Saturday, 14 June 2014

Medieval Life: Bathing and Beauty.

The medieval period is particularly know for hardship and being kind of dirty... :D and if you were a peasant, you probably did suffer a lot of hardship and were likely pretty filthy but that didn't mean they didn't wash.For them it was a necessity--after all who wants to sleep and eat covered in grime--but they had to content themselves with using nearby streams or a pitcher and bowl of water.

But the richer folk quite enjoyed bathing and often made a show of it. Though they didn't understand the direct link between health and cleanliness, there are plenty of mentions of the necessity of staying clean in health manuals. Soap had been in existence from at least the 10th Century in England in various forms and the nobles loved a good bath. Usually a large wooden tub would be filled--perhaps in front of the fire--with warm water and oils or soap. Privacy wasn't really thought of. Castles might seem big to us but with a large household and very few actual rooms to a castle, it was unlikely they'd have a separate room just for a bath.

Deodorant also existed--usually a concoction of herbs one could dab under your arms.One made with bay leaves is know of. And of course, perfume was used, particularly after the Crusaders brought back samples of exotic perfumes from their travels.

For looking after their hair, there were many balms and tonics available. Hair loss was a concern for all and they believed some tinctures would help prevent that. Rubbing Aloe Vera mixed with wine was meant to stop hair loss. There were also remedies for dandruff, including willow bark--which was heavily in use for medicinal purposes too. Head lice could be a problem and much like us poor mothers now, combing was used along with some greasy concoctions.

Another interesting fact is that hair dye was known to be used. Although being blonde and fair was most sought after, we know of the use of dark hair dye--perhaps to cover grey hairs--and there are plenty of recipes for turning the hair yellow.

So it seems cleanliness and vanity is nothing new! There were lots other potions and lotions they used as well as make-up. I'll touch on those next week where we'll look at what they put on their faces and bodies.

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