Do you feed your tired eyes? No? Well, if you have some cherry laurel water and quince seed mucilage you can make up a refreshing eye tonic. This is just one of the many helpful tips on beauty from Margaret Mixter’s 1910 classic book, Health and Beauty Hints. Mixter combines common knowledge along with some innovative strategies for combatting fatigue and giving the appearance of well-rested beauty. Some are sound advice, but many are very strange indeed. While the concept of massaging away unwanted fat is comical, I shudder to think of the women who tried this and then wondered why it didn’t work!
When we didn’t have a specific cream for every part of the face and skin type, beauty had to be taken into one’s own hands with the techniques and ingredients that were available. Rosewater factors heavily into many of the potions in the book, as do various forms of oil. They did have cold cream back then, available for purchase from many brands, including some we still use today, like Pond’s. Mixter uses cold cream as a base for some of her milder regimens. But most of the compounds contain plant oils or animal fats to moisturize or soothe, though I cannot imagine willingly putting mutton tallow (as Mixter suggests) on any part of my body!
Mixter suggests that hair is to be washed no more than once every three weeks, with a tonic of pepper oil, cocoa, and cologne applied to the scalp nightly for those who are balding. Cologne is also suggested as a cooling antiseptic for insect bites. Those with “sunburned” hair should apply a beef marrow pomade. And, if you suffer from sweaty palms, then a bella donna and alcohol tonic is to applied over them. Mixter gives small amounts of advice for sick people in the book as well, as she did in her newspaper columns.
When I first found this book, I was expecting to find every strange recipe and technique under the sun. And, of course, I did. But I also found a surprising amount of useful knowledge that I didn’t think people had back then. Mixter recommends trimming the eyelashes if there are any bent or split hairs. Can you imagine any beauty expert today telling us to cut them even the tiniest amount? On the other hand, she gives a recipe for eyebrow gel consisting of rosewater and gum arabic tinted with dye, which sounds similar to what we use today. She also suggests regular facial massages, which beauty experts today often endorse. Though I won’t be trying all the advice from this book, there are certainly a few keepers. By far, her best advice of all is to rest often!