Friday, 11 November 2016

9 April 1881 - 'The Toilet-Table and What Should Lie Thereon' by Medicus

Make sure you read right to the end for another toothpaste "recipe". :/

With the toilet-table, as a table, it is not my province to speak, nor to tell you how it should be draped or bedecked; but neatness, tidiness, and perfect cleanliness should reign supreme in a young girl's dressing-room, however splendid and beautiful the fittings thereof may be, or however humble and poor.

Now, under the title I have chosen for this paper, I mean to give you many little hints, and not a few harmless recipes; and if you attend to the former, and make use of the latter, I have no hesitation in saying that improvement in your personal appearance will be the result. Beauty is your birthright, you ought to try to look as well as you can, both for your own personal comfort and  for the sake of those around you. By taking pains to improve your looks by natural and simple means while young, you will retain your beauty even when, with the ever-recurring years, youth is slipping slowly away. But nothing in after years can atone for, what I may call, the want of attention to the simple rules of personal hygiene in your younger days. Does, then, attention to these rules lie in the proper use of the adjuncts of toilet-table, and dressing-room? Not quite. These are mere accessories, indispensable I willingly admit, but accessories nevertheless; and even their constant use has no more effect without something else, which I shall presently name, in retaining true beauty than an occasional coat of paint to a rotten boat has in keeping it seaworthy. The something else is health - perfect health. And even granting that you have the strongest of constitutions, and the highest of animal spirits, if you do not cultivate habits of temperance wand moderation in all your actions and thoughts, take my word for it, you are but frittering those precious possessions away.

"Oh!" I think I hear some of my young readers exclaim, "this isn't a medical paper, this is a sermon 'Medicus' is going to preach."

If "Medicus" does preach, depend upon it he will preach common sense, but not one inch will he budge towards the toilet-table, until he has had his say. "As soon," remarks a great authority, "as we begin to live we begin to die." This is true; and even in youth our bodies are but the strongholds behind which we live, and the stouter the ramparts the more likely are they to ward off the shafts of disease and death. But these very ramparts themselves have a tendency to crumble away, and we must study to strengthen them; we must look upon them as our foes likely at any time to fall and crush us; in other words, we must conquer self, we must study abnegation in everything, for abnegation leads to temperance, indeed, it is the root and soul thereof, temperance leads to health, and health is the foundation of true personal beauty. Be temperate, therefore, in eating, and temperance in this respect will become a habit, although it may cost you much abnegation to acquire it. But look up, never look down, for in this world, though we may sow in tears, we reap rejoicing in the life which is to come.

Be temperate in your hours of pleasure and sleep. Over indulgence in either produces wrinkles and sallowness of complexion. This is easily accounted for in this way, and I will put it as simply as I can. When the heart is overtired from long hours of wakefulness, or languid and weak from over indulgence in sleep, it is unable to receive the blood back sufficiently quick, the tender tissues around the eyes get puffy and swollen, the skin is thus stretched, and when the puffiness goes away it is inclined to lie in folds or wrinkles. The skin, of course, is very resilient and elastic and will regain its former appearance again and again for a time, but a constant drop will wear a stone away, and at last its elasticity is lost and wrinkles are the result. Be temperate in talking and self-abnegating in argument, you will thus preserve your good temper.

Having heard me patiently, I will now advance to the toilet-table, the largest and most conspicuous object on which is the mirror. However big this may be, or however small, let it be a true glass. A few shillings spent on a good mirror is money well laid out A proper looking-glass certainly will not flatter you, but, on the contrary, it will point out to you in a friendly way all your defects, and if there be means of remedying them it will give you light to do so; but a bad glass is your worst friend, because it not only hides your faults, but gives an imperfect and very far from flattering reflection of your face and figure, and this would be no comfort to you if you were going out anywhere to spend the evening. The looking-glass should be kept perfectly clear and bright; it should be well polished once a week at least, but this must be carefully done. Thus: dust the mirror first with a soft brush to prevent scratching, then take a damp sponge and sprinkling a little eau de Cologne on it, rub the surface gently over; then dust over with good whiting, and while it is still damp polish with a silk handkerchief. The sponge itself should be perfectly clean, and sponges, whether used  for the bath or simply for face ablution, should be invariably soft and clean and pure. When bought new, before you use them, shake out the dust, and then steep them for some hours in soft water several times renewed. Soap spoils sponges. If soap must be used with a sponge, rinse the latter in warm water before you put it away. Press or squeeze a sponge - do not wring it - and if it gets slimy, which it never ought to, soak it in water and soda for some hours. The bath sponge should be a very large one, if you mean to benefit by the use of the bath. The bath itself should be kept spotlessly clean; when spots of rust begin to appear in it, it is time it was repainted, else it will not wear. Iron rust is rather good in the water than otherwise; indeed, I have known much good come from a course of iron baths. The iron bath is a simple tonic one, and should be used every morning for a fortnight or three weeks at a time. It is composed of water one bucketful, sulphate of iron a quarter of an ounce, placed in the bath over night. While taking a course of such baths, a tepid bath with soap should be used twice a week - to thoroughly cleanse the skin - the last thing before going to be. For young pale girls with weak nerves and languid circulations the iron bath is likely to be of great use, especially if steel drops - ten in a little water thrice daily after food - are taken at the same time.

