Have you ever heard of renowned beauty expert Margaret Mixter? Me neither.
Maybe it's because she's been dead for decades, or maybe it's because the book she wrote in 1910, Health and Beauty Hints, is freakin' crazy.
Perhaps the advice in it didn't seem crazy at the time, but at the very least it must have seemed complicated and judgmental.
I stumbled upon this treaure trove while browsing the scanned antique beauty books on the amazing archive.org, a nonprofit internet library, and I just had to share some of its wackiness with you.
Mixter recommends massaging the face with a homemade mixture of almond oil, white wax, lanolin, elderflower water, witch hazel, and spermaceti, which is a waxy substance from inside the skull of a sperm whale and apparently something everyone just had lying around in the pantry back in 1910.
To massage the face, rub gently to increase the flesh and make the cheeks round; or, if a double chin or superfluous flesh is to be removed, rub vigorously to wear away the fat by friction.
That doesn’t sound terrifying or misguided at all.
It is a fact always to be remembered that the tendency of flesh on the face is to droop downward with age, so all muscles and cords must be rubbed up, to prevent their stretching.
NEVER FORGET THAT FACT.
Mixter also claims that astringents will make your face less fat, and that a blend of lanolin, spermaceti, benzoin, neroli, sweet almond oil, coconut oil (I guess people have always been obsessed with that stuff), and “freshly tried mutton tallow” (sheep fat) will act as a “flesh-making cream” if your face is too thin.
By the time a woman is twenty-five years old she should devote at least ten minutes, night and morning, to massaging her throat under the chin. She may see no reason at that period for massage, but should she take the trouble, by the time she is forty she will not have the hanging "dewlap” which, more than anything else, proclaims her no longer young.
It’s too late for me, guys. SAVE YOURSELVES!
Mixter has some pretty interesting (and super-judgy) ideas about how to take care of your hair.
She thinks hair turns gray when it’s lacking “nourishing oils,” and she basically says your hair is turning gray because you’re lazy. But you can fix your grays with a few drops of lavender oil, ergot and mercury oleate, aka POISON.
She also totally contradicts herself about the benefits of the sun on your hair.
A sun bath gives the head as much tone and vigor as it does the body, and to dry one's hair in the sun after washing it is ideal… So important do I regard this treatment that I consider it an error to wash the hair on a damp or cloudy day.
So, if you live in Seattle or London, never wash your hair.
She goes on to say, however, that sun exposure will turn your hair crispy and make your hair color “streaked” and “soiled.” Pick a side, Mixter!
Regardless of how she feels about hair when the sun is up, it’s when it’s down that her strongest hair feelings emerge.
I believe that it is impossible for a girl to have pretty hair, and I know that she cannot possess luxuriant tresses when an old woman, unless she brushes and combs her tresses before going to bed. To remove the pins, and twist the locks, or let them hang, is as injurious as it is to cloth to lay it away without smoothing.
So start brushing your hair with at least “twenty long strokes” before going to bed if you want pretty old-lady hair.
She gets props for mentioning electrolysis for hair removal, though. It was 19-freakin’-10! She was also into dry-shampooing, though it seems she’s OK with letting her hair go longer between washes than most of us.
A dry shampoo is one of the best kinds of treatment that can be given, and if one can take this the third week after washing, and wait another two weeks before the next wet shampoo, the scalp may be kept clean without exhausting the oils.
My hair will BECOME oil if I wait over a month between washings.
When you do finally wash your hair, definitely don’t blow-dry it. Not that there were blow-dryers then.
No matter what the necessity for a "quick dry," the temptation to hang the tresses over a radiator or before a register must be resisted, and the locks must be dried by rubbing with towels, letting the mass hang loose at times while resting the arms.
Don’t forget to rest your arms.
Are you an outdoorsy kinda gal?
Bleaching creams should be used by girls and women who spend their vacations at the seashore or mountains, where their skins tan or freckle, for it is a mistake not to remove burns or freckles before cold weather, as the chill has an unpleasant way of settling the color.
In short, if you’re not bleaching your face, it’s gonna look crappy this winter.
Yellow-stained necks were apparently a big issue at the time, thanks to high-collar styles.
High collars are almost sure to ruin even pretty necks by making yellow lines and fine wrinkles in the skin. For the tight neck dressings interfere with the free circulation of the blood, thus starving the tissues and causing the local muscles to become flabby.
Her super-helpful top tip? Don’t be such a slave to fashion, JEEZ. But just in case you can’t get enough of those crazy collars…
When the line about the throat has developed until it is yellow, some persons favor bleaching by a gentle burn. For this a paste is made of dry English mustard, taking a tablespoonful and mixing it into a paste with a teaspoonful of sweet almond oil and as much lemon juice as may be required. This is rubbed on the discoloration night and morning and left until the skin smarts.
Mixter also pities you if you drink coffee or alcohol because you’re going to get zits from it.
It always makes me sorry when I notice the number of bright, keen-looking girls downtown who, when luncheon time comes, order things to eat which are not sufficiently nourishing and screw their nervous force with a cup of strong coffee. It cannot fail to affect complexion and eyes, as well as nerves.
But don’t worry: exercising in a flannel gown will clear your zits right up.
Girls will benefit complexions and figures if they will go through some physical exercises every morning… An excellent garment to wear when going through these movements is a light flannel dressing sacque that will give warmth without impeding the freedom of movement. I mention this article of wearing apparel because the exercises must be taken before an open window to clear the complexion, and if one is not properly clad, the flesh might become chilled. Felt or woollen slippers must also be worn.
You know. For the zits.
Apparently, the shape of your fingertips was a more important measure of attractiveness than the fingernails themselves back in 1910.
Consolation for a woman with homely fingertips lies in the fact that much improvement is gained merely in shaping the tops, letting the sides alone. If narrowness is achieved it will be by making them oval on the edge. A pointed top merely makes the rest of the nail look broader by contrast, whereas one slightly rounded does not call attention to the wide surface.
You have my sincerest sympathy if you have wide, homely fingertips.
If you bite your nails, I feel even worse for you.
A woman who bites her nails should go to a physician for treatment, because this habit is almost always the result of an unhealthy physical condition that needs special care.
Actually, she may be on to something.
And finally, I would just like to share with you that there’s a sub-chapter called “OILY BANDAGES IMPROVE THIN ARMS.” I don’t even know.
There are so, so, SO many more gems in this book, which you can download fully from archive.org.