Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Little Beauty Parlor on the Prairie?

Actually, "Little Beauty Parlor in the Ozarks" would be more fitting...

I've loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's books since I was a wee tot and, in fact, have been collecting her writings for many years. Before she wrote the "Little House" books in the 1930s, Laura wrote articles for regional farm-related newspapers and national magazines.

Laura and Almanzo left the drought-ridden South Dakota prairie several years into their marriage for the bounty of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, also known as the "Land of the Big Red Apple." Here, they carved out a beautiful and successful farm from a rocky, forested piece of land, which Laura named Rocky Ridge Farm. Her article-writing supplemented the family income between 1911 and 1924. One of my favorite articles is from 1914, "A Plain Beauty Talk."

Laura Ingalls Wilder through the years.

So, what advice does Laura have for maintaining beauty at home? Here are a few of her tips for "country women" who do not have the same access to a beauty parlor as "city women" ...

Laura suggests these basic supplies for the "home beauty parlor":
"...some good, pure soap, a bottle of dioxogen (early trade name for hydrogen peroxide) and some orange wood sticks (for cleaning under fingernails), a bottle of glycerine and rosewater, and a good toothbrush. With these aids, we can take care of our complexion, our hair, our hands, and our teeth."

For complexion care, she advises thoroughly cleansing the face with warm water and good soap, in particular, castile soap. One should rinse with warm water first, then cold water...
"...the clear warm water rinses out the soap so it will not clog the pores. The face should then be well rinsed with cold water, the colder the better, to close the pores and tighten the skin to prevent flabbiness. Cold water is one of the best aids in keeping a good complexion if it is used in this way."
Laura also recommends using cold cream:
"A good cold cream rubbed into the skin just before the cold water is used, and then wiped lightly off with a soft cloth, will help to keep the wrinkles away and make the skin softer."
Other beauty tips for farm women include keeping a bottle of glycerine and rosewater near the "washpan" (or sink) to use after hands are washed and dried.
"Do this as many times a day as hands are washed, and they will keep soft and white."
Possibly my favorite of Laura's tips (because they're so interesting and, well, farm-y) are these:
"Washing in buttermilk will whiten hands and face. Fresh strawberries rubbed on the skin will bleach it, and rhubarb or tomatoes will remove stains from the fingers."
And one final tip that I'm tempted to try now that I've got more grey in my hair than I care to have:
"A tea made from common garden sage will darken the hair and help it grow."

Laura's article, in its entirety (there's lots more to it than I've quoted here), was published in the book, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks (edited by Steven W. Hines). This book can be read online here at Google Books or, if you're a Laura fan and prefer to buy the book, it's available here at Amazon.

I wonder, if I followed the same regimen Laura recommends in her article, would I age as well as she did (based on her photos above)? ;)


Anastasia said...

I love The Little House books. They made me want to live on a homestead. I always remember when she talks about making rhubarb pie and forgetting the sugar. I want my girls to read them all like I did.

Ana said...

Warm water, rinse well, a good cold cream and rinse with cold water... must remember that... thanks Laura! :)

Ana said...

Warm water, rinse, cold cream, cold water..... and Pure sage tea to help hair grow.... What great tips!!! The things you learn on a farm