Care Of The Skin
( Originally Published 1927 )
The skin may appear as merely a covering, or a protection to the underlying structure. This is an important function, but the skin has several functions of even greater importance. It helps to regulate the heat of the body, which is absolutely essential to health. If the bodily temperature goes much above or below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (which is the internal temperature of the body) we have some kind of illness.
If the weather is cold, the openings of the skin contract, thus preserving the heat. If the temperature is high, all ventilators open, and in addition moisture is poured out in the form of perspiration. This moisture evaporates and cools the body. The body perspires more than the average individual is aware of, for the slow form of perspiration is not apparent, the moisture evaporating as soon as it reaches the surface.
The skin is also one of the cleansing and eliminating organs, sharing in this work with the lower bowels, the lungs, and the kidneys. This function is so important that when very large areas of skin are destroyed the individualdies, poisoned by his own. secretions. Most persons have read the story of the boy who was covered with gold leaf, and died as a consequence. It sounds true, for if the skin is sealed, the poisons cannot escape by way of the sweat glands, which eliminate various gases, acids and salts that are injurious to the body. Fatty waste is also eliminated by way of the skin.
The skin contains millions of sweat glands, each of which opens on the surface by means of a tube. These sweat glands take water and waste out of the blood stream and discharge them through a duct that goes to the skin surface.
The skin, especially the hairy part, contains numerous sebaceous glands, which excrete a fatty matter (sebum).
So instead of looking upon the skin as a mere covering, we should realize that it is one of the vital organs, and treat it with the respect due to a structure which is essential to life.
All animals manage to get along with their own hides as a covering. But here man departs from the natural. Instead of being protected by his skin, he protects his skin. This has enabled the human race to survive where there would otherwise have been extinction. But this artificial protection is carried so far that it impairs skin function. The law of being is that a part must be used or it will degenerate. The skin, not being sufficiently used as a protection -that function being assumed by the clothes --largely loses its strength, and its activity diminishes. That means that the important function of elimination is not fully maintained; also that the surface circulation is decreased.
As a result of this perversion, the blood is made impure, the skin loses its beauty, and the individual ages prematurely.
Give the skin a few minutes attention each day, and its beauty and its function can be maintained. Furthermore, if it has already deteriorated, as it has in the average individual of forty, it can generally be restored. The care is simple : Each day spend five or six minutes giving the entire skin, from the neck to the soles of the feet, a dry rubbing. Adults should rub themselves, for they get the double benefit of the friction and the exercise by so doing. The rubbing should be vigorous, without being violent enough to remove any patches of skin. The palms of the hands may be used, or a flesh brush, or dry bath mittens, or a coarse dry towel. This is an important health measure, one that should become a habit of everyone who wears clothes. This dry friction is an important measure for retaining health and youth.
What about bathing? It is not one-tenth as important to keep the skin clean as it is to keep the bowels clean, for ordinary filth will not interfere with the skin function. It is not half as important to bathe the skin as to rub it. But cleanliness is a fine thing. It makes for self-respect, and it makes this world a more pleasant abiding place. There are certain individuals whom we avoid because they offend our noses. Self-respect demands cleanliness.
Thin individuals should make their baths brief, for bathing tends to make them thinner. Well fleshed persons can take prolonged baths, if they wish. Those with serious heart and kidney disease should make their baths short, and avoid shocks coming from sudden immersion in cold water. Shower baths are best for them.
It is not good to shock the body by jumping into very cold water. Those who want to take cold baths should first get into water that has been slightly warmed, and then mix in more and more cold water until the desired temperature is reached. Those who have showers can regulate it so that at first the water is warm and then gradually shut off the warm water, letting the cold run. This prevents all shock. After finishing the bath, dry well; this is a good time to spend five or six minutes giving the body dry friction.
If the body itches after a soap and hot water bath, use a small amount of vegetable oil for inunction purposes. Those with dry skin, or those who are excessively thin, can with benefit take an oil rub two or three times a week, or use cocoa butter. It requires less than a table-spoonful of oil for a rub. Do not use enough oil to soil the clothes.
There is no advantage in soaping the skin oftener than necessary for cleansing purposes.
This is not a beauty book, but both men and women can benefit by knowing a few fundamental hints about retaining their good looks. Some of us have been blessed with so little physical beauty that we need every iota of it.
The first and most important beauty rule is : Keep the blood pure and thus maintain health. Those who have health, have that beauty which is inseparable from health, no matter how irregular the features may be. Many are put in the beauty column through the radiance of good health. These people lose their beauty if they lose their health. Some are so favored with fine figures and fine faces that they can not help being beautiful, at least while youth lasts, but rashes on the cheeks, pimples on the chin, greenish eye-balls, muddy complexion—none of which happens in health—detract much from the looks of the most favored.
