Importance Of Frequent Bathing
( Originally Published 1904 )
"Remember, a healthy skin means a great deal toward a healthy body." Rippon Seymour.
It would be difficult to estimate the value of a clean skin in maintaining health. You cannot enjoy exhilarating health and vital power and be dirty. Cleanliness is more than a part of health. IT IS HEALTH Cleanliness must be the rule not only externally but internally also. The object of every health-building canon is to cleanse the body. Air purifies and cleanses the blood as it comes in contact with it in the various minute air cells of the lungs.
Water taken internally makes all the fluids of the body assume a proper consistency, and thereby assists in the internal cleansing process.
Exercise is a marvelous cleansing agent. I once more lay stress on this fact. Exercise and you increase the activity of every part of the functional system, and the blood, as it rushes along through arteries and capillaries, not only performs its duties in a thorough fashion, but is cleansed of much of its impurities by the increased activity of the eliminating organs brought about by vigorous muscular movement.
There are many who bathe regularly and frequently who are not clean. How few realize that the internal surface of all the various arteries, glands and organs of the body is perhaps fifty times greater than the exterior surface of the body.. To be clean means that every part of this internal surface must be free from filth and foreign matter. The average human being in this age of hearty eating and excessive clothing must bathe frequently in order to he clean, inwardly and outwardly.
The true object of bathing is not only to remove the dirt from the exterior surface of the body, but to accelerate the action of the pores, and thus enable the interior organs to properly and effectively perform their functional processes.
The bathing habits of individuals as well as house-holds differ very materially. In some homes, the taking of a bath is an unusual event. In country districts where bath tubs are unknown, one or two baths during the winter season will often represent the total efforts in this direction.
Although you may be able to avoid bathing and enjoy a moderate degree of health, you will undoubtedly be stronger, healthier and cleaner if the bath is frequently used.
Let us carefully consider the effects of bathing. We have hot, tepid and cold baths. The cold bath is usually taken without soap, and is not especially cleansing. It is like surf bathing, a valuable tonic. It brings the blood to the surface of the skin and is generally exhilarating. It should be used with care. To some it is very beneficial, while to others, if the circulation is poor, it is far from advantageous. If not very strong, you should begin with almost tepid water. Each day the water can be made a little colder. The cold bath, to be productive of the most benefit, must be followed almost immediately by a feeling of warmth and exhilaration. If you cannot thus recuperate, the bath has been too cold, and it should be used warmer on the next occasion.
In order to be productive of all possible benefits, a cold bath should follow a dry friction bath of the en-tire body, the latter being preceded by some vigorous exercise that will bring all the muscles of the body into thorough activity. If a cold bath is taken after the circulation and the functional and muscular systems have been thus awakened, it is then not only beneficial, but thoroughly enjoyable as well.
There are various ways of taking cold baths, but probably the safest method of beginning is to use a 'wet towel or a sponge. If you wish to be still more careful, you can merely dip the hands in cold water and rub them allover the body. The shock from this is mild indeed, and to recuperate from it is not difficult. After trying this a few days, a wet towel can be used, and then later, you can secure a large sponge and use the cold water still more freely.
Some take a plunge into a bath tub of cold water. This is a very vigorous method and can hardly be recommended, unless a great deal of vital strength is possessed by the bather.
Never take a cold bath when you are chilly or unless the idea of it seems actually pleasurable. Though one may shiver at the thought of a cold "tub" upon rising from a warm bed, some active exercise such as I described and preceding it, will often make you actually yearn for and thoroughly enjoy it.
Cold water is a powerful stimulant to the exterior circulation. When it is first applied, it drives the blood inward and onward in its course toward the heart. New blood soon rushes back to the surface and so the circulation is greatly accelerated.
Exposure is often said to produce a cold, and the same means can usually be used to cure it. In other words, one can bring about a very quick recovery from a cold by using some means of inducing greatly increased activity of the pores. I have on an occasion, adopted what many would term a very dangerous method of curing a cold. I would stand or lie for a long time in a cold draught without clothing. I know that the average individual would be afraid of pneumonia under the like circumstances, but exposure of this kind induces extraordinary activity of the purifying processes of the pores of the skin, and of the circulation. The combination was highly curative. The cause of consumption and numerous other diseases is a dead, inactive skin, and cold bathing is unquestionably one of the most powerful means of bringing about a normal condition of the skin.
