9 Beauty and Health Care Tips from 1960

“Nowadays anyone can be beautiful. Everyone who wants to be beautiful, everyone who knows the ways of beauty care and can take the small effort for their beauty can now be beautiful – in a modern, personal way.” This is a quote from a beauty guidebook aimed at women, Kauniiksi kodin keinoin (“Becoming beautiful with home tricks”), published in Finland in 1960. This was a time of bob cuts where under-wire bras were becoming increasingly popular, the go-to period product was a sanitary belt, roll-on deodorant were a pretty new thing, and eyeliners were saved for evening parties. The year 1960 wasn’t quite yet there with the bright colors or even the Jackie Kennedy look, and the situation in Finland progressed slightly differently from the West-European or the US fashion scenes. This beauty guide book was made to instruct Finnish women to tend to their looks in terms of everything from skincare to clothing. Whether you agree with the tips or not, it is interesting to look at how your grandmother might have made herself look good back in the day – and marvel at how the times have changed in the last 60 years.

Props to Mirja Sassi, the author, because the guidebook for women is encouragingly enough not aimed solely at the homemakers of the time, many of whom were expected to do all home chores yet look pretty 24/7 to please their breadwinning husbands. Rather, this book notes that even the working woman benefits from looking composed and having a well-maintained appearance. (Admittedly, many of the career women were still expected to settle down eventually, when they would be the chief housekeepers even if they did have a job outside the home as many did.) Many tips covered in the book are familiar also from current beauty magazines or blogs – perhaps a sign of how evergreen they are. Others are slightly more unusual … but perhaps it is time to bring them back? You decide! As a disclaimer, unless otherwise specified, yours truly has not tried any of these tips herself!


1. Posture

There’s the trick of walking around with a book on your head. Alternatively, you can try the following movement routine several times a day – even doing it once will give you a sense of what a good posture should be. First, stand with your back against a wall, your heels approximately 6 cm from the wall. Bend your knees. Tense your waist so that the curve of your back touches the wall – your hips will be pushed slightly outwards. Press your shoulder-blades flat downwards, let your arms hang loose. Straighten your neck, pulling your chin into a 90º angle. Breathe deeply several times. Straighten your knees into a standing position and walk forward with the same straightened back as you had against the wall. Doing this a few times, I know I noticed myself becoming more aware of my posture, so it works as a way to check whether your yoga sessions have paid off.


2. Hair-care

While the ‘60s lady should rinse of their body every morning, their hair does not necessary need washing as frequently. “Women’s long hair should be washed at least once a week, twice if necessary.” (However, during this time it was the barely-shoulder-length that was à la mode.) We typically wash our face as soon as it feels dirty, the book argues, and the same should apply for hair. Nowadays our tolerance for dirty hair may well be lower than at the time, so going back to the twice a week might feel awkward for many of us. On another hair-related topic, while we might use hair irons to shape our hair for the curlier or straighter, in 1960s, it was all about hair rollers applied into damp hair. Brushing your hair with one-hundred strokes before bedtime was supposed to make your hair more lustrous and spread the hair’s natural oils all the way to the ends.


Chanel was -- and is -- always stylish, also in 1960. Coco Chanel's appartment, Cambon street. (Photo by KAMMERMAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images, cropped). Source.


3. Rinsing your eyes

Maybe you have rinsed your eyes when you’ve been cutting onions, but this is not something that is usually part of our beauty routines. However, the 1960s lady is advised to keep their eyes bright and clean by rinsing their eyes twice a day – with saline water. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt into boiling ½ liter of water, boil until the salt is dissolved and let cool – the mix can be stored up to 5 days. To use, pour some water in a small cup or squirt bottle, raise your chin and pour the solution while opening and closing your eyelid. For a more current take on saline water and health, see Healthline’s tips for treating wounds, nasal irrigation and more. In a way it makes sense: after all, saline water is basically like tears, the eye’s natural cleaning fluid. Still, I have not tried this myself – but I have gotten salt water in my eyes when swimming and am not keen to re-experience it. Another eye-related tip I shall avoid is to regularly trim your eyelashes to boost their growth. How about we let the lashes be and boost them only with mascara and falsies – both already available in 1960.


4. Tanning

Suntan became popular already in 1930s, but 1950s marked the introduction of the bikini. Interested in getting a better tan? One tip is to mix 100 g olive oil and 3.5 g of umbelliferone-natrium into a sun oil, as both ingredients have chemicals that improve tanning. Unfortunately, umbelliferone might be hard to come by as modern pharmacies may not be as ready to sell chemicals by the gram. However, those with very pale skin could try boosting their tanning with vinegar: simply brush your skin with vinegar and let dry before sunbathing. Meanwhile, to darken pasty skin in winter, the book suggests using tea as a tanning toner by spreading it on your face with a ball of cotton. Tea also helps control the skin’s pH level. Attempts of using tea as a self-tanner have been documented elsewhere with moderate success, although the solution is unsurprisingly not waterproof.


