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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
Perhaps you think there is nothing pathetic in the condition of a woman who, having committed no sin, finds herself the object of a lifelong punishment in the shape of a moustache.
Yes, I know it is the custom to laugh at women with beards, but you may believe me when I tell you that the poor creatures thus disfigured weep and suffer, and sometimes have actually died from the mortification and shame. I may also add that of all the punishments meted out to our sex, the one that is the ugliest to bear superfluous hair is the one that practically defies science, and for which up to this writing there is no certain cure, electrolysis excepted.
There are innumerable depilatories which will temporarily rid one of the nuisance, and there is the electric needle which will kill the root, if it happens to strike in the very center. When one considers the size of even a coarse hair, and the chances of striking the exact center of that hair follicle with a needle guided by the very steadiest hand, one imperfectly realizes the chances for failure and success. Besides this, electrolysis is very expensive, and fate has dealt moustaches to the rich and poor with equal lavishness.
One thing we may be thankful for in this matter. It isn't much, but it is a step in the right direction. We no longer supinely submit to moustaches and bearded chins and die a thousand deaths daily under the impression that they are special dispensations of Providence. Moustaches upon women's faces are the effect of a cause, just as everything else is. One of these days we shall find out the cause perhaps. Until that blessed hour arrives, the women who are afflicted with beards may keep fairly busy dealing with effect. You may not credit my assertion that in your mother's and my time, it was considered, so to speak, flying in the face of Providence for a woman to try and get rid of a facial defect, no matter how disfiguring. But I assure you it was so.
When I was in the West, a year or two ago, I spoke to a charming old friend of mine on this and kindred topics, and I asked her if the women of her day looked as pretty at forty as those of the present time. And she replied: "Why, women of sixty-five to-day don't look as old as we did at forty."
Now, this sweet old acquaintance of mine is nearly eighty years of age, and she is a saint, if ever there were one. It is said that she has not missed a Wednesday evening Methodist prayer meeting but once since she experienced a change of heart when she was sixteen, and that one time was the Wednesday of the great Chicago fire.
She said that she "felt mad clean through to this hour" when she thought of a certain beautiful schoolmate of hers who was the flower of the flock until about her eighteenth year, when a growth of superfluous hair appeared on her face, so disfiguring that she secluded herself and literally broke her heart over her affliction.
When a worldly aunt suggested seeing a surgeon, and endeavored to get the deformity removed, the girl's father, who was a deacon in the church, held up his hands in holy horror, and declared that some awful punishment would be meted out to people who attempted to interfere with the Lord's will.
"If the Lord gave Charity Ross whiskers," he said, "He had some good reason. Most likely she was settin' too much store by her good looks and must be took down."
Poor Charity Ross! She was "took down" sure enough, and sleeps in a narrow grave, dead at twenty-two from a broken heart, because of this affliction.
My old friend, when she related this story to me, was filled even yet with righteous wrath, and she said with flushed face and sparkling eyes:
" Hattie, don't you ever fail to improve a woman's looks when you can, and do help the poor things with moustaches. It is missionary work just as much as any other."
Now I should not tell you the truth if I were to say that by the use of ordinary depilatories you can do more than keep the affliction in abeyance, but this certainly can be done. There are a lot of absolutely useless depilatories upon the market, and there are several that will accomplish the temporary removal of superfluous hair without pain or danger, if properly applied, and which, if temporary, answer every purpose, inasmuch as they may be used whenever required. They are inexpensive, relatively speaking, and do not require the services of a physician or dermatologist.
Electrolysis, when successful, is beyond all question the sure cure for superfluous hair, but, unfortunately, the electric needle fails in about ninety cases in one hundred; that is to say, the operation of destroying the hair root is so extremely delicate, that the needle, even when directed by scientific and expert hands, strikes the center of the hair root only about ten times in a hundred. The operation, when unsuccessful, may be repeated over and over, and it has been in one case within my knowledge until every hair root has been killed, but it required infinite patience, months of precious time, great endurance, as it is very painful, and the cost was for the treatment to which I refer, five hundred dollars. If you conclude to try electrolysis, go to the best specialist, or you may add a collection of white scars to your growth of superfluous hair.
In giving a formula for a depilatory which is effective and harmless when properly applied, I wish to say that the compounding of this preparation-said to be the invention of Doctor Boetger-should only be intrusted to a first-class chemist. This depilatory is highly praised by Doctor Menin, the eminent French authority. It is made by passing a current of sulphureted hydrogen through a thick layer of quicklime until the latter is thoroughly saturated.After this take of
Sulphydrate of quicklime....20 grammes.
Apply a little of the compound lightly to the afflicted skin. Let it remain twenty or thirty minutes. Wash off gently with warm water. If it begins to smart before the time mentioned, wash it off. The hair will come with it. Apply a little cold cream to allay any redness or irritation. This preparation, I beg to repeat, is dangerous, and should be carefully kept where children cannot reach it.
To remove superfluous hair from the arms, get an ordinary five-cent cake of pumice stone. This is not pumice soap, but the regular old fashioned pumice stone. To remove the hair, rub the skin afflicted with the superfluous growth, and the pumice stone will wear the hair off. Be careful not to be too heroic and irritate the skin. In case the arms are made red by this treatment, use a little cold cream. The pumice stone is best used on the arms at night before retiring. The hair on the arms may be kept so close to the skin by this method that it cannot be seen. Of course the hair will grow again, and must be removed from time to time.
Peroxide of hydrogen will, if used frequently, bleach the hair upon the arms, and if mixed half and half with ammonia will in time destroy the constitution of the hair. It will not prevent the growth of new hair, however, which will appear the original color.
Recently the old-fashioned method of removing superfluous hair by means of the tweezers has been revived. It is said that the application of a little subnitrate of bis muth and glycerine to the parts immediately after the hair had been plucked out by the aid of the tweezers, will prevent the reappearance of the growth. The plasterstick composed of Burgundy pitch and beeswax is another mechanical and temporary remedy. The stick is heated to a melting point, clapped on the hairy part, allowed to remain in contact with the skin till cold, then sharply withdrawn, bringing the hair with it.