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Tudor Hygiene and Shaving.
June 23, 2014
1:49 pm
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Charlotte Elizabeth
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I have been thinking for a while now and I just wondered what you thought of their hygiene in the 16th century.
I heard they thought linen would keep them clean, which is why they wore them, under their clothes. What do you think they used for things such as shampoo for their hair?

Also as woman of the 21st century we shave every single bit of hair on our legs, armpits and possibly pubic area, do you thing that the Tudor ladies of the time, would have shaved those areas? Also would have the men shave their pubic areas? I would like to know this with in the royal, wealthy and the poor people.

Oh Lord, have mercy on me! To God I commend my soul. - 19th May 1536

June 23, 2014
3:12 pm
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Sharon
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Hi Charlotte,
This is a good article about hygiene in Tudor times. Hope it helps. http://onthetudortrail.com/Blo…..1-bathing/
I don’t know if women shaved their underarms and legs at this time. I’ve never read that they did. The only group that I know who did remove their body hair were the Ottomans. They used an almond paste mixture.

June 23, 2014
3:37 pm
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Boleyn
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They did wash their private parts at least once a day if not more. They changed their knickers etc everyday again depending on what they were doing sometimes more. If they had been out hunting all morning they naturally would have worked us a sweat, and if they were meeting some ambassador or punka walla that afternoon the last thing they would want to do is meet them stinking of horse sweat and Gawd knows what. First impressions and all that Jazz. Henry of course towards the end of his life did stink,(in more ways than one) but he couldn’t do much about it. I wonder if he was aware of just how much he stunk?

Washing their hair was another matter. I think it was considered a bit of a health hazard espeically for woman given the length of time it would take to dry, whilst it was drying there was a chance they could catch a chill etc, so I don’t think it was washed often and perhaps only when the weather was warm enough to help dry it quickly.
They had a rudiementry form of soap not like we have today where you get a good lather from it. It was basically made I believe from pig fat scented oils and herbs.

They did use to bathe but it wasn’t often, although Elizabeth 1st did have a bath every 6 months whether she needed it or not.

However the nobility did have an annual bath, but everyone used the same water to wash in. It worked out that first the man of the house had his bath, when he had done his missus had a bath in the same water, and then the kids took their turn the eldest first and so on. Personally I think they were probably dirtier after their baths than they were before them.

Teeth cleaning generally they used rubbed their teeth with a damp cloth if their teeth still felt they need a boost to clean then they might have dabbed the cloth with a little brick dust and then rubbed their teeth.

As far as I know woman didn’t shave their armpits or legs, but that doesn’t mean to say it didn’t happen there may have been woman who did shave. LOL got a vision in my head of Anne sat in the bath shaving her legs and thinking about using the razor to cut a few collops out of Henry.
I don’t think they would have shaved their pubic areas, but again there may have been a few men and woman who did shave their pubic area.

Lice and fleas were rampant in the court, certain herbs were used to help keep them down and I believe vinegar was used I suppose as a form of disinfectant. Wormwood I believe was used to help to control lice, and some people put little bowls of animal blood under their beds to also attrack the lice and fleas that would have infested their beds. I believe a Camphor candle was also used it would be placed in a room and lit the room would them be sealed and the candle would be left to burn itself out. I don’t think it was espeically big as they were expensive, even for the nobility. Theorectically the smell of the Camphor would kill any bugs.

James 1st who became King in 1603 was riddled with lice as was the court and anyone who went there always went home with them. James called the lice which again he was riddled with “wee beasties” he actually disliked any form of washing, and the most he did when it came to washing was to dip the tips of his fingers in a bowl of water. That as far as he was concerned was enough. He also wore heavily padded clothing so if you look at his pictures he always appears to be larger than he actually was, the reason for the heavy padding was because he wa so fearful of assassination. Understandable given how all of his Stuart ancestors died either in battle or as a result of murder, by some P***ed off Scottish noble. I suppose his mother could be excluded from that fate, as she died at the hands of an English headsman, instead.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

June 24, 2014
7:42 pm
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Charlotte Elizabeth
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Thank you so much to your both. They’re very informative. It’s nice to know, us in the 21st Century are clean.

Oh Lord, have mercy on me! To God I commend my soul. - 19th May 1536

June 24, 2014
11:48 pm
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Anyanka
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IIRC, shaving of armpit and legs really started as a fashion statement after World War I ..think flapper girls. But became more mainstream during WWII due to lack of nylon stockings.

Shaving of pubic started in 1970’s p0rn movies and gradually became more wide-spread in the 1990’s and later.

It's always bunnies.

April 6, 2015
11:48 pm
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Alexandria
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When considering shaving you have to remember that razors were not so sharp as now, and there were no safety razors. Shaving was not something you did to yourself, men were shaved by a servant or barber, and women would not IMHO have shaved at all (some elderly ladies might have got their maid to shave any facial hair!)
Shampoo is a relatively modern thing – it didn’t even exist in 1900. Ordinary soap could be used to wash the hair, but it leaves a residue which feels nasty and makes the hair feel a bit strange in the absence of conditioner. Perhaps dry shampoo would have been used for those times when you couldn’t wash it properly. No wonder those headdresses that cover the hair were so popular. Until about 50 years ago there was a belief that washing your hair while you were having your period was really bad for you. I suppose when everyone smelled it was something you didn’t even notice unless it was really bad, like Henry’s leg.
It is always said that if you never wash your hair it will be beautiful and clean. I don’t know if it’s true, you have to brush it a lot and rub it with a white cloth.

April 7, 2015
6:53 pm
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Anyanka
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Tudor Monestry Farm has Ruth showing personal hygiene of the era including using fne toothed comb to clean her hair.

It's always bunnies.

September 8, 2015
4:39 am
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Anyanka
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