A lot of people have asked me about Celtic hair styles for both men and women. They want to know about everyday lives and how they looked.
Celtic Soap – The Romans noted that the Celts were very particular about bathing and grooming habits. They smelled great, as they we know they washed their hands and faces with soap in the morning, as well as bathed fully with soap in the evening. Afterwards they applied oil with scented herbs on their skin. In the Brehon laws there is clear descriptions as to when the elite ‘security’ warriors have to bath as well as foster children’s brats had to be washed every other day. A brat was a kind of cloak Almost ritualistic in belief. It is said that it is the Celts who introduced soap to the Romans who used the oil and sticks to scrape off their dirt previously.
Celtic Hands – In Ireland, the hierarchy persons had to have their fingernails kept well-groomed. The warriors were considered hierarchy and would be shamed if he kept his nails ragged. Women sometimes dyed their nails crimson as we see from the story of Deirdre who makes a statement that crimsoning her nails refers to joyous occasions and thus she will no longer do this when some boys die.
Celtic Facial and Body Hair & Makeup – Make Celts were sometimes with or without a beard or moustache, depended on the tribe and position. Some soldiers and lower class Celts had moustaches, often curled up at the ends, but without the beard up to the medieval period. The beards were often forked – Irish artwork very few others show an unforked beard, and instead with a square cut to the bottom. Other beard styles show one single long beard on chin, sometimes with a square cut to the bottom.
Prominent persons were either clean-shaven or had both a beard and a moustache. The moustache later became know to the aristocracy and worn alone, which carried through to the medieval period. Diodorus of Sicily – “Nobles shave their cheeks, but they let the moustache grow until it covers the mouth.” As said there are several tribes so this all depends on the area. Caesar noted that the Celts shaved their bodies except for the head and upper lip.
In the myths we can see many things they did, but one must read through the many to find these gems. For example – Berry juice, would sometimes be used for ladies eyebrows black. Irish missionary monks were also known to paint or dye their eyelids black. The cheeks were reddened using a plant called ‘ruam’ — could be alder berries but it is unknown. It is not clear whether both men & women reddened their cheeks.
Celtic Hair was long according to Cesar and a few other sources by the free classes and for both men and women – Irish artwork.
Warriors, on the other hand – (Roman sculpture of the ‘dying Gaul’ and the soldier from the Book of Kells), have hair that looks like a bowl cut, higher at back and longer over the eyes. The cut is much like the ‘glib’ style worn by soldiers in late medieval Ireland. Warrior soldiers and lower-class men wore a long moustache without an accompanying beard. One of the tests for membership for joining some of the elite warrior groups was that the candidate had to run through a wood, chased by the entire Fianna, without having a braid of his hair loosened by the branches.
Sometimes, on the occasion, they wore their hair in a multiple elaborate curls and braids they decorated feathers, gold balls, silver and bronze ribbons, thin flexible gold plates, or gold balls and other ornaments fastened in their hair. In the Tain Bo Culaigne, a beautiful woman wears three braids of hair wound round her head, and the fourth hanging down her back to her ankles. One of the tests for membership into Warrior class was that the candidate had to run through a wood, chased by the entire Warrior band, without having a braid of his hair loosened by the branches.
The ancient Celts had a unique hair style which attracted the attention of many Classical authors.
Diodorus of Sicily – says the Celts were tall and muscular, with pale skin and blond hair which they highlight artificially by washing it in lime-water. They then gather it back from the forehead to the top of the head and down to the nape of the neck… and therefore the hair becomes so heavy and coarse that it looks like the mane of horses. Could be they considered the Unicorn or Horse God as their Mother.
Irish texts refer to hair so long and stiff that it would have impaled a falling apple. The Irish hero god CuChulainn is described this way, and it is added that his hair was of three colours, darkest near the scalp and lightest at the end. If he is a Hound constellation we can see the dimmer stars, or it could be the reference to the style of bleaching they learned to do.
* Note – Celts always fostered their children to other clans for study. Soap is not proven but most say it is the Celts who either invented it or brought it to Europe.
The above information I got from descriptions by Welsh and Irish mythology stories, both Classical and early Irish sources as well as depictions in Irish artwork by various authors such as Joyce, Berresford, both Mathews & Markale.