1870s DIY Depilatory Creams Featured Lye And Arsenic

Household almanac Youman's Dictionary of Every-day Wants: Containing Twenty Thousand Receipts in Nearly Every Department of Human Effort offered some handy tips for at-home hair removal in 1872. You, too, can make "those substances which act upon the bulbous roots of the hairs, and destroy their vitality," provided you have access to ingredients like quicklime, "strong alkiline lye," and orpiment — better known as arsenic sulfide. All you have to do with those three is "boil together until a feather dipped into it loses its flue."

Think today's depilatory creams are different in kind? More like degree: as has been noted, "Nair's ingredients include Calcium hydroxide, also known as slaked lime, and Sodium hydroxide, or lye."

If you need me, I'll be Googling "where to buy lye."

Want: Hairlessness [1872's Advice...Today]