As the face is exposed to the elements, it needs no special massage. The face and neck should never be massaged roughly. If they are rubbed at all, it should be very gently, and the rubbing should always be in an upward direction. Downward rubbing of face and neck is apt to produce downward lines, which give the appearance of age. The skin of the face and neck is underlaid with a pad of fatty tissue. If this is massaged away, the result is a stringy appearance, which ye ladies do not appreciate. Towels for the face should be soft. It is better to pat the face dry than to rub it dry, if the complexion is delicate. Few men will take the trouble, but many women will.
Be careful to select a mild cold cream, if cold cream is used, and remember that some of the metallic face powders are dangerous. Women have ruined their eye-sight with them. The talcum powders containing a moderate amount of boracic acid, or no boracic acid, are harmless. But respect the eyes when applying even the finest powders, such as rice powder.
Here is a good way to treat the face: Before retiring cleanse the face with either cold cream or mild soap and water (pure castile soap is good) ; then dash hot water on the face; then a dash of cold water; then another dash of hot water. Alternate this way with hot and cold water, at least a dozen times. Dry the face, and if you wish apply some mild cold cream.
But good health itself is the best beautifier.
It may interest the feminine readers to know that the directions in this book have brought beauty of face back in scores of instances after famous skin specialists had failed to restore the complexion, and after failures in the best of beauty parlors. The reason is that this book is fundamental, and that pure blood and good health make the individual normal from scalp to toes.
As the teeth are perhaps a part of the cutaneous system, let us say a few words about their care.
It is well to have them examined by a good dentist at least twice a year. At this writing the fad is to remove teeth, good and bad. Some bad teeth should be removed, but some of them should be repaired. No matter what his reputation may be, the dentist who recommends the removal of many teeth is a poor workman. He lacks the first requisite of a good professional man—sound judgment and common sense. No dentist can give one a new tooth that will work as well as a normal, natural tooth. If a tooth is badly diseased, and the dentist can not remove the infection, have it out. But save every tooth that can possibly be saved.
The mouth should be rinsed with water be-fore every meal, for toxic material often gathers there. It should also be rinsed after every meal.
The teeth should be brushed every morning and every evening. Part of the brushing should be with a rotary movement, bringing the bristles up and down—the same direction as the teeth. If a paste is used, it should not be too strong. There is no need of germicides ; some of the strong remedies used in the mouth cause the gums to shrink. I have seen some use diluted carbolic acid, which is awful. A good tooth cleanser is powdered chalk on the brush. A good mouth wash is plain water; or water with a little baking soda in it; or water with a little common table salt dissolved in it; or milk of magnesia in water.
Keep the mouth clean; do not use strong chemicals, for they do harm. If the body is normal and the eating reasonable no harmful germs will develop in the mouth.
You have noticed that baldness is reserved almost exclusively for the male members of the race. Bald men generally say that they do not mind, but let them tell that to the barbers. It is amusingly tragic for many to acquire a bald pate. Men can keep their hair if they want to. There may be a few exceptions to this, for in some families baldness occurs in the twenties, as in some families grayness starts in the teens. But most men can retain their natural thatch as well as the women do.
Why do so many men become bald? They let the scalp circulation deteriorate, for want of exercise. The scalp thins out, adheres too closely to the skull, and the blood vessels decrease in calibre, allowing too little blood. Also, they wear tight hats that compress the blood vessels that feed the scalp, which further deprives the scalp of nutriment. And many of them allow the scalp to sour, for want of cleanliness. Overcome those three factors and men will wear their hair as many years as women do. The women exercise the scalp through the pulling of the hair in combing, when the hair is long. They do not wear hats tight enough to compress the blood vessels, and nearly all of them take enough pride in their hair to keep it clean.
Pulling the hair exercises the scalp and al-lows free circulation of the blood. Take a lock of hair and tug away for a while from different sides, and continue until the whole scalp has been covered.
Here is another good plan :
1. Shampoo the scalp regularly—men every week, women every two weeks—with good quality soap, and at the same time wash thoroughly all combs and hair brushes. Dry the hair well, and if it becomes too brittle, use a little lubricant on the scalp. White vaseline is all right for this purpose. While shampooing, massage the scalp thoroughly with the fingertips, with a rotary motion, so that the scalp glides over the skull.
2. Every day spend a little time giving the scalp this rotary massage. If it is properly done it hardly ruffles the hair, but it does maintain good scalp circulation.
3, Wear sensible headgear which is not stiff and which does not fit very tightly.
4. Most important of all, maintain good general health.
If these simple precautions are taken men will retain their hair.
Humanity must have its jokes, so we have hair tonics, often sold by bald barbers.
In the days antedating prohibition, one of the best ways of stopping rapidly falling hair was to wet the scalp with a solution of half water, half alcohol. Do not make the mistake of using poor alcohol for this purpose. Good grain alcohol (ethyl alcohol) is the only kind fit to use.
The normal life of an individual hair seems to be more than two years, so there is naturally a slow shedding taking place at all times, new hair replacing the old.
One of the aids in keeping young is to look young. Hair helps. If in addition to youthful appearance one thinks young, age has no sting.
The most important part of the care of the body surface is to maintain the skin as a normal eliminating organ.