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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
The artistic hand with its delicate, tapering fingers is like the poet "born not made," and every woman may not hope for this ideal "second face" as the hand has been cleverly called, but there are no hands pertaining to womankind really barred from a greater or less degree of beauty. Care and scrupulous are soon repaid in the toilet of the hands.
Even the housewife who must perforce on occasion do rough, manual work, is included in this statement. It is more or less true that it takes five generations to form an absolutely partician hand, but I do not agree with even so great a master as Balzac that "persons of superior intellect always have beautifully formed hands." "There is a beauty of the Sun and another beauty of the Moon," I have seen intellectual men and women who had not beautiful hands, and empty-headed ladies and gentlemen who had. To all my readers who may be so fortunate as to have little children growing up about them, I beg to say a word as to the importance of the early and great care the little hands require. Children form habits most destructive to the beauty of both hands and feet unless corrected. I have never been able to understand why we do not teach our children to be ambidextrous instead of early inculcating in them the practice which renders the left hand, compared to the right one, an almost useless member. Doubtless a few generations ahead of us will appreciate the advantages of ambidextrousness, and it will then be the occasional person who will excite comment by being " right-handed."
From birth, the tiny fingers should receive careful attention and the little nails should be cut in an oval form which will aid developing tapering points. It is ruinous to permit children to bite the nails ; the best remedy is to rub a little extract of quassia on the finger tips each time the hands are washed. The bitter taste is very unpleasant, but harmless, and the habit is soon broken, if the treatment be persistent. Many grown women, as well as children, are really afflicted with rough hands. Often this condition is produced from carelessness; sometimes however, the skin is extremely susceptible. In washing the hands, use a pure soap containing no free alkali, and always rinse all the soap carefully and thoroughly away. If soap be irritating, as it somctimes is, no matter how delicate or pure, try the following paste called by the French "Amandine." It will be found delicious and very healing.
Put in a large marble mortar two ounces of gum arabic, and six ounces of white honey; triturate, and when the mixture has been rubbed into a thick paste, add three ounces of perfectly neutral almond shaving cream. Then continue the trituration until the mixture has become homogeneous. Two pounds of fresh, cold, pressed, sweet almond oil are next allowed to flow from a can above it into the mass; otherwise, if it enter in too large quantities, the blending is imperfect, and the amandine becomes oily instead of jelly-like and transparent, as it should be when the manipulation has been skillful. The perfume consists of one-half drachm of attar of bitter almonds to every pound of paste. A little attar of roses may also be added. As soon as finished, it must be put into earthen jars and closely sealed.
This is a delightful compound, but it is a little difficult to make without laboratory appliances. Unless you wish it for continuous use, it will be better to purchase it. Take care not to buy the dark-colored so-called" Amandine." It should be a pure, creamy-white paste. Almond meal has been in use for the toilet by French women for years. It came into vogue about a decade since in America, and is easily made at home. Proceed as follows:
ALMOND MEAL Almond powder ..............................1pound. Cuttlefish bone (powdered) .................5ounces. Curd soap (air-dried, powdered) ............2 1/2ounces. White castile soap, (air-dried, powdered) ..2 1/2ounces. Orris root (in fine powder) ................1 1/2ounces.
Mix and pass the whole through a fine sieve.
Another excellent compound for whitening and softening the hands is called "Honey Paste." This requires no skill to make, and is delicate and efficacious:
Rub together one pound honey and the yolks of eight eggs; then gradually add sweet almond oil, 1 pound, during constant trituration, and work in bitter almonds, blanched and ground to meal, 8 ounces; finally perfume with attars of bergamot and cloves, each 2 drachms.
Chapped hands are common to persons with poorly circulating blood, or to women who are obliged to frequently immerse their hands in either cold or hot water. Many suffer intensely from chapped hands during the summer months as well as in cold weather. In such cases, do not expose the hands to sharp winds nor to out-of-door cold without gloves. I do not approve of wearing gloves indoors unless the hands are so badly chapped as to almost bleed; then anoint them with cold cream and cover them with gloves three sizes too large. It is a serious mistake to wear tight gloves on any occasion; but for chapped or rough hands, the gloves should be as loose as possible. Anything that impedes the circulation of the blood in the slightest is detrimental to the texture of the skin.
Twenty-five years ago, there were I think, but two professional manicures in this country, though in Europe the luxurious classes commonly employed them, and the Pari sienne has always devoted much time and care to the beauty of her finger tips. About ten years ago, I took a course of manicure lessons in Paris from the niece of the original manicure, Sitts. This lady is now upward of seventy years of age, for she has been an "artiste of the hand," to use her own words, for nearly half a, century. Even in those days she was not over youthful, but she was coquettish to the last degree, and used to quite overpower me during my lessons, not only by her toilettes, which were extremely girlish, but by her easy and airy style of conversation. For example, she would always speak of H. R. H., the Prince of Wales, as " Ce clzez° Prince" -when I treat his nails I say to myself-"here at least is a hand worthy of a Sitts" -or "Madame must pardon me if I cannot give her a seance tomorrow. His Grace the Due of attends a garden party .at three. I shall be blamed indeed if his hands are not a credit to the house of Sitts." I used to return from my lesson feeling that I had almost associated with royalty. In spite, however, of this element of the ridiculous, and also of the dear old lady's extreme snobbishness, I learned a great deal from her of the care of the finger nails, and I unlearned the greater part of the art of manicuring which I had acquired in America, and which in many may be better termed the art of ruining the finger nails and fingers.
