Friday, 18 March 2016

20 March 1880 - 'How Can I Look My Best?' by Medicus

I'm not convinced the final paragraph isn't trolling, Medicus. 

To look her best is the desire of every young girl, but I will even go a little farther and say that not only is it her desire, but it is also her duty,  for the sake of those around her. TO enable her to do this in a natural way, I am going to place at the disposal of the young reader of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER, some of the fruits of experience, and give advice which, if followed, can only result in good. In some future papers I hope to have something to say about the hair, as well as the hands and the feet. In this I will confine myself as much as possible, to a friendly chat about the face and the complexion. And first and foremost, it will do no harm if I introduce here just a tiny wee morsel of physiology. I know there is a disagreeable schoolroom sound about the word "physiology" and so there is about all "ologies" and "graphies" too  for the matter of that; but the lesson I want you to learn is a very short and an exceedingly useful one. It is just a word or two about the skin. Nature formed the skin not merely for a protective covering  for the face and body - though, to be sure, that is one of its uses - for it has a great many others besides, and, taking it all in all, it is one of the most important organs of the body. There are millions and millions of what are called pores spread over its surface, and from these are constantly passing off in a manner insensible to us what, if retained in the blood, would tend to make us sick and ill and shorten our lives on earth. If the skin be not kept in a state of purity and activity we cannot enjoy either health or happiness.

The skin of the face being more exposed to sun and rain, as well as to dust and smoke, is more liable to suffer than that even of the hands, and consequently requires far greater care and attention. The signs of health, as depicted in the face of a young girl, are many. The skin should be pure, soft and transparent - what is generally called a clear complexion. It ought to be white on brow and nose and chin, and smooth around the eyes, while the blood should mantle in the cheeks in the tenderest of rosy tints -at times rivalling in beauty the delicate hues of some lovely sea-shells. The eyes ought to be rather full, and tender and bright, the white portion showing no tendency to be either yellow or red; the eyelashes should be soft and long, and the teeth of absolute whiteness. But ah! I am sorry to say that it is too much the fashion of the day to attempt to gain the healthy complexion I am trying to describe, in quite a wrong way. Too much artificiality is had recourse to. I do not mean in the matter of powders or rouge - very young girls do not require such aids to beauty, but in the use of many advertised lotions and nostrums, most of which had better be done without, and many of which are positively hurtful. It cannot be too generally known that although application to the face are oftentimes necessary, beauty and clearness of complexion cannot be maintained by their use alone.

Now roughness of the skin and a sallow, pale, or pasty appearance are, in nine cases out of ten, the results of impurity of blood, and, again, in five cases at least out of ten, this impurity of blood is caused by errors in diet. Few girls, indeed, have the slightest notion of how intimate is the connection between personal appearance and a good digestion. The errors in diet I refer to are more particularly intemperance in eating, eating between meals, eating too freely of fruits, pastry and sweets - things that are only good in moderation - eating hurriedly, and, I may add, taking wine or malt liquors, neither of which young girls ought to touch, unless commanded to do so by their family physicians.

Eating injudiciously acts injuriously upon the complexion in more ways than one; it may heat the blood to an almost feverish extent, causing flushing of the face, and that in itself may mean very serious injury to the skin, through the distention of the small blood-vessels therein, and consequent weakening of its nerves. Again, the stomach becomes deranged through the same causes, not probably to say very great extent, a feeling of languor being more often present than actual pain or uneasiness, but just sufficiently so to have an action for evil on the liver.

Now the function of this latter organ being to eliminate or release bile from the blood, and bile, if circulating in the veins, being a poison, it can at once be seen that little attacks of indigestion, especially if of frequent occurrence, can be highly inimical to the complexion. If you wish then to retain your youth and beauty, be most careful how you eat and drink, for there is nothing that will age one sooner than errors in diet.

Plenty of healthful exercise in the open air tends greatly to purify the blood and render the complexion delightfully clear; it also keeps the pores of the skin open, and prevents the formation of those nasty little black ticks that are so disfiguring to the face of a young girl. Remember that these can always be more easily prevented than cured, and that when they are numerous, although they may be squeezed out, they actually leave small pits behind them and a disagreeably roughened appearance of the skin. I shall have to speak more particularly about exercise another day, but here just let me give a hint or two. The time for taking it is before and not after meals; it should be moderate to be beneficial - that is, it should not be carried to the verge of fatigue. At the same time I advocate for young girls a little running and leaping, and even occasional gymnastics, for all these tend to spread a healthful bloom on the cheeks and render the skin soft and pliant. But pray remember this, no exercise of the nature of a task, no exercise that you do not thoroughly enjoy, no exercise that does not make the time fly as if it had the wings of a swallow, can do much real good.

