For centuries, plant oil and animal fats were used for their aesthetic and health properties. By the 18th and 19th centuries, commercially produced perfumed hair oils became extremely popular, with some brands and formulas becoming cult classics in their era.
One of these hair oils was 'Macassar Oil', a compounded oil popularised by celebrated London barber, Alexander Rowland. In 1793, it became one of the first nationally advertised products, boasting extravagant claims of thickening and growth stimulation. It was an effective hair and beard styling agent, though, giving shine and lustre, and importantly adding scent.
Due to the tendency for the oil to transfer from the user's hair to the back of his chair, a small crocheted cloth called the 'antimacassar' was invented to protect upholstery.
Chapter XXXI. from A Practical Guide for the Perfumer: Being a New Treatise on Perfumery the Most favourable to Beauty Without Being Injurious to the Health by Hippolyte Etienne Dussauce, 1868
Behn oil .....1 pound.
Oil of bergamot .....4 drachms.
Tincture of ambergris ..... 2 1/2 drachms
Huile des Celèbes.
Pure olive oil ..... 1 pound.
Yellow sandal ..... 1 ounce.
Cinnamon ..... 4 drachms.
Digest the sandal and cinnamon in the oil, strain and add -
Oil of Portugal ..... 1 drachm.
Oil of Macassar.
Oil of sunflower seeds ..... 3 ounces.
Goose fat ..... 1 ounce.
Butter of Cacao ..... 2 drachms.
Oil of eggs [egg yolk] ..... 2 drachms.
Storax ..... 2 drachms.
Neroli ..... 1 drachm.
Oil of thyme ..... 1/2 drachm.
Balsam of Peru ..... 8 drops.
Oil of roses ..... 1 drop.
Mix the whole, macerate one night, and filter."
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