The Curious Professor Z has asked us to post about old-fashioned beauty treatments and vintage beauty products. My chosen topic is quite ancient and it is used in a sauna.
Sauna tradition in Finland is thousands of years old and I am guessing this beauty treatment I am about to introduce is not much younger. It is a sort of an instrument but at the same time it functions as aromatherapy too.
It is made out of delicate birch branches tied into a big bunch. It is called vihta or vasta, depending of the geographical area. In some areas of Finland people say vasta and in other areas it is definitely vihta. As you can see from this picture, a vihta is also very useful if you suddenly need to camouflage in summer.
Super short introduction to what is sauna
Mainly for those who might not be familiar with it.
- The Finnish Sauna is a place to wash yourself and to relax.
- It is a small-ish room that is usually heated to 80 - 120 degrees of Celsius, which is about 160 - 250 Fahrenheit. There is a stove filled with rocks that is doing the heating.
- You stay in a sauna exactly as long as you feel comfortable whether it is one minute or an hour. Nobody judges.
- You bring a bucket of water and occasionally you throw some with a scoop on the burning hot rocks and release steam into the room.
- In another bucket you have icy cold water but that one is reserved for a vihta. You dump it upside down in the water, so that the "handle" of the bunch is up above surface. And later I tell what for.
- In Finland we go to sauna naked. It is perfectly normal and there is nothing sexual about it. Human body is nothing special, everybody has one. So we do not make a fuss about it and do not see why we should cover it while washing. Of coarse we usually go to sauna with family or close friends instead of hobbling nude with strangers. Even with family or friends some prefer to divide turns for women and men. Some don't. If even one person of the party wants to divide turns, people tend to honor this wish, or let that person go to sauna alone first.
- The usual rhythm is that you go to sauna for a while, get out and swim in a lake or take a shower or just sip a drink for a while to cool off and then repeat these two steps as many times as you like.
- More detailed description can be found in here.
Now, I am not going to post photos of me naked in a sauna, but there are going to be some tongue-in-cheek instruction photos. I also would like to feature a photo of a contemporary sauna. The old ones are often heated by burning wood instead of electricity, have no lights and are situated separate from the house. This one is inside a house and is heated with an electrical stove.
On the right is the stove and I guess you already figured that people are sitting on the top "shelf". Now, to the beauty traditions!
How to use a vihta
As described, vihta is a bunch of birch branches tied together and they are brought to a sauna in a bucket of cold water. The branches are dipped into water and then people will gently slap their skin with the bunch. Why is this a beauty treatment and not some weird sadomasochistic fetish?
Because first of all it does have a beautifying effect. when you gently and repeatedly slap your skin it activates the small veins on the surface of the skin and it gets the blood flowing better. Better blood circulation revives tissue. Second of all, it is supposed to be gentle slapping, not spanking.
Not like this:
But like this: You can still smile after a vihta.
In the old times (when our mothers and grandmothers were young or not even born) people believed the birch and the sauna could revive almost anything. To prevent wrinkles people would hold a vihta on their face for a few minutes while sitting in a sauna. Do not know about anti-aging effects but at least the bunch of leafs would cover one's face from the most excruciating heat.
One rather superstitious way to use birch was to pluck the leafs from a vihta in the end and place them on face's skin and for example, on closed eyes.
Does not really prevent wrinkles either, other than maybe by placebo effect. Sauna is a place to relax and if you close your eyes in a sauna and slowly inhale that mild scent from the plucked leafs you probably relax even more and in the end feel better and look better.
People tend to do this even today but it is more likely in a beauty spa or in a home version of a spa. You could put on a mud mask and then kind of decorate it with leafs. Your mud covered face will have some color and the birch smells quite nice. Yay!
Vihtas are mainly used during summer, though some people tend to store few of them in a deep freezer and use them during winter too.
This was my vintage beauty treatment; how to boost your blood circulation while relaxing and thus getting prettier body and skin.
Thanks for reading and do click the Professor's Monthly Homework Assignment logo and check what lovely Professor Z herself and all other participants have shared!