Unpalatable ‘Pumeatom’

This scented ointment or pomatum is designed for use on the hair and scalp. Would you be brave enough to try it?.

Recipe for a pomade from   The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Eighteenth-century recipe for a pomade from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Pomatum (modernised spelling)

Take one pound of rendered hog’s lard, 3 ounces of mutton suet, 3 ounces of beef marrow, one ounce of virgins wax. These must be melted in an earthen pot with some alkanet root. Strain through some gauze. Put one drachm of oil of thyme, half an ounce of bergamot, one drahm oil of cloves.

Pomades like this one were used widely used for the eighteenth-century’s extravagant coiffures.

In the 1770s, the Duchess of Devonshire pioneered a craze for ‘hair towers’ among aristocratic women.

Heavily pomaded hair for a masquerade, 1773

Heavily pomaded hair for a masquerade, 1773

A thick pomatum was used to ‘set’ hair around cork and horse hair padding,¬†creating wigs up to three feet in height. The waxy ointment also formed a good surface for applying hair powder. Once dressed in this way, the wig could be ornamented with feathers, stuffed birds, or even model ships!

The animal products in pomades – in this case hog’s lard, mutton suet and beef marrow – could attract vermin and insects, and it was not uncommon for pomaded wigs to become infested with mice or fleas.

By the 1790s the fashion had fallen out of favour, and these extravagant hairpieces were rarely seen outside of court presentations. The French Revolution was, in part, responsible for this. The hairstyle had its origins in the fashions of the French court, and in 1789 no one wanted to be associated with the perceived decadence of the French nobility.

The death knell for ladies pomaded and powdered wigs was finally sounded in 1795, with the introduction of a hair powder tax.