Manicuring was originated aud developed by Monsieur Sitts, my old lady's uncle, who was King Louis Phillipe's pedicure. In taking care of the royal feet, M. Sitts showed such skill that his Majesty one day asked him to remove an agnail from one of his fingers. Sitts performed this operation so cleverly that the royal client thereafter employed him, and the title "Manicure" was added to "Pedicure." Manicure means, as doubtless all my readers know, care of the hands; pedicure, care of the feet. The Sitts method does away with cuticle knife and mineral acids for whitening the nails. It also substitutes an orange-wood stick sharpened for cleaning the nails instead of curved scissors, and a bit of chamois skin does duty for polishing, and is substituted for the buffer used in this country. The manicure set of the most fashionable and fastidious French woman therefore consists of:
2 clippers, one for cutting the nails of each hand.
1 small parcel of orange-wood sticks.
This reduces the cost of manicure implements very much, and the most beautiful results are certainly obtained by the Sitts method. It is the common and pernicious practice in America to cut the selvage skin which borders the nail inside, and which is intended to protect it. The Sitts method totally condemns the use of steel either under the nail or around the lisiere (selvage). Mme. Sitts very logically says the smoothest of so-called nail cleaners made in steel is sharp enough to roughen. the delicate under-surface. It then attracts the dust and foreign matter because of this roughness, and more cleaning only makes it worse. Then acid is resorted to, and the texture of the nails is ruined. A properly pointed stick of orange wood, such as the dentists use for cleaning the teeth, is the only nail cleaner necessary. It removes dust and uncleanliness, and does not scratch nor injure the enamel of the nail which is just as delicate as that of the teeth. Mme. Sitts also declares emphatically that the border or selvage around the nail is intended to protect it, and that in cutting it you make it ragged just as you would if you jagged the selvage of a bit of cloth. And, she adds, it would be just as sensible to cut the border of your eyelids or your ears with the idea of making them even and smooth as the nails. Besides, the very touch of a steel instrument on the enamel surface is bound to scratch the nail and cause blemishes. I recollect with great clearness the way manicures have clipped and scraped and hacked my fingers in other days- often until they bled. Let this counsel, which comes from the fountain head of manicure art, be a word to the wise.
The nails require the nail brush and soap at least once daily, and after washing the hands, while they are still soft from the action of the water, it is well to gently press the cuticle around the nail back toward the finger base. If this be done with care daily, the nail will assume a graceful, oval form, ending in the white crescent which is considered such a mark of beauty.
This is one of the small personal duties which must be attended to religiously, for if neglected only a day or two, the skin will attach itself to the nail, and then it is apt to crack or break, leaving the edge as sore and unsightly as though a fashionable manicure had "treated" it, and treated it very badly, with sharp instruments. Use a little vinegar or lemon juice in place of other acids for removing discolorations.
Excessive moistness or perspiration of the hands without apparent cause, is usually indicative of nervous debility or some internal derangement. The following is a good local remedy:
REMEDY FOR PROFUSE PERSPIRATION OF THE HANDS (Edgerly)
Mix thoroughly; moisten the hands two or three times daily with the mixture.
Chilblains are a most painful affliction. They are caused either by a scrofulous condition of the blood, or by sudden change of temperature from excessive cold to extreme heat. When they have once formed they are very difficult to be rid of. Many persons afflicted with chilblains suffer from them only in the winter time, but weak and aged subjects are frequently troubled in summer also. The best treatment for chilblains is with local stimulants and counterirritants, among which the best are painting the parts twice a day with iodine, or bathing the chilblains with diluted hydrochloric acid just strong enough to slightly prick the skin. When the inflamed parts ulcerate, an excellent dressing is made of cold cream (formula already given) to which a few grains of tannic acid have been added.
Glycerine jelly is an excellent preventive of chilblains where the hands are very sensitive. It is made thus:
Pure glycerine....4 ounces.
Dissolve the gum in enough water to make a thick liquid. Stir into the glycerine.
Strawberry cream is a delicate emollient for tender hands. Indigestion will make the hands red. If you take good care of them and have no trouble with the digestive organs, you will find wearing gloves two or three sizes too large for you, spread with a paste made as follows, will make the hands white again:
Oil of sweet almonds....2 teaspoonfuls.
Pour the oil of sweet almonds over the rice flower and stir; then add the yolks of eggs and glycerine; last of all, the rose water and benzoin. Rip the gloves open and spread the inside with this paste; then sew them up again. Wash your hands thoroughly at night before putting on the gloves, which you should wear until morning.