first commercial deodorant?
Mum's the word. Invented in 1888 in Philadelphia, Mum was the first commercial anti-stink product. Although its popularity decreased in the States, Mum continues to be sold in the UK.

When were women not supposed to wear cosmetics?
That would be when they were menstruating. Unfortunately, the idea of women being tainted or "unclean" during their monthly cycle meant that Victorian women were told to keep their faces free of any sort of cosmetics. (How cruel it would be if this were still the case, as I need concealer most when I get those monthly chin zits!)

What did some Victorian women consume in an attempt to lighten their complexions?
Yum, yum! Guess what's for your dinner, ladies? Chalk! Yep, chalk. Is the popularity of indigestion tonics during the Victorian era mere coincidence?

To make their eyes bright, what did some women do?
It hurts my eyes to even think about it, but they washed their eyes with lemon juice or orange juice.

How did women create rosy cheeks?
They pinched them, essentially. And to get red lips, they'd gently bite them.

Finally, here's a bit more trivia from the Victorian era:

  • Rimmel was founded in 1834 in London; it specialized in products such as violet water, ylang-ylang perfume and Aquadentine, "to Whiten the Teeth and refresh the Mouth."
  • Vaseline was around back in the day, offering a soap with this catchy slogan: "The best emollient in the world must be the best basis for toilet soap."
  • A men's hair oil called Macassar Oil was very popular. Its tendency to rub off led to the development of the antimacassar, which is basically a cloth to guard sofas and chaises from oil blots.
  • Cucumber-infused lard was used as a hair treatment. This made-at-home concoction involved several steps, including heating six pounds of lard and mashing cucumbers into it with a mortar.
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