Косметология Alena Vlasova 24.07.2019 317

Depilation in the XIX century

No, no, we are not going to look into antiquity! Thousands of years ago, the ancient Egyptian and Roman women knew a lot about removing hair which they considered excessive. Well, the East is a delicate matter. I propose to have a look at the situation in Europe in the XIX century. Women in corsets and puffy skirts era. What did they remove? And how?

The female body was almost completely hidden by clothes, except for shoulders, upper chest, and arms, exclusively in the evening. First of all, the main problem was the hair in the places that remained open.


Beautiful Lola Montes in her book "The Art of Beauty" (1858) wrote that "sometimes female beauty is overshadowed by ungracious growth of hair on the upper lip and hands, sometimes on the chin." And throughout the century, if they were talking about unwanted hair growth, they, first of all, meant the face!


Both on a forehead, and a nape. In the book "Notes of an Ugly Girl" (1878), they advised: "From childhood, you need to comb your hair back from the bottom up, so that the weak and sparse hairs on your neck does not grow." Therefore, the extra hairs were removed. In addition, the high forehead was considered beautiful, and one could try to make it higher.

Arms and legs

Stockings and long skirts hid the legs, but if one wished, she could make them smooth (though, more often, leaving as it was). Take, for example, "Ladies' Collection" (St. Petersburg, 1882). Among other things, there is mentioned "a remedy for removing small wool-like hair on the arms and legs."


In the mentioned "Ladies' collection" there is a section "Hygiene", and there is a chapter devoted to hair. It includes a lot of details from washing to combing, recipes for removing excessive hair on the face, arms and legs ... but not a word about the armpits! Like the other books on the care that I have met. And there were a lot of them. If we take into account that the dresses had sleeves (in the most elegant options - short ones), it is not surprising that the armpits disturbed women much less than the face. Dresses without sleeves, with straps, began to appear in the last one-third of the XIX century. Nevertheless, truly women began to show the body only in the XX century. That is when they would widely advertise hair removal in this area.

However, there is such an aspect: it was not customary to talk about a lot. Moreover, delicate topics were bypassed. However, they somehow managed to cope with childbirth and with critical days. So if it is advised to "wet the upper lip or another place where excessive hair grows, with a mixture of ...", the place can be not called, while a piece of advice may be followed.

Intimate zone

They were not used to look down there very often. There is a legend - and today researchers believe that indeed, it is a legend - that the famous art theorist John Ruskin was shocked at his wedding night that his young wife did not have a smooth body like a marble statue. And, they say, it was for this reason that they never entered into matrimonial relations. Anyway, this zone was usually left untouched. With the only exception, if a woman earned a living with her body. However, that was not always the case.

How to remove?

In general, they did it the same as we do today, only taking into consideration the century. A woman could remove excessive hair by the following methods.

1) Soft means, like "parsley water" or "acacia juice"; 2) Powder; Of course, powders were caustic, they included lime, arsenic, alkali, etc. For example, the “Ladies’ Collection” suggested: “Caustic lime - two parts; powder of the violet root - one part. This powder, with great care, is sprinkled on the skin of the hands and feet, where you want to remove ugly fluff. By no means should this powder not be used for face care." 3) A paste; For example, in the book "Beautiful Woman" (1899) there was a recipe for "lipstick" of lime, tea soda and fat. Mix, apply and leave for 5-10 minutes. By the way, causticity, and, therefore, the effectiveness of such removal could be checked in advance ... with a feather! If you dip it there, and it "goes bald" - everything is good. 4) Sticky strips; For example, spread on a leather flap a mixture of gum and resin, glue for a few minutes, and then tear it off. The previously mentioned Lola Montes wrote that, although it hurts, as they say, it is effective. 5) Pluck out with tweezers; Lola added that she knew the unfortunate victims of this method, who were sitting and doing this all day long, but to no avail - often the hairs broke off and did not pull out completely. She also warned against shaving - this way the hair grows even faster, and the shaved place stands out with blue or black peeping hair roots. 6) Shaving; Moreover, since the XVIII century, there were almost-safe razors. Although the "Gillett" company began to offer special women's razors only from the beginning of the 20th century, before that, women were coping well with men's blades. 7) Remove mechanically; That is, destroying the hair follicles. For example, Henry Piffard (1842-1910), an American dermatologist, developed the following method: insert a surgical needle into a hair follicle and turn it once or twice. The needle could also be pre-dipped in a mixture of carbolic acid (phenol) and olive oil. 8) Remove by electrolysis; No longer casual needles, but connected to galvanic cells. This method has been proposed since the 1870s.

In short, the depilation was far from being a paramount thing in caring for oneself, but rather important!