Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Skin bleaching is very common still in parts of the world, and it was done in Victorian times. Fair, spotless skin was considered to look more youthful, and was suggestive of status (as many poor women still worked on farms or other outdoor jobs, leaving them with darker complexions.)
There were many home remedies for skin bleaching in the Edwardian era, but it was acknowledged, that most of them didn't really work too well. "The only external application that proves useful is the solution of bichloride of mercury and glycerine, or Gowland's lotion" said one source. Gowland's lotion was also made from bichloride of mercury.
As explained in this article, mercury actually does work for the purpose of bleaching skin, but it is poisonous. In the US, hydroquinone is a popular ingredient for the same purpose, though it's also considered poisonous by some people and it is not legal in all countries for this reason (even in the US, only a 2% concentration is approved for sale over the counter, and no prescriptions with a concentration above 4% are currently approved.) Hydroquinone as a skin bleach was discovered in the 1930s. It was already used in the tanning industry, and black workers complained that it was removing the pigment from their skin. By the 1950s it was being used by doctors to bleach the skin, and was especially valued by vitiligo patients. Vitiligo sufferer Michael Jackson's famous transformation of complexion was the result of hydroquinone treatments. Due to US laws, while nothing with over 2% hydroquinone is approved for public sale by the FDA, it's more or less legal to sell unapproved products with a higher concentration. 20% is a popular concentration for those who want stronger action. The trouble with hydroquinone is it is not very stable and turns brown and ineffective in a short time. I've experimented with hydroquinone treatments at home and found within minutes of creation, I can see a mixture browning up, and within 2 hours it's become dark and useless. It requires good quality antioxidants as a preservative.
Kojic acid is considered a safe alternative skin bleaching agent to hydroquinone. It was discovered as a byproduct of the sake industry in Japan, but it can be produced from many sources. Unfortunately, like hydroquinone, it oxidizes quickly -- and in my experience, doesn't work as well as hydroquinone. (Also, side note -- for all they say about kojic acid being safer than hydroquinone, I've gotten chemical burns from using 20% kojic acid, but had no such trouble with hydroquinone.) Kojic acid does help inhibit production of pigment more than hydroquinone though, and also helps work to hinder the oxidation of the hydroquinone, making it a good substance to use in conjunction with it.
Bitter almond oil is another popular ingredient in older recipes and still used in some modern ones. I can't find much information about why it works, but it is of note that true bitter almond oil is very poisonous and most of what is sold as bitter almond oil is actually a synthetic or substitute. I have no first hand experience with this product.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
When I did the hair unwashed experiment, many people inquired about nightcaps and bonnets, wondering if they were used to control the oiliness of the hair in some way.
Since I was still sleeping on cloth pillowcases during the experiment, and didn't notice them to absorb any oil, I doubt a bonnet or nightcap would have had any greater effect. I also might note that nightcaps were going out of fashion by the Edwardian era. Their purpose was evidently less about keeping the hair clean or neat, and more about keeping the head warm at night -- something which modern indoor heating was making less difficult to achieve than it had been in the past. An 1873 poem by Robert Browning claims --
Night-caps, night's comfort of the human race:
Their usage may be growing obsolete,
Still, in the main, the institution stays.
...but, evidence leads me to think that by 1900, they were more than growing obsolete. Comic strips of the era don't show them. Even Winsor McCay's comic strip Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (which always ends with the dreamer waking from a cheese-induced nightmare) never seems to portray the females -- nor the males, for that matter -- with any night-time head gear. (Curiously, though, the film version made in 1903 shows the male character wearing a nightcap -- he even has to rise after drunkenly getting into bed to retrieve it, it's so important a garment.) Even doing a search through Google Books for the term "night-cap" during the period 1885 thru 1920 mainly just turns up historical reprints and little contemporary literature discussing them. I get the impression that they were mostly used for dramatic effect in film and stage shows, but had become an obsolete garment in practice; sort of the way one sees négligées worn in movies and on TV sometimes, but I have never seen an actual human in one, this side of a Halloween costume.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Daily Mail has a story about a woman in Seattle who leads a totally late-Victorian life (aside from using the grocery store self checkout, apparently.) I can relate to her experiences with the corset:
'People have mixed reactions,' she admitted. 'Some are enthusiastic and positive. The other day an old man ran out of a restaurant to tell me I made his day, he said: "You look beautiful." Mrs Chrisman insists that every day she and her husband find 'wonderful insights' into the Victorian way of life 'But there are perfect strangers who find what I wear such a point of contention. Some women scream oppression -- that I choose to wear a corset. But I focus on the positives. I don't find it restricting at all, in fact I'd venture to say that it's liberating to live how I want to!'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2506542/Wearing-corset-liberating-Meet-woman-living-modern-day-Victorian-life--cell-phone-car-home-appliances.html#ixzz2kkiTeGlJ
Friday, November 29, 2013
"What a delightful thing rest is! The bed has become a place of luxury to me. I would not exchange it for all the thrones in the world." —Napoleon I.
