Living History Experiment Day 3 and 4: Beer Hair and Curls

When I first conceived of this experiment, I kept turning a central question in my head: How did women in the past keep their hairstyles going? The central theme of this experiment is lack. A lack of options, a lack of modern conveniences. There’s a war going on, baby, and rationing is a thing.

I wish that I still had my grandmother to ask about these things. Unfortunately, she has passed, so I asked the next best person: my friend Inez. Her mother was a model and socialite in the 1960s in Manila. Apparently, they set their hairstyles with…beer?!!!

This was the point in my research that I was so skeptical of. Women have been using food items as cosmetics for ages . Tea bags, cucumber, honey, sugar, oil are a few food tems I have used for non-food purposes. But beer just takes the cake (pardon the food metaphors, I am on a roll here).

But it really is a thing! Google searches confimed Inez’s claim. I went and asked German women who would have been alive in the 60s and said that yes, beer was a thing they used to keep their curls curly and bouffants puffy. Now, I doubt that my grandmother would have had access to beer in the mountains of Leyte in the 1940s, but I think that beer would have been available in wartime Germany. I went and got the cheapest beer from the Späti around the corner, and I was all set.

I got myself thin plastic perm rollers, sprayed beer on my hair, especially at the roots. I only had an hour and a half to let the curls set. My hair was not yet dry when I unraveled the curlers, but I had a life and it wasn’t gonna wait for me.

Little Lord Fauntleroy or Weird Al Yankovic?

After brushing it out, the curls did not look half-bad, although admittedly, it wasn’t the look I was looking for. I looked like I had a bad ’80s perm job than a 1940s siren. The beer smell dissapated, and my hair was not sticky, as I had feared. You could only smell the beer if you had sniffed my hair, and you would have had to be a creep to actually do that.

Beer curls settled into waves. I slept in my beer hair, without any special protection or a scarf.

By Day 4, my curls had settled into waves, which was my intended look in the first place. My scalp did not itch, and still wasn’t sticky, and the hairstyle held until the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning. It survived a children’s party and a night out with friends. By then, my wavy hair wasn’t so wavy anymore, but my hair had amazing volume and body, and it had amazing memory. My hair stayed in place even after removing the bobby pins that had held them.

Beer as a setting lotion: confimed! Last experiment: rag curls!

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