5. Facial masks

DIY facial masks continue their popularity. Sure, you can buy masks from the store, but by using items from your own pantry, it’s easy to save money and make sure of the ingredients. Even the ‘60s lady could energize, moisturize or clear their skin with masks made from various everyday food items. The cucumber slices are a classic energizer for wrinkles. With the summer coming, you could also try mashing 3 strawberries and mixing them with 2 tsp cream and 1 tsp honey. Alternatively, a bit of fresh yeast mixed with milk. If you’re a baker, try using sourdough as a face mask – in the 1960s, this was apparently known as “the Finnish face mask”. I tried a recipe mixing 2 grated carrots, a teaspoon of potato starch and an egg yolk, which I had on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with warm, then cold water. I didn’t notice immediate effects, but it was quite energizing in a cooling way, not to mention relaxing to just lie still for 20 minutes.


6. Facial compress

For something different from the more common facial steam treatment, which is also mentioned in the book, try a compress, i.e. soaking a piece of cloth and placing it on your skin. The book recommends cutting a double layer gauze into a piece of the size of your face and to cut holes for the eyes and nose, but you can also use a small towel. For a fresher face, try a cold compress: milk with a bit of lemon juice, or herbal infusions – soak your cloth and apply on face. Or soak the cloth in cold water, wring, and dip into orange juice or cucumber juice before applying on your face. Good herbs for the tea include camomille, peppermint, broadleaf plantain, or linden flowers. Meanwhile, to boost circulation, you can try alternating between a cold and a hot compress. Have one bowl of as cold water as you’re ok with and another bowl of as hot water as you think your facial skin can take. Add some of the aforementioned herbs in your hot water – or just some regular tea. Clean your skin well and lie down. Have a gauze/towel for each water bowl – soak one gauze in the hot water, wring and apply on face for 1-2 minutes. Put the hot gauze back in the hot water and soak the other gauze in the icy water, wring and apply on face. Alternate between hot and cold 3-4 times, finally leaving the cold compress on for 3-5 minutes. The hot-cold alternating pressure suits especially for oily skin, but it is not recommended for anyone with broken capillaries on their face.


7. Spots

Specifically, small occasional spots (not irritated or acne spots!) can be treated with camphor spirit, i.e. a mix of alcohol and substance from the camphor laurel. It is applied on the spot 2–3 times a day until the spot is gone. Just be careful not to get camphor spirit on healthy skin – the book advices applying with a ball of cotton wrapped around a match, but a cotton swab ought to serve the purpose. I did not have the opportunity to try this – but I did google that Camphor spirit is still available in some pharmacies in Finland, so you could try your local University Pharmacy.

8. Lipstick

A woman wanting to look beautiful should know how to do their makeup. “Unlike our American sisters, Finnish women do not usually wear a strong full-face makeup in daytime. Lipstick, a bit of blush and slightly darkened lashes and eyebrows are enough for us.” Modern make-up gurus might already know this hack, but while white lips are a bit of a statement, the white lipstick itself can be used either under or on top of another color to soften or lighten the shade as variation to that trusty red. What’s more, the white lipstick can also double as highlighters e.g. around the eyes to give an appearance of less deep-set or close-set eyes.


9. Sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for our mental health but also for the elasticity of the skin and for the body’s natural detox processes. Unfortunately, the book makes a point to emphasize that the health effects of getting into bed early cannot be compensated by sleeping in the next day. Insomnia is another, more serious long-term issue that may require sturdier treatments. However, to help falling asleep at bedtime, you could:

  • take a hot bath before bedtime
  • increase your calcium intake, for example with dairy products or supplements.
  • apply a heating pad, hot water bottle or hot towel on the back of your neck
  • drink a glass of warm milk or warm water with honey or sugar

I enjoyed some warm water with honey, and did find it a nice way to wind down in the evening.


Did you find any of these ideas useful? Some of the tips from yesteryear can well be left behind – in a decade, many things from the 2010s will undoubtedly seem strange and outdated. In addition, modern conveniences and standards have changed what we can and have to do for our appearances. We can happily sample the things we feel like trying and incorporate what we like and leave out what we don’t. Always remember that looking beautiful is something you choose to do – or not to do – for yourself, which is why you get to pick what you consider beautiful.


Source for all tips: Mirja Sassi, 1960. Kauniiksi kodin keinoin. Vol. 16 of Kodin neuvokki-series.  Porvoo: WSOY.