Surf bathing is both a remedial agent and a tonic. It is invaluable in curing skin diseases. I would advise those of my readers who live near the sea shore to take a daily dip in the surf. A great advantage in bathing of this kind is the fact that one gets the added benefit of sun and air.
The more clothing you wear, the less you exercise,and the more you eat, the more frequently the use of hot baths will be necessary. They are powerful exterior cleansing agents. They open the pores, draw a vast quantity of blood to the surface of the body, and induce activity of the secreting glands which pour their impurities out through the pores. If you follow the ordinary habits of life, a hot bath with. the free use of soap not too strongly impregnated with alkali, from one to three times per week is undoubtedly beneficial. The best soap to use is that made of vegetable oil. Pure castile soap can be recommended. Soap will, to a certain extent, extract the oil from the skin, and the more alkali that it contains the more such result will be noticed. -Oil makes heat and is a valuable emollient; it keeps the skin soft and velvety to the touch and in appearance, and if it is removed too freely by frequent soapings, injury may result to the cuticle.
The necessity for hot baths must be determined, however, by your habits and needs. If you are what is termed "a high liver," and do not exercise much, you will have to use hot, baths very frequently in order to maintain even exterior cleanliness. When you feel sticky, you can then be sure that it is time to bathe, though it is far better to anticipate this condition.
Hot baths are likely to be relaxing, and in excess are certainly debilitating. If you are not very strong they should be taken with the greatest care. In many cases they are capable of working more harm than are cold baths.
The tepid bath makes for cleanliness, though this is about the only purpose that it serves. It has but little effect upon the exterior circulation, and accelerates the action of the pores only to the extent of the power exerted by the rubbing and drying of the skin.
The shower is probably the most exhilarating of all forms of the bath. It is used almost universally in gymnasiums, and those in the habit of attending such institutions and taking it, and the exercise that precedes it, are loud in their praise of its value. I have heard hundreds of comments upon the remark-able change that is noticed after half an hour of exercise followed by a shower bath. For gymnasium use, the shower is at first usually hot or moderately warm for the purpose of washing off the perspiration and impurities that may have exuded from the pores while exercising; but following this, the water is used as cold as it runs from the pipes.
The more one is in the habit of bathing, the more impurities will be eliminated from the pores. If you do not bathe quite frequently, there is a possibility that they will accumulate in such quantities in the system as to cause some serious disease. A Dr. Robertson of Chicago has asserted that while baths unquestionably attract a very large quantity of the blood to the surface, there are practically no impurities eliminated from the pores of the skin. -I am inclined to believe that this assertion is considered false by nearly every member of his own profession. If you inhale the odor that often arises from perspiration when one is not in good health, you will have positive proof that impurities are eliminated through it. He is unquestionably right in his assertion that a soap of strong alkali will remove too much oil from the skin, but it is not at all necessary to use soap of this character. High grade vegetable soap contains but very little alkali.
The danger of pneumonia from a bath may occur to those who indulge in bodily ablutions "once in a year whether they need a bath or not," but those who bathe regularly will be in very little danger from the disease, because of their cleanly habits.
Too much hot bathing is unquestionably debilitating, and there may be a few people who are bathed out of-the world according to this doctor's assertion. But where there is one who dies from the use of water, there are probably thousands who do so be-cause of filth-clogged pores and deadened natural activities due to the need of frequent baths.
If all were as clean as Dr. Page, who is well known to physical culturists, states that he and his patients are, through the use of proper foods, undoubtedly there would be but little use for hot baths. But those who follow the ordinary habits of civilized life of to-day would, I think, find difficulty in thoroughly cleansing the body with tepid water without soap, a method which Dr. Page advocates.
Let each and every individual consider this subject carefully for himself, and form habits that will bring about the highest degree of health and strength in his own particular case. What each one should desire is internal and external cleanliness. You want a wholesome, clean, strong body, and you should make every possible effort to acquire it.
If you can live clean dietetically, wear clothing of light weight, thus securing the benefit of almost a continual air bath, and make free use of towels and soft brushes for friction of the body, you may be able to keep sweet without much use of water. But living so close to Nature is very difficult for the aver-age individual in this civilized age. Therefore, you must do the best you can. Personally, I usually take a cold bath with a wet towel immediately after my exercise in the morning, and one or two hot baths during the week, just before retiring at night. In the matter of hot baths, I allow my inclination to indicate their need. I have no regular days for taking them.
I am very much inclined to believe that the personal method which I have indicated, would be applicable to the average individual who desires to possess abounding, exhilarating health.