Do I Try The Medieval Haircare Routine?
I have the hair and the brush. Now what?
Fun fact about hair care: it changes over time. Everyone would rather have clean hair, but chemicals become available or unavailable, and ways to force water on yourself changes with plumbing fashions.
That is to say that people weren’t always able to bop down to the local store and buy shampoo. Shampoo did not exist in Europe until a Bengali traveler brought the basic idea to England.
But that didn’t mean our non-Indian ancestors had gross hair. Shampoo isn’t strictly necessary for clean, fresh hair. So, how did people clean their hair?
Brushing was the first defense against grimy hair. Bone or wooden brushes with close tines (like lice brushes) were used thoroughly twice a day. This moves the oils through your hair and takes all the dirt and lint off. I’ve seen some YouTube videos where people tried this for a month, and their results were not bad. It’s possible that it might not work for every type of hair, but it definitely worked for many folks.
The brushing as a cleaner persisted straight through the 1700’s. But sometimes, your hair really needs a de-greasing. In the Middle Ages, the preferred method of doing this was to rub wood ash and herbs such as lavender and rosemary through your scalp and hair. They then rinsed with water.
Fresh water is hard to come by sometimes, (as a Californian, I can vouch for this,) and baths aren’t always an option. Besides, frequent shampooing dries the hair. It might be better to brush more thoroughly.
As I have mentioned before: I like experiencing what my characters experience. It gives you descriptive passages. So, here is a way I can do that. I happen to have a comb from when my moggy kitten got lice (almost a decade ago now,) and I think I can try combing twice daily.
There are two caveats. The comb is metal, so that might affect the results. Also, I am somewhat dandruff-prone, and wood ashes are not available to me, sadly.
So, perhaps it will have to be a limited experiment. I’ll brush between washes. It can’t hurt.