Friday, 8 April 2016

24 April 1880 - "Health and Beauty for the Hair" - by Medicus

"The bridegroom, with his locks of light,
Came, in the flush of love and pride,
And scaled the terrace of his bride;
When, as she saw him rashly spring,
And midway up in danger cling,
She flung him down her long, black hair
Exclaiming, breathless, 'There, love, there!'"

Pride, in the incident to which these verses refer, had nearly had a fall, and probably a very ugly one too. The bridegroom, with his locks of light - by which, I suppose, the poet means bonnie yellow hair - was far too impatient to join his bride, on the balcony, else he might have rung the bell, and waited until Mary Ann opened the hall door, and then have gone quietly up stairs in the usual non-poetic fashion. But, no! Heart was light and limbs were young; he scorned the hall door and humble Mary Ann; he would spring. And he did, and had to thank his bride that she possessed presence of mind and hair probably two yards long. "Two yards long!" you exclaim; "is it possible?" "Quite," your "Medicus" replies. Your "Medicus" has travelled a good deal in Eastern countries, and has more than once met with young ladies whose hair was, indeed, a glory to them, and when let down would almost cover them. But then, that was in Eastern countries, and there, I believe, young ladies know more of the art of keeping the hair bright and beautiful, and making it grow long and glossy and soft, than almost any one in this country does.

And now, having travelled so far, and having lived long in the land of the rising sun, perhaps you may imagine that I have possessed myself of some wonderful secret regarding the human hair, and that I have obtained, by hook or by crook, some infallible specific for making it very lovely, and am forthwith to tell you how this recipe is made and all about it, so that henceforth the gentle readers of the GIRL'S OWN may be the envy of the readers of any other magazine in the world. I am going to do nothing of the kind, but something much more sensible and serviceable to you, and the advice I give you, if faithfully followed, will most assuredly increase both the health and beauty of your hair.

Well, then, I want you first and foremost to disabuse your mind once and for ever, of the foolish notion that the hair can be permanently improved by the use, alone, of any outward application whatever. No; the hair cannot, I say, be permanently improved by external means only. Let me tell you the reason why. You have, no doubt, often seen a barber's block with a wig on it. The hair on the wig, perhaps, did not look particularly beautiful, but the barber could easily make it so. He would gently comb and brush it with a clean dry brush, then he would sprinkle on his brush some wonderful oil or gloss-giving preparation of glycerine, and brush again; and lo! It would glitter and shine like a thing of lie; and if the barber then put this block with the wig on it under a glass case, that dead hair would retain its beauty for any length of time. On the other hand, supposing you were to apply the same process to your own hair; suppose you comb it ever so gently, brush it ever so softly and tenderly, and oil it as well, with the most precious cosmetic that money could procure, do you think it would retain its beauty long? Nay, reader, nay; not although (pardon me) you sat all day long with your pretty head in a glass case to keep out the dust, and away the draughts. And the reason why is not far to seek; the hair on the wig is dead hair - it is affected by no change from within; but the hair of the human head is living, growing, ever-changing tissue. It is supplied with nutriment from the skin in which it grows; it is supplied even with its gloss and beauty from within the body.

Just cast your eyes for one moment on the diagram below; it will give you some notion of the delicate anatomy of a human hair, and easily explain to you its structure. Here you have an enlarged view of a single hair growing in the skin, and being supplied therefrom with all its needs to keep it not only healthy but lovely. a a represents the surface of the skin, b the hair itself, which is in reality a hollow tube, and grows in a flask-shaped depression in the skin, the mouth of which is seen at c. The depression is in reality somewhat the shape of a Florence flask. Indeed, if you took a flask of this kind and placed a long rush in it, it would give you a capital notion of a hair growing from its bed in the skin. At d in the diagram you will observe that the bottom of the depression in question is raised upwards and inwards just like that of a wine bottle, and it is to this raised part that the root of the hair is attached, and it is from this raised part that the hair receives its nutriment by means of two blood vessels seen at e and f. Now you will perceive that the hair is quite free to move and wave about in a manner, in the sac from which it grows, just as free as your rush in the Florence flask; it is only attached to the bottom. Well, you will notice at g g two little rounded bodies. They are little glands, and two or more of these lie alongside every hair in your head, and they are really little oil flasks, they secrete a lubricating oil more pure and fine than any perfumer in the world could prepare; this oil, then, is carried from the little flasks by two tubes, h h, and is poured into the sac from which the hair grows, and thus finds its way not only on to the skin, to keep that soft and pliant, but along the hair to its very point - so fine is it - to give to each hair a natural gloss. This natural gloss is part of the glory of a young girl's hair; it is most beautifully seen in those whose hair has been cultivated by natural and not by artificial means. It is a sunny radiance that no art can imitate. My little favourite Matty had it in perfection.

