5 Medieval Facts of Hair II

1.  During medieval times, hair washing was about as important (or not) as bathing.

The wealthy — because their finances allowed them to afford the collection of clean water, servants, and the time to indulge more often in such luxuries as bathing and hair washing — washed their hair more frequently than peasant classes.


2.  In spite of flowing finances, many royal kings, queens, and those in the noble classes, washed their hair only a few times per year. They preferred instead to wear crowns, hats, and headdresses.

In place of washing, powder was used to soak up scalp oils & attempt to suffocate head lice.


3.  For all classes of medievals, hair washing was done infrequently enough that “itch-mites” were very common. There were special remedies for dealing with hair bugs, but actually washing the hair was rarely among them.

To daintily scratch their lice-crawling, itchy scalps, royal & noble class women slid a pin between their cleavage. These pins were made of bone or metal, and were fairly long, very thin & had pointed tips to enable scalp scratching through wigs & headdresses.


4.  Hair washing was done by sitting a large bowl on the floor, stripping to the waist, then leaning over the bowl to perform the task. Shampoos as we know them did not exist. Rather, a thick mixture of ashes, vine stalks & egg whites was most commonly used to cleanse the hair.

5.  A worldwide acceptance of “shampooing” did not begin until the early 1800’s. It was spearheaded by a Bengali Muslim named Sake Dean Mahomet.


Mahomet & his wife opened the first commercial “shampooing vapour masseur bath” in England. He was eventually appointed “Shampooing Surgeon” to European kings & queens.


How often do you wash your hair?

Which medieval fact could you live without?


Medieval Monday

See all 5 Medieval Facts of Life posts!


22 thoughts on “5 Medieval Facts of Hair II

  1. Pingback: Elegy for a Tasseled Nightcap-on Fashion Friday | CHEZ SHEA

  2. I SHOULD wash my hair every other day, but since it’s long and wavy-curly and a big pain in the butt, I usually do it 2-3 times a week. Being interested in many Medieval things, most of the nastiness about hair I already knew – but the itchy HEAD LICE and the SCRATCHING PINS were an absolute delight! In a pinch, I imagine you could easily use it to pick one’s teeth or poke your neighbor’s eye out, depending on what the occasion called for. A double HUZZAH for this posting!

    • I know, right? I tried to imagine my scalp crawling w/ lice, but didn’t get far in that particular trip back in time – too itchy!

  3. I wash my hair 3 times a week or more, I don’t even want to think about what it feels like if I would not wash it for a couple of weeks…EWWWWWWW…thanks for that smelly hairy post Sylver 😉

  4. Fascinating! I especially knew nothing about the scratching pin! I wash my hair every other day unless I have an extremely heated/active day in between washes. Washing hair every day is usually overkill.

      • When women wore (some still do) their hair ratted, curled, and tightly sprayed, they used a pencil tip or maybe the pointed end of the handle of a “rat-tailed” comb. The pin would be cleaner and easier to carry about.
        My question: how did lovers handle the smell of the oily hair that had been cooped up under coir or cap?

  5. I want some of what Mike is drinking. And make it a double. You be careful about taking that bird-brain on as a PBG!
    Actually he sounds like my kinda guy. If Mike needs a side-kick, send him my way. You know I’m hell on wheels!

  6. I pretty much stopped washing my hair in 1972 when a small nest of birds was found in my long, thick mane. Since that time I have successfully hosted 40 generations of what turned out to be lovely little finches. I sleep standing up (well, leaning up against converging walls) so as not to disturb my nesting friends. All of this has hurt me socially, and I find that even the mailman will no longer talk to me. Please keep this between you and I Sylver, and I do hope we can continue to be friends.

    • LmaOff!!! 😆 Okay, what?! 1972? Finch habitat head? Sleeping upright? Social ostracization? And, in spite of all this, um, modern-day medieval hair grossosity you want to remain friends?? Hmm…welllll…okay! I adore you & your filthy finch habitat! 🙂

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