If womankind half realized the beauty benefits of plenty of restful, refreshing sleep, all femininity would be crawling into bed at sunset. I've often wondered why the great sisterhood that is praying and working and fretting for physical loveliness does not understand that more real help comes from rational, hygienic living than can be squeezed out of all the cosmetic jars that ever enticed weak feminine hearts.Beauty sleep! Why, we've heard of it since the long-ago days when our blessed mothers sung it, lullaby-fashion, into our ears! As little girls it brightened the "sand-man" hour and made us go contentedly to bed. As women it should rightly continue its good work, and the dear Lord knows we need it more now than we did then, for—perhaps—the crow's feet have begun to show their ugly little tracks and the fine complexion of early girlhood is losing its luster and brightness, and is growing a bit dull and yellowed—like a leaf first touched with the autumn chill.Perhaps you won't believe it, but there are right ways of sleeping and wrong ways as well. The girl who curls up like a shrimp is the one who will be writing to me in a great flurry and worry, telling me that her shoulders are round, and that she simply can't make them nice and square as they should be for the new tailor-made that is to transform her into a happy little Easter girl! The woman who is horrified to find wrinkles appearing like wee birds of omen does not have to tell me that she is a pillow fiend and sleeps with her head half a foot higher than her heels. It stands to reason that a pillow will push the flesh of the face up into little lines. There is no necessity for pillows at all, and girls don't need them for comfort any more than a little puppy dog needs patent leathers or overshoes. The bed should be hard and perfectly flat, with springs that do not sag or give and let the poor sleeper roll down in the middle in a jumbled-up heap. A hair mattress is the best for health and comfort, but others will do nicely if they are only perfectly flat and not too soft.The first thing to do, then, is to dispense with the pillow. If this change cannot be accomplished all at once, then let your pillow be gradually made smaller and smaller until none at all is desired. Your sleep will be much better, and after the habit is once formed a pillow is looked upon with derision. I know foolish mothers who put their children to sleep on pillows as big as a school-girl's love for caramels, and the poor babies tumble and toss, and the next morning those mothers dose them for a pain in the "tum-tum." Alack-a-day! Babies don't need pillows—unless it be those little soft cushions of down that are as flat as pancakes.But to return from babies to beauty. If your sleep is restless and you awaken with a dull headache and the feeling of weariness that makes you want to begin the night over again so as to get refreshed, you may be sure that something is wrong—either you are worried or troubled or are working too hard for your own good. Perhaps your digestion is out of order, or the room is not properly ventilated. It may be any of these things that keep you from getting the rest that is really so very necessary for health and comfort and good looks.Heavy bedding is also distressing, and as good a maker of nightmares as deviled crabs or plum pudding. Light blankets make the best covering. Let the window be open at top and bottom, so as to have perfect ventilation. Don't eat an indigestible lunch before retiring; this is the greatest of all beauty follies. Lie on the abdomen, with your hands at your sides. This position will keep your shoulders back, will give you a good figure and a better carriage. When you have followed these directions and still find that you spend most of the night crawling around over your bed vainly seeking a comfortable and restful spot, then you can make up your mind that you need a good tonic and a doctor's counsel, for your nerves or your digestive organs are not as they should be.To sum it all up in a nutshell: You must sleep well, and you must sleep a great deal if you wish to be the "woman beautiful." Sitting up late at night will cause grey hair as will nothing else. It makes those dark circles about the eyes, and causes the "windows of the soul,'' to lose half their luster and softness and beauty. Who ever saw a pretty woman with dull, lifeless eyes? She wouldn't be pretty were she so afflicted. By sleeping properly, the body is kept stronger and fresher, and thus the complexion is benefited greatly. Wrinkles do not come so soon, the skin does not take on that muddy, yellow hue as it would otherwise, and cheeks are pink and rosy with that greatest of all rouges—Health.There's a heap of truth in all this. If you do not believe it, then give up late hours—be they for study or pleasure—and see if the problem won't work itself out nicely with you. I think it will. In fact, I am really quite sure of it.
-- Mme. Qui-Vive