You and your girl friends take much pains with your personal adornment. You spend time in curling your hair and in putting on ribbons and laces, but I sometimes think you do not pay as much attention to personal cleanliness as you ought. It would seem as if some of you thought that powder would cover a defect in cleanliness and perfumery would conceal the odors of the person; but indeed it seems to me that the stylish make-up of your dress or the curl of your hair is of very little importance compared with the care of your health.
You each desire to have a beautiful complexion. I used to be told in my childhood that beauty was only skin-deep, but I have learned better. I know that even the beauty of the complexion depends upon the integrity of the nutritive organs as well as upon the care and attention given to matters of personal cleanliness.
I read the other day of a discussion between two young men concerning the cleanliness of girls of their acquaintance. One young man noticed that although one of the girls wore a very pretty dress-gown, she had forgotten to clean her finger-nails. The other remarked that many things in regard to a girl’s personal cleanliness could be learned by riding behind her on a tandem. The two then commented favorably upon the girl whose nails were pink, whose ears and neck were clean, her teeth white and dazzling, and her hair well brushed. I might say, in passing, that this hair-brushing time at night may be well employed in reviewing the experiences of the day in order to learn the lessons they teach, and thereby to avoid to-morrow the mistakes of to-day.
These same young men also said that the complexions of some girls suggested the idea of too little fresh air and too much candy. This, they agreed, it was impossible to hide with powder. So we see that the care of the skin is quite important if one would have the respect and the admiration of her associates.
The skin is a very beautiful, complex and delicate covering of the body. It consists of six layers, and contains arteries, capillaries, lymphatics, nerves, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, pigment, etc. So you see that the care of the skin involves much. One writer has said, “At the skin man ends and the outlying universe begins.”
The skin, filled with nerves, is continually reporting to the brain concerning what is the condition of all parts of the body. The condition of the skin reflects the condition of the digestive organs. Many girls are trying to cure pimples on the face by the use of salves and lotions, when in all probability all that they would need to do to gain a good complexion is to pay attention to diet, to quit eating between meals, and not to eat so much pastry, pickles or sweetmeats. Our athletes and pugilists are learning that they must take care of the skin if they would keep in good condition, and they are what in horses would be called well groomed. The skin is rubbed, cared for, kept active, because it is understood that it is an organ of sensation, of secretion, of excretion, of absorption, and of respiration. More solid matter is thrown out from the skin than from the lungs, in the proportion of eleven to seven. It is even more than the excretion from the bowels.
The skin is an organ of breathing. This seems strange to us, but it really does take up oxygen and give out carbonic acid, so upon the condition of the skin will depend very largely the condition of the general health. We can detect a constipated condition of the bowels through the color and odor of the skin.
Many girls feel that it is more delicate to neglect the care of the bowels than to attend to a daily evacuation, but if they would remember that it is just as indelicate to carry effete or dead matter about in the bowels as it would be to carry it upon the person in any other way, they would realize that it is only politeness and refinement to see that this part of their bodily housekeeping is duly attended to. If the bowels do not do their work the skin will be obliged to take extra labor upon itself; so, as we have said, by the odor of the skin we can detect the fact that the skin is doing the work that should be done by the bowels. When a person is sick the condition of the internal organs is shown in the complexion, and nothing more clearly indicates health than the condition of the skin.
If this is so important, how shall we care for the skin? First, by bathing. The tin bath-tub of the Englishman accompanies him in all his travels, and has penetrated even to the jungles of Africa. Bathing appliances are marks of civilization, and the bath-room is becoming a necessity. Where the bath-room does not exist it is easy to bathe thoroughly and completely. A wash-basin of water, with a sponge and towel, furnish all that is absolutely necessary. A most convenient bath is the portable thermal bath, an arrangement of rubber cloth that can be opened out to form a square enclosure in which the person sits, with the head in the free outside air, the body enveloped in steam generated by an alcohol lamp. This, followed by a quick sponge-bath of cool water, is a most efficient way of cleansing the skin; and this bath may be used in any room, no matter how beautifully furnished, without soiling the carpet or furniture in the least.
One great secret of healthful bathing is, when warm or hot water is used, to follow it by an immediate application of cold water, which leaves the skin in a tonic condition. In preparation for going out in cold weather, nothing is so efficient a protection from the cold as a foot-bath. Soak the feet for a few minutes in water as warm as is comfortable, then plunge them into cold water and remove immediately, or throw cold water over them, wipe them thoroughly dry, rub them with a little olive oil, draw on a pair of clean, warm hose, and the feet are not only warmed, but are protected against cold and will stay warm. These precautions will prevent one taking cold from the foot-bath. Care of the feet is a great necessity not only for health, for equalizing the circulation, but for the prevention of unpleasant odors.
As to time of bathing, I suppose that the body is at its highest point of vital power at about ten o’clock in the morning, but this is, for most people, the most inconvenient time for a bath. The circumstances of the individual are to be consulted, and also the effect of bathing. There are those who are made nervous by taking a bath, consequently they will not be benefited by taking one just before going to bed. In other cases the bath conduces to slumber. This depends very largely upon the amount of blood in the brain. A person with an anæmic brain will not be benefited by the bath at bedtime, but the person whose brain is overcharged with blood will find the evening bath quieting.
I would not advise everybody to take a daily bath. There are those who are benefited by it; there are others who might be injured by it. It is best to study personal peculiarities and to watch the effect of the bath. If, within a few hours, or the next day, there is great exhaustion, one might naturally conclude that the bath was not altogether beneficial. There are those in such delicate health that a cold bath at any time does not seem desirable; but constant attention will secure perfect cleanliness, as the arms and chest can be bathed one day, the abdomen and back another, the lower extremities still another day, and so the whole body be compassed twice or more in the space of a week.
In regard to the use of soap for bathing purposes, the finest, purest soaps should be used, and these alone. It is generally supposed that pure, white castile soap is the best. Various soaps are widely advertised, while some that claim to be of the very best are not always up to the requisite standard. Yet one can tell by a little experience what soap is of pure quality, and such soap can be applied even to the face without injury.
In washing the face the hand is probably the best instrument, with the thumb under the chin, the fingers turned toward the upper part of the face. The manipulation should be against the direction of forming wrinkles, wherever there is a tendency for wrinkles to appear. They can be held in check by the judicious manipulation of the fingers in the opposite direction. Wrinkles are created by obliterating the capillary circulation of the skin. The manipulation increases the circulation, and so tends to overcome wrinkles. The expression of the face may form wrinkles. I saw a girl the other day on a street-car who continually held her eyebrows elevated, forming longitudinal lines across her forehead, which had become as fixed in her youthful face as if she had been seventy years of age. This was a lack of care in the governing of the expression of the face, and also a lack in keeping up the capillary circulation.
The care of the hands may be considered also while discussing the question of bathing. The hands should be kept clean, the finger-nails particularly cared for, as much of the beauty of the hands depends upon the delicate appearance of the finger-nails. The manicure sets, which are at the disposal of almost every young woman of the present day, are a very great addition to toilet appurtenances. The curved scissors, the polisher, the blunt ivory instrument for pushing back the fold of skin from the root of the nail, all of these used but a few moments in the day will conduce to great beauty in the hands, even for those who are doing housework.