It’s a common scene in classic films: the beauty queen clad in her silk dressing gown, sitting at her vanity, brushing her hair 100 times each evening. We’ve all heard this “old school” hair advice from a bygone era – but could there at least be some truth to it?
As it turns out, daily brushing of the scalp and hair could be much more important than using any of the well-marketed modern hair products, such as shampoo, conditioner, and styling aids – but only if you do it correctly.
Most of us buy whatever brush catches our eye at the drug store and don’t give it a second thought – but the vast majority of brushes manufactured today are made with synthetic bristles. In contrast, our great-grandmothers used hairbrushes with natural bristles, which were must gentler on hair. The most common vintage hairbrush style you can still purchase today is a boar bristle brush. Boar bristles have a similar structure to human hair, being built from the protein called keratin. This means the brush interacts differently with the hair than a plastic hairbrush.
Proponents of boar bristle brushes claim they have many benefits for the hair:
- A boar bristle brush cleanses the hair, removing debris, dust, and dead skin cells.
- Daily brushing increases circulation to your scalp, which may stimulate healthy hair growth. According to research, scalp massage increases hair thickness by stretching the cells of hair follicles. This, in turn, stimulates the follicles to produce thicker hair. It’s also thought that a scalp massage may help dilate blood vessels beneath the skin, thereby encouraging hair growth.
- Proper brushing helps release and distribute sebum, which keeps the scalp and hair moisturized and frizz-free, like a natural conditioner.
- Boar bristle brushing adds softness, shine, and volume to your hair.
If nothing else, a good quality, naturally made hairbrush is a beautiful and sustainable object to be used and treasured for a lifetime – not disposed of like the typical modern plastic hairbrush.
How to use a boar bristle brush? Be sure always to brush your hair when it is dry, as it is less prone to breakage. Start from the ends and work up until you can smoothly go through all the hair without hitching. Brush your hair for several minutes (at least 100 strokes!). Try massaging the scalp in different directions for the best cleansing and stimulation, and repeat the ritual once or twice daily.
Other old-school hair tips you can try today
While many strange trends in hair care have slipped away over the generations for good reasons (like curling your hair with a flaming hot iron bar heated in a fire), some tips have stood the test of time and can still be used successfully today. Here are some of the smart hair tips you and your great-great-grandmother could have in common.
Scenting hair with essential oils
Women in Victorian times often scented their hair with natural oils such as lavender or rose geranium. This is a worthwhile practice to continue today, and not just for the pleasant smell. Certain essential oils are known to have benefits for hair, such as fighting dandruff or increasing growth. For example, in a recent study, rosemary oil was found to be just as effective as minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) in stimulating hair growth in alopecia patients.
Use an egg hair mask
In a book called The Woman Beautiful, written in 1901 by Helen Follett Jameson, she maintained, “There is no better shampoo for the hair than an egg, well-beaten with about an ounce of water, and rubbed thoroughly into the scalp.” Nowadays, many people still use eggs on hair in a similar fashion. The eggs nourish hair strands with protein and nutrients while providing a gentle cleansing effect.
Treat your scalp with almond oil or castor oil
For shiny, smooth hair, the 1994 Old Farmers Almanac recommends this treatment mask: “Blend 2 Tablespoons castor oil, 2 Tablespoons lard, and a few drops of rosemary oil. Or add several drops of rosemary oil or lemon oil to ¼ cup almond or olive oil. Yes, mayonnaise really works, too. It contains soybean soil which has fatty acids that make hair shiny and smooth. Leave it on for an hour under Saran Wrap, and then wash it out.”
It’s pretty good advice: Castor oil can be used on the scalp to help prevent and remedy hair loss, and it is effective at this for several reasons. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties make it beneficial against folliculitis, dandruff, and scalp infections. Plus, its ricinoleic acid content helps increase circulation to the scalp and improve hair growth.
Rinse hair with vinegar
They did it then, and we still do it now. A simple apple cider vinegar rinse once a week after washing will give your hair a good cleaning and clear your locks of greasy residue and build-up.
Eat a nutritious diet
The June 1957 issue of Good Housekeeping recommended the following hair-nourishing regime: “To keep hair growing vigorously, it must be well-nourished. That means you must do everything you can to stay in topnotch health, and you must eat a good, well-rounded diet.
A sound diet is essential. A well-balanced regimen, furnishing all the elements necessary for health, strength, and steady nerves, is far more important than any single vitamin. Just be sure you eat enough vitamin A foods — green and yellow vegetables, leafy salads, milk, butter, cheese, and eggs. Vitamin-B complex, found in liver, kidneys, lean meat, wheat germ, whole-grain cereals, peas, beans, peanuts, is also thought to be helpful to hair life and color.”
These days, we focus on many of the same nutrient-rich foods to keep ourselves looking and feeling great. When it comes to caring for hair and skin, mother nature has provided the answers for past generations, and we can still rely on these solutions today.