Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hard Pomade and Macassar Oil

Some sort of oil or pomatum is absolutely necessary to be used. Not only does it add to the glossiness of the hair, but it contributes to hold the hair in position. Some little care is necessary in order to impart to the oil or pomatum the necessary medium between limpidity and adhesiveness.
--Godey's, November 1855
I'm experimenting with a few more hair-styling preparations.  First, Macassar Oil from Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide (1853). Like the "common hair oil" mentioned later in the Godey's article*, this is basically just colored, scented oil:
"Any quantity of sweet oil, and alkanet enough to give it a splendid red color. Scent with oil of bergamotte, lavender or lemon." 
I used 2 oz of sweet almond oil, with a generous spoonful of chopped alkanet root. After soaking overnight, I strained out the alkanet and stirred in four drops of essence of bergamot.

Maccassar hair oil from Mrs. Bradley's, 1853
Hair oil.

So far, I've used it once. I dabbed some oil on my hand, and brushed it through my hair, as I would apply a pomade. It seemed to give a similar sleek look, while dispersing easier. I couldn't say whether it is more or less effective for sticking the hair to itself. At some point, I should try one of the castor-oil-based receipts for comparison.

I also tried making the (second) hard pomatum from Mackenzie's Five Thousand Receipts (1854):
 Another--Take 6 oz. of common pomatum, add to it 3 oz. of white virgin wax, scraped fine. Melt them in an earthen pan immersed in a one containing boiling water both being over a clear and steady fire. When properly incorporated, keep stirring, until it is nearly cold, then put it into small pots, or make it up into small rolls. Perfume it according to taste.
I was a little concerned here, since the first recipe given has 20:1 ratio of fats to wax, while this second one was 2:1.  Nonetheless, I tried it, and rather like the results.  As expected, it set much stiffer than the soft version; practically, this limits how much you can get out of the jar at a time. When I tried it on a friend's fine hair (which was only moderately responding to the soft pomatum I previously made), it did seem to hold better. I think I prefer using the soft version on my own hair, as it holds well enough, and is a bit faster to dispense. I used the same scent ratios for this hard pomatum as for the soft pomatum.

Hard pomatum from Mackenzie's 5000 Receipts, 1854
Hard pomatum.

*The extract from Godey's goes on to state that "Common hair oil is nothing more than olive or salad oil colored red with alkanet root, and scented. It is far too thin to be useful, and it soils more than enough", while Macassar oil is supposedto belong to a superior class of hair products (scented castor oil dilluted with wine spirits). This may be a case of a specific name (Macassar oil) being applied to the more general category (hair oil).

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