A CN.com reader writes:

Hey Nikki,

I had a very funny conversation with my parents last night about natural hair care during the Great Depression (particularly in the South), leading up to when relaxers hit the scene.

Get this– My Mom said that her mother (who was a seamstress and unlicensed beautician) used castile soap (in bar form) to wash hair. She then mixed oil of clove with melted Vaseline petroleum jelly to make pressing oil. She allowed this concoction to solidify and used it as a pomade for pressing. She (and many other stylists) also made a hair grower (that’s what they called it) with oil of mustard and Vaseline. Folks would use that between presses for scalp treatments.

She also told me that some people used … Are you sitting down? (drumroll) . . . Dog mange !! To treat people who had bad dandruff. I almost passed the f— out when I heard that one! 🙂

My Dad got in on the conversation and told me that his mother used to use something called a ‘rat’ to style his sisters hair. It was basically a piece of cloth that one rolled the hair over to make a pompadour. He said it was always a joke when u saw girls/women using a rat who didn’t have enough hair to completely cover it.

Another funny. . . I asked my mother how much they charged during the late 60s and early 70s for a press and curl. She said 3-5 dollars!!! That’s a helluva lot cheaper than a thousand dollar weave, but stylists sure weren’t getting rich. I guess their motto was, “Get rich, or die pressing”! Ha! I’ll have to talk some other seniors and get some more funny stories.

Funny stuff, but sad at the same time.


This is very interesting, and reminded me of some of the amazing stories told in Hair Story. NaturallyP has inspired me to start a new segment, called Time Machine- Natural Hair Then and Now. I invite each and every one of you to talk hair with your older friends and relatives (good quality time too!) and share what you’ve learned with the rest of us. It’ll make the parallels more evident, and show that although the processes were different, the motivation was the same. We’ve been re-learning our hair since the 1800s…we’ve come along way, but still have a ways to go! This could be entertaining and enlightening!

Send submissions to [email protected], using ‘History’ as the subject line.