I just stumbled across a Victorian nail care routine that I thought would be fun to try out, so I’m bringing you along for the ride! I love reading historical instructionals, find the similarities with what we still use today and the stuff that has proven to be useless (or actively harmful– that makes for a horrifying read). The video is below but, as always, there is also a step by step if you would prefer.
P.s. excuse the shaking hands in the video, I obviously had a blood sugar issue on that day which I didn’t notice until I was editing :P
Prep a lemon (this will make sense soon I promise!)
Fill a bowl (or in my case a fancy little dish) with warm water and soak your hand for five minutes to soften the nails.
Clean and bleach your nails with the lemon. I have no idea how you’re meant to do this, exactly– the instructions weren’t all that clear so I kinda just smooshed my fingernails into some lemon wedges. I also didn’t see any results, but my nails were quite clean already. I’m sure if I had been scrubbing coal-steeped grates I would be seeing fabulous results! You could probably squeeze the lemon in the water if you wanted to skip a step.
Lemons were also used in the Victorian era to stave off freckles, red marks and moles, so you can rub the lemon on them too while you’re at it!
Trim nails into perfect ovals; not too long so that they catch dirt, but not so short that your fingers look stubby.
File the newly trimmed edges.
*plus look at this absolutely darling nail file to add to my collection of tiny Victorian tools. It came in a set with the cuticle pusher!
Loosen skin at the base of the nail, either with the end of the nail file or a specialist tool if you have it!
File down the ridges on the surface of the nail.
Buff your nails with a leather buffer. Dedicate one minute for each finger.
I made my own leather buffer out of an old spool; I wanted to buy a period one, as I did with the nail file, but all the ones I found were either obscenely expensive or for shoes so I’ll have to keep an eye out!
Repeat all steps on the other hand!
Apply moisturiser or, as it was known in the Victorian era, a cold cream.
So that was how Victorian ladies looked after their nails! This amount of work was obviously reserved for the privileged who didn’t have to work and could fill their their time simply by making themselves pretty. It was meant to be done every morning, and let me tell you I certainly don’t have the time nor the interest to upkeep my nails every day. I actually took the ‘final’ videos the day after as my nails did look a little battered at the end of all of this work. The day after, however, they looked very neat and pretty, and I imagine if you did this every day with less work needed to be done then the maintenance would be simple.
I got the tutorial from ‘How to be a Victorian’ by Ruth Goodman, if you wanted to look it up for yourself. Let me know what other tutorials you would like to see me do!
Until next time,