I think the first commercial product I remember my Mother and Aunts using was Pond’s Vanishing Cream which I thought as a child was a magical name. Then there was Potter & Moore’s Dusting Powder in a large box with a swansdown puff. Mum had another one of those beautiful puffs attached to a beribboned long, bone handle. Before nail polish came on the scene the ladies would buff up their finger nails with an oval ‘padded brush’ covered with the softest leather. Powder was then placed on the nails to make them shine.
All Beauty Aids were home made mostly from ingredients found in the kitchen. To help prevent cracked heels and chapped hands, mutton fat was used liberally. Pads of cold tea revived tired eyes; no tea bags in that era. The juicy inside of cucumber peel applied gently to the face ‘ensured a beautiful complexion’. After shampooing one’s hair, sprigs of rosemary was added to the rinsing,water and lemon juice ‘blonded’ it which I guess worked if you had naturally fair hair. Rouge came in small compacts complete
with small puffs and applied to the cheeks in round dots. There was little variation in face powder and it certainly was not tinted to suit different complexions. I can clearly recall my aunts preparing to go to a dance dusting their faces with white powder, then adding rouge and lastly using garish red lipstick. It was the fashion! The more daring plucked their eyebrows, something we were forbidden to do when we were growing up. “They will join right across, if you do.” warned our Mother and that warning was enough to deter us.
Mione, like Dad and Mum had beautiful curly hair and it was most obvious that my straight locks were quite a disappointment to them, so much of my early childhood was spent with Mum trying in vain to rectify the problem. It did not particularly worry me, I was quite happy with plaits, but Dad on Mum’s insistence decided to give me an Eton Crop which was so popular in the previous decade. It didn’t improve the quality! Then I vividly remember going through the torture of having it singed with a hot poker. I would be on ‘tender hooks’ as I sat on the chair, absolutely petrified in case the poker would miss the hair ends and land on my neck. The frizzed result smelt like only burnt hair can… and it didn’t improve my hair either. The next torture I went through was rag curls. Strips of rag or paper were wound around and around hanks of hair. I can still feel those bandaged strands sticking into my head as I tossed and turned all night trying to sleep. I made sure next day to keep inside and well away from the Bruce Boys next door who delighted in pulling them. After all Mum’s endeavours, the result was stiff unnatural curls which made me feel very self conscious.
I think that Bobby Pins must have been around longer than any other hair items. Many ladies wore their hair in a bun at the back of their neck and they were secured with hair pins and hat pins. Then there were Butterfly Clips which produced stiffly rigid waves and looked like advertisements for ‘Star Wars.’ One Mallacoota lass who had a RAAF boyfriend during the war years, ran outside to wave to him as the aircraft zoomed low over the house, as promised. “Did you see me wave?” she asked him later. “How could I not see you,” he replied with all your steel works shining in the sun!” She had forgotten to take her butterfly clips out!
Typical of the 1930s when nothing was wasted, Water Glass after it had served it’s purpose, was used to soften the hands. We preserved our hen’s eggs in Water Glass, which I believe is as concentrated solution of sodium silicate.
The eggs were placed in layers in kerosene tins with the water glass. In the first few weeks or so they were alright but after that they were only used for making cakes or puddings. By the time the fowls were laying again the whites of the preserved eggs would have become very watery, however they did tide us over the winter months. The remaining water glass felt wonderful on your hands. Tooth paste wasn’t always available so we used salt which left a nice taste in your mouth. Bi-carb of soda was another substitute for tooth paste. Milk patted on one’s face was supposed to be good for the skin, likewise water which oatmeal had soaked in. Olive oil rubbed into the scalp was believed to do wonders, too. Lemon juice and sugar was wonderful for cleansing the hands and is still used today.
When one looks at the shelves of pharmacies, supermarkets and even the bathrooms of most homes today, it is amazing how many products are available to assist us in looking beautiful. It is a far cry from those days when people utilized whatever was available in the home and was certainly less expensive.
(Footnote: I particularly remember, years later when I decided to try the remedy of using olive oil on my hair. Rod and I had been waiting for an opportunity of going to Bairnsdale to purchase an engagement ring from Pallots the Jewellers. How could I have possibly known that the very day I literally poured oil into my hair was the very day that the sea was too rough for the men to salmon fish. There I was trying to put a scarecrow up in the loquat tree in an endeavour to scare off the parrots when I saw Rod coming through the gate and up to the house. It was too late to get down so I hoped fervently that no one would tell him where I was….. Never depend on the loyalty of your family. Being Rod he just grinned at the wet, oily strands and thankfully didn’t cancel the trip! There was no town water supply in those days so I do not know how many kettles of water I boiled up trying to remove that oil so we could get away!)