Hand Care For Beauty From 1898

Hands and nails, clean and soft, were a sign of beauty a hundred years ago. The article below was published in 1898 and gives hand care tips and well as some rather questionable recipes for cold creams.

For historical purposes only.

Care of the Hands As an Aid to Beauty

A pretty hand, when it belongs to a woman, is certainly a most adorable possession. It should be soft and yielding and caressing – that is, caressing for the right person – its points should be small and dainty, the skin of a satiny smoothness and the nail carefully manicured and of a shell pink tint. All this is largely a matter of care and cultivation – like sweet tempers and paragons of husbands.

A hand may be large, but if it is white and soft its size is forgotten, while, if it is rough or red or tipped with badly shaped, badly cared for nails, it is a most unsightly object, however tiny, dimpled and symmetrical it may be. Soft, sensitive fingers are what a woman can least afford to lose, for they are needed to nurse the sick, to do quick sewing and to handle children with. Really perfect hands are as rare as a few other nice things in this world, and although we cannot all have hands fashioned after the Gainsborough model, we can struggle along very well with our good imitations, providing we keep them clean and well groomed.

First of all you must see to it that the hands are perfectly clean, and to accomplish this an occasional hand scrubbing with a brush and castile soap will be necessary. After the scrubbing never fail to rinse the hands in clear water, after which they must be dried on a towel that is not too coarse or rough, and that absorbs every particle of moisture.

Unless the hands are unusually moist, naturally, they should never be put into hot water. The water should be tepid. After drying thoroughly, gently loosen and push back the skin at the base of the nail. If this is done religiously there will be no necessity of cutting it away.

The hands should receive their most cleansing bath at bedtime, for then is the time when you can best apply your cold cream, which in most cases will be all that is necessary to keep the hands soft and nice. You will find the following cold cream delightful for hands that are rough or red or chapped:

  • White wax, one-half ounce
  • Spermaceti, one ounce
  • Oil of sweet almonds, four and one-half ounces
  • Glycerin, one and one-half ounces
  • Oil of rose geranium, eight drops

Melt the oils. Remove from fire and heat in the glycerin and perfume. Stir briskly until cold and white.

Another cream which is most excellent and which will be as light and fluffy as the white of an egg is made after the following formula:

  • Benzoinated mutton tallow, three ounces
  • Oil of sweet almonds, one ounce
  • Glycerin, two drams
  • Rosewater, two drams
  • Oil of rose geranium, twenty drops

The benzoinated mutton tallow can be made by taking one-half pound of the tallow and one-half ounce of benzoin and keeping at a high temperature until the alcohol has completely evaporated. Strain through muslin.

Then to make the cream, heat the tallow and oil of almonds in one vessel – porcelain, of course – and the other three ingredients in another. Mix the two and stir until cold.

This is not a desirable face cosmetic, on account of the mutton tallow, which might possibly cause superfluous hair to grow.

Hands which easily become red and rough are often benefited by being washed in oatmeal water. Take some good oatmeal and boil it in water for an hour, strain and use the liquid to wash with night and morning. This will soften the skin and whiten it. A handful of fine oatmeal just thrown into the water you are about to wash in will also have a softening effect.

Lemon juice will remove stains and a bit of pumice stone will do away with callous places and ink spots.

Very red hands should never be put into hot water, and can be whitened by using lemon juice and plenty of cold cream. Cold cream should always be applied after using lemon juice or any acid, to supply the oil which the acid has destroyed.

It must be remembered that none of these remedies will prove efficacious, if, from any special cause the hands are red. Tight sleeves, gloves, or corsets that are too snug will all redden the hands.

Nothing can be done for joints that have become enlarged from work or disease.

For moist, perspiring hands, a lotion made of seven ounces of cologne and one ounce of belladonna will be found beneficial. And, to protect the gloves, wear bits of absorbent cotton, sprinkles with powdered, prepared chalk in the palms of your gloves.

A very delightful lotion for chapped hands, which will be quickly absorbed by the skin and will not leave the hands greasy, can be made as follows:

  • Gum tragacanth, whole, 60 grains
  • Rose water, 14 ounces
  • Glycerin, one ounce
  • Alcohol, one ounce

Let the tragacanth soften in the rosewater for a day or two, and then strain forcibly through muslin or cheesecloth. Then add the glycerin and alcohol, which have been previously mixed, shake well and perfume to suit.

The nails must be kept immaculate always, and the hand, if well kept, will look wholesome and clean and cannot fail to be an object of admiration, even though not shapely.

Source: The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 20 Nov. 1898.