Skin treatment of the 1940s

February 03, 2011

Make up was scarce, and ladies had to do it with a clean, radiant and pretty skin.
Much of the advice given, shows us that the skin was treated rather more roughly than we find acceptable today;

Make a lather of your very finest, blandest soap, and with a very, very soft nailbrush, rubber brush, soap mat or soft loofah, rub the lather gently into your face, using upward circular movements all along the lines -nose to mouth lines, frown lines, and up across the cheeks.'
'Now it is the time, if you have saved a precious face pack to use it with best effect. Perhaps you have a tea spoon or two of ,fuller's earth which you can mix with water and put on your face. If you haven't a face pack, press out the blackheads {If you have those} after holding your face in the hot steam of water, then do some vigorous massage.
'Slap your cheeks with alternate hands, giving a gentle upwards push at the end of each slap. Put the bottom of each palm under each eyebrow bone and push upwards to lift the flesh which forms furrows between the eyes. Tap the skin under the eyes with butterfly lightness. After five minutes the skin should feel tacky.
'Then take a wet flannel wrung out in cold water and slap your cheeks with that. Pat your face dry after the cold slapping and apply your foundation. A fine milk is soothing and non-greasy and suitable for most skins, but sometimes a very dry skin can take a cream foundation. Vanishing cream should only be used round the sides of your nose and on the chin, where shine comes first.
- Mother, May 1944

Another DIY {Do it yourself}  face pack which is excellent for toning up a tired skin and removing discolourisation. Beat the white of a egg to a stiff froth, then adding half a teaspoonful of fresh lemon juice. Apply it to the skin of the face and neck for 20 minutes.
Oil was usually used for the eyelashes . It makes them soft and lustruous and helps them grow. Put a spot of salad oil, olive oil or {best of all} castor oil in an egg cup and give those eyebrows ans lashes a nightly grooming with a little paint brush.
-Home notes, September 1942

Tips on cleaning the skin were:

Wash the skin always met sulphur soap -all chemists keep it, and it's not a bit expensive. After washing, bathe the face in cold water, pat dry very gently, then dab with eau de cologne. Please, please try to resist using make up till your skin is very clear. For special occasions you can always hide up the blemishes with calamine lotion or a spot stick. When you go to bed, cleanse with your sulphur soap again, and before retiring paint over your skin with a mixture of glycerine and ichthyol. If the pores are in very bad condition, a reliable pore paste or a simple mask will often work wonders., and both are still obtainable today.

My skin is very dry and sensitive. I therefore use cold cream, which was also advised during the 1940s;

When applying cold cream, do so with a piece of cotton wool dipped in cold water; it will go twice as far' Before using a new pack of cotton wool, unroll it and place it in front of the fire ( not to far too be dangerous ). The heat will cause it to swell to twice the size and it will last longer. When the milk supply is back to normal, try this inexpensive yet efficient beauty treatment. Mix a level teaspoonful of salt with two tablespoonsful of milk and rub it gently of the skin. Allow it to dry and leave it on all night.

The Good Housekeeping Book recommended the kitchen as a great source for cosmetic subsitutes;
A few minutes to spare and half a pound of prunes in the cupboard? Then make this Swedish complexion drink! Split and stone the prunes, put them in a saucepan with a quart of water, an ounce of sugar and the rind of an orange or lemon. Boil rapidly for two minutes, simmer for half an hour, strain, and, if possible, add the juice of an orange or lemon. Serve cold.

Sour milk may be a domestic tragedy, but it is also a beauty find. Strain off the lumpy curds and use the clear liquids which remains to wipe over your face, neck,  and hands. The lactic acid it contains will bleach the skin and whiten a sallow neck. Keep the face wet with the liquid for five minutes.

The next time you have cucumber, save the end piece and rub the cut surface over face, neck, and hands, allowing the juice to dry on the skin. Cucumber juice is whitening and an astringent.

Perhaps your making a batch of rolls or tea cakes? Save some of the yeast for your looks! A couple of teaspoonfuls dissolved in a cupful of milk makes a pore-cleansing, skin-refining face mask. If your skin is dry, try adding one part fine oatmeal to four parts of your face powder. A paste of oatmeal and milk used in the place of soap will chase away any blackheads.

Just like stockings; if you could get hold of make up,it was saved for special occasions.
Domestic soap was one of the goods that was added on the list of rationing, on February 1942, due to the shorts of fats in it's manufacture. Clothes rationing was announced without fore-warning,and this happened also with soap. Everybody was allowed four coupons for each four-week period which could be used for toilet soap, soap powder, hard soap and soap flakes.
Ofcourse alot of advice through books followed and the booklet; 101 Ways To Save Money In Wartime stated:

A pint of boiling water poured over a handful of sage leaves, bottled and mixed with soap flakes as required, will give you an excellent tonic shampoo.
Ofcourse hard water means more soap, so inexpensive bath-water softener can be made by making up a strong solution of carbonate of soda or washing soda crystals and adding half ounce of verbena or oil lavender.

© Information by the above mentioned books and 'The 1940s Look' by Mike Brown

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  1. Oh this is such a lovely post. It's a nice reminder that many things we consider "necessities" today can be done without. A nod to a more simple time.

    p.s. your blog is beautiful!


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