Hair-Powder is generally prepared from starch, which, after being thoroughly dried, is ground and passed through ' the finest sieves. In its pure state, it should be perfectly white, and possess no smell. But in order to conceal base adulterations, or to please the votaries of the toilette, perfumers study the art of communicating to it various artificial odours from sweet-scented flowers, such as violets, jessamines, etc.
Dr. Darwin observes, that alum is sometimes used in the manufacture of hair-powder ; and we understand from creditable persons, that even lime is frequently mixed with fine flour : it is therefore not surprizing that so many persons who employ hair-dressers display bald heads, and are under the necessity of wearing wigs; but, if the latter were aware of the injury they inflict on themselves, by inhaling such pernicious substances, in consequence of which, many who exercise that trade, pine away of pulmonary complaints, they would never use any other but genuine powder. And though common flour is not in itself pernicious, when used as a substitute for hair-powder, yet by the mucilage it-contains, the hair is apt to be caked together when the head is sensibly * perspiring, or is accidentally wetted by a shower of rain ; an effect which may be frequently noticed if a whole regiment of soldiers. - Hair-powder pays, on importation, the prohibitory duty of 51. l6s. 21/2d. per cwt.
There is a great variety of vegetables which may be usefully employed as substitutes for hair-powder, in the manufacture of which large quantities of grain are annually wasted. The principal of the former is, we believe, the Horse-Chesnut, of which the reader will find some account, vol. i. p. 512. - See also Starch.