And now, I think, I have proved to you by the aid of my little diagram that each hair on your head is a living, growing thing, just as much as yonder standard rose-tree on the lawn. If you wanted the tree to grow lovely, to have fresh leaves of softest green, and roses on it, that would make you feel a joy even to behold, it is not to the outside of the bush you would direct most attention, is it? You might freshen it up now and then, and water away the dust, but if you were anything of a gardener it would be the kind and quality of the soil about it that would most concern you. And so it is with our heads; if we would have our hair grow thick and soft, and glossy, it is to the roots we must direct our attention.

I'll tell you what I saw a lady doing one time. She had in her study a large and beautiful evergreen, and she was watering it with water in which a little glycerine had been dissolved. "It makes the leaves retain so sweet a gloss, doctor," she said, "you cannot think." But I did think and speak too, and when I explained to her that the pretty plant breathed with the pores in its broad green leaves, which she was varnishing over and choking, she saw her error at once. In the same way I am dead against plastering the hair or skin of the head with the thousand and one nostrums that are sold in the shops. They really do more harm than good - indeed, the good is nil, the harm much.

Now, the great secret of getting anything to grow well and luxuriantly, whether it be a plant or a hair in one's head, is to supply it with proper and sufficient nutriment. The little oil-flasks or gland, g g and the small eminence d, on which the hair itself grows, are all supplied with blood-vessels, little branches of those that are spread out in the skin. If the blood thus supplied be pure and healthy, and be in abundance, can you not see that the hair itself must grow, and be sheeny and glossy? But if, from some cause or other, the supply of blood is limited or impure, it is surely plain that the hair itself must suffer both in quality and in appearance. If ever you had a pet dog who was sick, you could scarcely help noticing how different his coat looked, how it stared, and how dry it appeared. The reason was that the blood being, through illness, driven away from the surface of the skin, the hairs were no longer supplied either with nutriment or the natural oil. There are many different kinds of oils, and other applications for making the hair grow, and they all act in the same way; they contain stimulating liquids, which bring the blood to the surface, and thus supply the roots of the hair with extra blood on which to live and grow. and the hairs do for a time, and alas! Only for a time. The tiny glandlets, g g, get bunnaturally large, their outlets are choked by the greasy mess, the hair itself gets in time diseased, and premature greyness or baldness is the unhappy result. You see, I grant that stimulation makes the hair grow, but this stimulation must be natural, not artificial.

The blood cannot be too pure if you would have beautiful hair. Hence anything that heats it must be carefully avoided. You cannot be too careful in what you eat and drink. Wines, too, and piquant sauces or dishes should be especially avoided; but in summer and autumn ripe fruits may be freely partaken of. If you want to have a good head of hair you ought to cultivate a calm and unruffled frame of mind. Nervous, fidgety folks seldom have nice hair. One young lady I can easily call to mind had the finest and longest hair ever I saw. She was also the sweetest-tempered and most amiable girl I ever knew.

Exercise greatly promotes the health and beauty of the hair. So does the bath. This latter should be taken every morning and as cold as can be borne. EXERCISE AND THE BATH. (Printer, put it in large type.)

The comb and brush come under the category of natural stimulants to the hair; both should be used several times a day. There is no need always to use a hard brush. But every morning the hard brush is to e used for at least five minutes to the skin of the head as much, if not more, than the hair itself. The soft brush I recommend is the metallic one; I think they are half-a-crown. If used after coming in from a walk or a run they will be found deliciously cooling and soothing.

To ensure perfect cleanliness, the hair should be washed once a fortnight. Do not use soap; the yolks of two new-laid eggs must be used instead. The water should be rainwater filtered - lukewarm to wash with, cold to rinse out. Afterwards, dry well and brush.

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