So, as long promised, here is a short write up on what my apprentice sister, HL Sibilla Swaine, and I did at Lilies this year in terms of hygiene supplies.
Let’s start with what we didn’t do. We didn’t try period oral hygiene. From my standpoint, at least, I didn’t have enough time to do the research, or make the needed tools, and, well, a fresh mouth goes a long way to making me feel human.
Now, for what we did do:
Sibilla made period washing balls for us using, I believe, Castilian soap and herbs. I used these fairly exclusively all week on both my skin and my hair. For my hair, I’d rub up a good lather on my hands, then scrub through my hair, then rinse. For my skin, I actually scrubbed using a synthetic sea sponge (to attempt to save nature). The look and texture of the sponge were right, so I went with it. Overall, I had a good result. My hair was, for the most part, clean, and my skin felt so too. We used these both in the showers (lacking servants and a large bath), as well as washing in the privacy of the tent when we couldn’t use the showers. It worked well.
Sibilla also brought a couple of essential oils for us to try, as well as witch hazel for a face astringent (although it’s a New World product).
In addition, I made a fragrant hair powder from Trotula, described as follows:
But when she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously. ( Trotula ) (Source at Mistress Jadwiga’s Website).
As a general rule, I would use this largely after washing my hair, and usually while my hair was still damp. I tried it both as a dried powder combed through on it’s own, and as a wet rinse mixed with rose water. The second method definitely gave it a stronger smell, and it was nice that as I sweated throughout the day (because Lilies is on a Missouri plain…next to a lake…in June), the scent would renew itself. The downside was that even with modern mechanical grinding on the roses and watercress (after first going at them for over an hour in a mortar and pestle), and sometimes still had flakes of plant matter large enough to be visible. Again though, for camping outside for a week, that felt rather par for the course. When making the mixture, I did two parts plant matter to one part dried spices, and I was fairly happy with the result. I also definitely over prepared, because even with both of us using it all week, I still had most of a jar left at the end of the war.
The other item I did was a period deodorant redaction, the recipe for which I got from the website of Donna Heodez Sofonisba de Talento Minotto from the Midrealm. I would start out by saying, this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. You will still sweat while wearing this. Or glow, I suppose, lady friends. (Ha! I glow like Chernobyl). Anyway, this was a late in the game addition for me (like Wednesday before I was leaving on Friday), and I didn’t have time to order granulated camphor online. I found block camphor locally and ground it up myself. Don’t do this. It takes forever. And 19 washings to get it all out of an electric grinder. Also, I suspect that it was not designed to melt as cleanly into other ingredients, as my bars never really set up firmly. I split my mix between one set borax/camphor/rose water and one set borax/camphor/orange blossom water, just as an experiment, and both worked. I got a lot of bars out of it. Enough that I handed out samples to probably 15 other people, aside from Sibilla and I.
Initially, I tried following the instructions to wet a little bit of the bar, and then rub where I wanted it. But as I noted, my bars were SUPER CRUMBLY. So I tried an alternative. Using either plain water or rose water, I would dampen a piece of cloth, rub it against the deodorant (or shake bits out onto the cloth), and then rub it on. And it worked. Holy crap, how it worked. Usually, using even really good, prescription strength modern deodorant, on really hot days when I am super active, I can still smell me around 7-8 hours in. This stuff kept me feeling odor free for 24-36 hours at a go. With one application. And I did still sweat. Lord, did I sweat (again- Missouri in June with all the humidity). But I didn’t have a funk. And it held steady through both sweating and the occasional Lilies deluge when we might, maybe, have been dancing in the rain. Like you do.
Overall, it was a nice step in my 10% goals to make my kit as period as possible. I still have plenty of the products I made left over, and more soap balls from Sibilla. Eventually I would like to look at period Oral hygiene when I have some time. And the next time I am in the field, the modern bath and body products? Those will stay at home.