Grooming Tools, Treatments & Colouring
BRUSHES, COMBS & GRAVOURS - HAIR BALMS &
TONICS - HEADLICE & DANDRUFF TREATMENTS - COLOURING THE HAIR
Combs & Gravours
as we know them today do not appear to be mentioned during the
middle ages, although combs are widely depicted and written about,
not only as a grooming tool, but as a suitable gift from a lover
to his beloved lady. Such combs were often very elaborately carved
or painted with scenes of courtly love or birds and animals and
could be a part of a toiletries set.
Some folded out to form a kind of X whilst others were rigid and
flat like the combs of today. Many show a high degree of fine
have uncovered some very beautiful examples of boxwood, bone and
ivory combs like the 1320 ivory comb depicted above at right.
It is believed to be of Parisian workmanship. The design is typical
of those of the period and it is likely to have been owned by
a woman in the upper classes.
Another hairdressing aide widely
used in the middle ages was the gravour. The gravour was a long,
slender instrument used for parting the hair and probably also
used for partitioning the hair whilst plaiting or styling some
of the more elaborate hairstyles. Some gravours had beautifully
carved handles as seen here at the left in this 1330 Paris example.
The carved tip shown here is 7cm in length.
A French Royal account from 1316
describes a set of four grooming instruments: mirror, comb,
gravour and leather case purchased for the sum of 74 shillings,
which was quite substantial.
balms and tonics
Many herbal preparations were used to cleanse and protect the
hair. As with older persons of today, hair loss was a concern
which was attended to with balms and tinctures. Aloe vera, when
mixed with wine, was believed to prevent hair loss by rubbing
into the head. Hound's Tongue leaves bruised or the juice boiled
in hog's lard and applied to the head was another recipe to help
with the falling away of hair.
hair tonic remedies included- the juice of Onion allium cepa
rubbed on the head then laid in the sun; Peach tree kernels bruised
and boiled in vinegar until they become thick applied to the head
is a restorative and causes hair to grow upon bald places or where
it is thinning; Quince Tree cotton or down of quinces boiled and
laid as a plaster made up with wax, brings hair to them that are
bald or assists with hair loss; the ashes of Southernwood or Old
Man Tree artemesia abrotanum mingled with salad oil causes
hair to grow again whether on head or beard; Walnut juglans
regia kernels, shown at right, burnt and taken in red wine
stay the falling of hair on the head and make it fair, being anointed
with oil and also White Maidenhair
The lee made thereof is singularly
good for the skurf, and stayeth the falling of the hair, causing
it to grow thick, fair and well-coloured. For this purpose,
boil it in wine, put smallage seed and afterwards, some oil.
and dandruff treatments
Headlice was as much an issue to the medieval woman as her modern
counterpart and herbal remedies were used to help combat them.
The detail at right is a detail taken from a 15th century French
manuscript by Boccaccio, the de Claris Mulieribus showing
a woman using a medieval comb with close set teeth on one side
not unlike our modern headlice combs.
The juice of the young branches of Broom-Rape made into an ointment
with hog's grease and heated as oil was one remedy to kill body
and head lice. Parsley petroselinum crispum repelled head
lice, as did the oil from the seeds of Spurge or Garden Spurge.
Staves-Acre seeds coarsely powdered and strewed in the hair was
also remedy for headlice.
To treat dandruff, an infusion of
Cleavers galium aparine not only helped clear the skin
but made a wash for dandruff. It was also believed that the leaves
or bark of the willow tree in wine would take away dandruff by
washing with it and a wash of the juice of beets with water and
vinegar cleansed the head of dandruff and was warded off the shedding
of hair as would the head washed Lesser Field Scabious.
According to treatises which contain herbal remedies, medieval
women did indeed dye their hair. Although blonde was the preferred
and most fashionable colour, recipes for darker hair were known,
perhaps to disguise grey hairs as they are today. One assumes
that these recipes were intended only for townswomen who had access
to such ingredients or the funds to purchase them.
Recipes to turn the hair yellow include-
The hair when washed with the lie made of ashes of the Barberry
tree and water, will make it turn yellow. To dye the hair yellow,
honey and white wine left overnight on the hair then a mixture
of calendine roots, olive-madder, oil of cumin seed, box shavings
and saffron was recommended. Wash off after 24 hours. Schroeder
women in Germany use the buds
of Black Poplar to make their hair grow thick and ornamental.
although he does not state how.
Both Hortus Sanitatis and Dioscorides
claimed that sage tea salvia officinalis dyes the hair
black, although the Tacuinum Sanitatis indicated that Sage
removes dark colour from the hair.
Other recipes to dye the hair black
include- Gall Oak omphacitis coals of burned galls being quenched
in wine or vinegar; the leaves of bramble boiled in rye, a recipe
which was perhaps available to poorer women who lived in the countryside
and did not have the stuffs of the towns freely available to them.
more complicated and time-consuming recipe is as follows: To dye
the hair black, a mixture of iron, gall nuts and alum boiled in
vinegar and left on the head for two days was recommended.
Saffron or Saffon or Saf-Flower crocus
sativus, shown at right, was a popularly used hair dye, although
to produce which colour is uncertain. Opal necklaces were a favourite
with blonde ladies as it was considered that opals protected fair
hair from fading or darkening. The advice from the Old Women in
the popular medieval manuscript the Roman de la Rose offers
this advice for colouring the hair:
..and if they need colour, she
should dye them with many different plant-extracts, for fruit,
wood, leaves, bark and roots have powerful medicinal properties.