Observe, too, that I said the exercise should be taken in the open air. Oh! If my young readers only knew the healthful beautifying effect of pure fresh air, they would hardly ever be within doors unless by compulsion. Every hour spent in the open air goes so far to keep a girl young and lovely and every hour spent in a dull, stuffy room goes to age her and render her complexion sallow. Badly ventilated bed-rooms are terrible enemies to good looks, and they are all the more so in that one is really more apt to sleep longer in them. The air being dull and heavy causes drowsiness, but the sleep is not of a sweetly refreshing kind, and you do not wake from it happy and gay and light-hearted as you ought to - as the birds do, ready to burst into song the moment they open their eyes. In the summer months the windows ought to be open all night. If you try the effects of this for one night only you will be astonished, and not like to have them closed again. Of course you must take care of catching cold, for no one should sleep in a draught. A young girl should have eight hours' sound sleep, but not more. If she has more it is not really proper sleep, and I'll tell you what often occurs. She awakes in the morning slightly puffy about the eyes and eye-lids; this may not hurt for once in a way, it may not hurt for fifty times, but who is me! I know it ends in early wrinkles and crow's-feet, and a consequent banishing of youth and beauty long before its time.

I must now say a word about water and ablution. A well-known living authority makes the following wise remark. "Water," he says, "the medium of ablution, hardly receives a just appreciation at our hands. It is the most grateful, the most necessary, and the most universal of the gifts of a wise Creator."

Now, if you would live long and still retain your youth, if you would look your best, and have both health and beauty in abundance, I pray you look upon pure water as not only a faithful servant, but a kind friend. Happy is the girl, I say, who can take and enjoy a bath in pure cold, soft water every day of her life. She ought to be as plump and pretty as a partridge, and as fresh and "caller" as a little trout. Well, but if you are not strong enough to have a bath every morning, an occasional tepid bath in the evening, with plenty of mild soap, will do a great deal of good to the whole system, and the face and hands ought to be washed and sponged several times in the day. And here is something that ought not to be forgotten - never, if you can help it, wash in hard water, for water that curdles the soap will, so to speak, curdle the complexion. Procure rain or the softest of river water  for the hands and face, even if you have to send for it in bottles. I can assure you that many a fair face is ruined, so far as beauty goes, by the use of hard water.

And talking of the benefits of ablution, I shall do good service if I call attention to two mistakes that are commonly made. One is the use of bad soap; that is, soap which contains too much alkali. Avoid coloured and over-scented soaps. Another mistake is the use of too rough a towel, and this rough towel, I am sorry to say, is often recommended by people who know no better. A moderate degree of friction is all very well, but, dear me, you do not need to rub your pretty skin off. I repeat, then, rain or river water, neither warm nor too cold, good soap, and gentle friction; so shall you avoid a roughened or irritable skin and chaps on lips or fingers.

I must now touch on a delicate subject - medical men must at times, and this is nothing very dreadful after all; but young girls, on looking into the glass, are sometimes startled by seeing a slight wavy down on the corners of the upper lip. Let it alone - think nothing of it. In ninety cases out of a hundred it decreases with mature years, but interference is in all cases dangerous and injurious.

I have now shown you that sallowness or pastiness of complexion is caused by impurity of blood, and can only be removed by proper diet, exercise, pure air, proper ablution, and healthful sleep. These will remove it, but, mark me, no application to the face will or can. Medicines, however, often do good, but as I do not believe in young ladies taking much to drugs, I shall only mention one or two that greatly help to beautify and clear the complexion. If, then, the appetite is not what it ought to be, from half to a whole teaspoonful of quinine wine should be taken three times a day. If there be weakness and paleness of the face and gums, nothing is simpler, better, or more elegant than the common citrate of iron and quinine mixture, which any chemist can compound you, and tell you the dose according to your age. If the flesh is not so firm and plump as it ought to be, I commend to you the use of cod-liver oil. Yes, I admit it is nasty at first, but one in this world must oftentimes bear present pain for future profit. An occasional chamomile pill is most innocent medicine, yet it helps to keep both stomach and liver right, and it clears the eyes and complexion.

Pimples on the face and brow are not, as a rule, to be cured by applications, but by attention to the laws of health, to regularity of diet, exercise and ablution; but here is a small lotion which may be of use, and which may be compounded by any chemist. It is two ounces of the best eau-de-cologne, with about a grain of corrosive sublimate dissolved in it. It will be labelled POISON. The tender parts of the face are simply wetted with it three or four times a day. A far better and not dangerous preparation for redness, sun-browning, or tenderness of any kind about the face, is rose glycerine. NO toilet table should be without this little elegancy.

In summer, young girls who wish to look their best should always after washing bathe the face with a soft sponge and soft water without a particle of soap. Sun-burning may be removed by a weak decoction of goulard water, or by applying buttermilk to the face before going to bed. This last application, I admit, is not very elegant, but it is very useful.

But probably the most harmless of all cosmetics, and certainly the best, is wetting the face with May-dew - I'm not joking, gentle reader - and if you have to get up quite early in the morning to go and look for it, and have to walk a mile or two before you find any, all the better.

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