Aline Vallandri’s Hair Care Secrets


Aline Vallandri was an opera singer of the late 19th-early 20th centuries famous for her beautiful, very long hair. Probably the longest in Europe, it was described as “a veritable golden mantle about her and reaches to the very ground”. The singer, who spent three quarters of an hour every day taking care of it, shared her hair care secrets in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. Here they are:

1. Keep hair clean (without washing it often)

The first essential, in my opinion, is to keep both the scalp and hair perfectly clean. […] I am perfectly certain that much washing of the hair with water is bad. As a matter of fact, I wash my own hair as seldom as possible. […] In the dark, foggy days, when there is much dirt and soot in the air, the hair naturally gets more dirty, and may therefore require more frequent washing than in the light, bright days of summer. Still, even under these conditions, it is possible by much brushing to avoid any excessive use of water.

2. No towel drying or hot irons allowed

When the hair is washed, it should be allowed to hang down until it dries naturally in the air, as I do not believe in rubbing it with a towel or using hot irons for the purpose of driving off the moisture. Those things are bad — very bad. Hot irons ruin the hair. The woman who uses curling-tongs courts disaster. The heat dries up the natural oil which is supplied by the little oil glands at the roots of the hair and keeps it soft and moist.

The result of tongs or of heat is to make the hair brittle, so that it breaks off short. It stands to reason that if you are constantly breaking the hair it will never get long. Only once in my life did I ever have my hair curled with curling-tongs. That once taught me my lesson. The hairdresser used irons which were too hot, and he burnt a lot of the hair in the middle of my head. Since that day no hot irons have ever been put near my hair.

3. Wash hair brushes often

It is possible, as I have said, to keep the scalp and the hair quite clean by brushing it. To do this, perfectly clean brushes are absolutely necessary. My own brushes are washed every day. When once a brush has been used it is never allowed to touch my hair again until it has been thoroughly washed and dried. [..] If you think of it, it is no more nice to brush your hair with dirty brushes which have not been washed for two or three weeks than it is to dry your face with a towel which has not been washed for the same time.

Every morning when I get up my maid brushes my hair. As it is so long I have had to have a specially high stool made to sit on. The maid brushes both my scalp thoroughly and my hair from the roots to the end for half an hour. The other quarter of an hour I devote to dressing it for the day.

4. Golden ointment for scurf

In addition to keeping the hair perfectly clean, this brushing prevents the possibility of any scurf or dandruff — and scurf is death to the hair. […] It should be cured at the very earliest moment it is seen, so that it may not cause the hair to drop out, as it most assuredly will if it is neglected. I should strongly recommend the doctor being called in when there is scurf, but sometimes a home remedy like ” golden ointment,” which is a compound of mercury, will cure the condition rapidly.

In that case, what I have said about washing must be ignored for the time. The ointment must be well rubbed into the roots of the hair at night, and washed out the next morning. In the course of a week of this treatment the scurf ought to be quite cured

5. Brillantine for dry and dull hair

If the hair is very dry, it is a clear indication that the little oil glands are not supplying enough nourishment. This must, therefore, be supplemented by the use of a little good brillantine. It is not a good thing to put it on all over the hair. What should be done is to dip the tips of the fingers into the brillantine and rub it well into the scalp until you feel a distinct tingling.

The result of this massage causes the blood to circulate very freely in the scalp, and so takes to the oil glands the material they need to make the oil they secrete. At the same time the glands are stimulated to take up the oil which has been rubbed into the scalp, so that the massage acts in a two-fold manner.

Dry hair is invariably dull hair. Now, there is an undoubted beauty in seeing hair shine and reflect the light. This effect is produced by the natural oil, supplemented by the use of the brush. When, therefore, the natural oil is absent, it is well to put the smallest quantity of brillantine on the palm of the hand, and then rub the bristles of the brush over the palm.

In this way they get an infinitesimal quantity of oil on them. This little is, however, quite sufficient to make the hair shine without being enough to damage the hair in any way, provided that the brush is used enough.

6. Cut and singe your hair to prevent split ends

People often ask me whether I believe that cutting the hair and singeing the ends with a lighted taper is beneficial for the growth. I am quite sure they do great good. I have the ends of my hair cut and singed very often. With many people the ends of the hair have a great tendency to split. In the first place, if these ends are kept cut, the splitting will be prevented, and, in the second, if the ends have split, the cutting will prevent the split from proceeding farther and ruining the hair.

Would you have followed her tips back in the day?

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  1. says

    Oh my, gorgeous hair! A few times in my life I’ve been able to have my hair long enough to be able to sit on it! It’s very thick and it did look good but I didn’t have that wave! Hmm at that length I doubt she’s telling the truth about heating tools or at least she must have been using some sort of curlers. Hair is too heavy to have that even wave imo/ime. Still, I kind of like her recommendations. My trick to avoid split ends has always been to only wash the scalp. As you rince, the shampoo picks up dirt as it glides down the hair so there’s no need to “rub” the lengts. :)
    Icaria´s last blog post ..Rouge Dior Grège 1947…My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Icaria, her hair is amazing, isn’t it? It must have been a pain to dry though. I don’t think she told us all her secrets. She probably kept something to herself, but it’s interesting to know how she took care of it and a lot of her tips aren’t outdated at all.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Lena, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Vallandri was very famous in her day, but now very few people have heard about her, sadly. I only recently discovered her by accident.

      And those are two great tips, aren’t they?

  2. says

    It’s amazing that what is written here is applicable to our current time. To have beautiful hair, you have to avoid styling tools and if you can stand it .. avoid washing your hair. I’m trying to wash my hair every other day, but it’s pure torture .. lol.
    Monica P´s last blog post ..A Celebration Give AwayMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Monica, I was surprised too. We seem to believe that all beauty treatments of the past were ineffective if not harmful, but they knew more than we give them credit for.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Makeup Morsels, she really does! I don’t wash my brushes often enough either, although it’s so important.

  3. Janessa says

    Yay history! Oh gosh, singeing hair? Eeks. She seems really into her hair. I would never wash my hairbrush every day. If i did, I’d hire a maid to do it. I sometimes don’t even comb my hair but run my fingers through it since my hair doesn’t get tangled easily and with the help of serums, they stay pretty smooth!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, how I envy you for having hair that doesn’t tangle easily. Mine is always a knotty mess!

      I think it’s important to wash your brushes often, but every day may be a bit too much. And I’m pretty sure Aline’s brushes were washed by her maid. :)

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