Meanwhile, I am turning my back on the toilet-table, so I must face found again. Here are a couple of hair-brushes. How beautifully white and clean you keep them! This delights my eye. Of course you wash the occasionally, by dipping them in cold water in which soda has been dissolved - not soap - with gentle friction on the palm of the hand, holding them in such a position that the backs do not get wetted, and afterwards standing them in the wind, but not in the sun, to dry.

Do you ever use the metallic brushes? They are so cooling to the temples on a warm summer's day, but must be kept dry, else they are apt to rust. I sometimes think they stimulate the growth of the hair by their pleasant, cool friction.  When you wash your hair do not use soap, unless the very mildest transparent kind, the same as you use for hands and face; but yolk of egg is better, well rinsed out with lukewarm water, then with cold soft or rain water, and, when partially dried by means of soft towels, combed and brushed.

Rain water is a great beautifier of the complexion. Collect it, and keep it in jars, after having it run through a filter. This is a hint worth much fine gold, so lay it to heart and you will look well.

Now, I am not your hairdresser, but I know you want me to tell you of something to increase the strength and beauty of the hair. I am good natured, and can't refused. Here is a good application, a little of which may be rubbed into the roots of the hair, after moderate friction with the brushes every morning: - Tincture of cantharides, a quarter of an ounce; eau de Cologne, one ounce; bay rum, one ounce; rose water, two ounces. You can make your own bay rum simply enough: get two ounces of fresh bay leaves and steep them for six days in six ounces of best rum. These are valuable receipts, but they must not be used more than once a day, nor longer than a fortnight at a time, and if they produce the slightest irritation or heat of the skin they must be omitted for a time.

Here is a good and very safe pomade for thinness of the hair; Pure lard four ounces, pure white wax half an ounce, melt, then remove from heat, and add half an ounce of balsam of tolu and twenty drops of oil of rosemary. Equal parts of bay rum, eau de Cologne and castor-oil form a good hair cosmetic.

The most innocent of white powders for face or skin are composed either of oxide of zinc, magnesia starch, or levigated starch. Be on your guard against such as are sold under fancy names. Be on your guard, too, against the dangerous compounds that are advertised by taking titles. Here is a recipe for the best bloom for lips or cheeks: - Early rising, morning tubbing, and plenty of out-door exercise. Soap is a necessity of life, but pray get it pure, non-alkaline, and transparent, and not the dangerously dyed masses of unhealthy curd you see so often exposed for sale.

Toilet vinegar should always find a place on the table. A little in the basin of water you lave your face with is delightfully refreshing.

Does your face often flush - I do not mean simple blushing? If it does you cannot be over strong, you need tonics and more fresh air. No applications will do good, but continuous flushing of the face under the least excitement is very apt to spoil the very best complexion.

Cold cream is one of the most harmless of applications to tender lips or skin.

Here is a lotion for freckles. It is a drachm of the muriate of ammonia dissolved in a pint of soft water, and a dessert-spoonful of eau de Cologne added; apply twice a day. The following is a good wash for sunburning: - fifteen grains of borax, an ounce of limejuice, and a dessert-spoonful of eau de Cologne. Buttermilk applied before going to bed, especially if a little sour, is very cooling after a hot day. Milk or roses (the best) is also a good face application; and here is a very simple one. Dissolve a quarter of an ounce of borax in a pint of elder-flower water, and add an ounce of eau de Cologne. By the way many harmless and delightful preparations can be prepared from flowers, as well as many good but simple perfumes, and if my girl-readers care for it, I feel sure the editor will grant me space for a nice summer article on this subject.

I think, in a former paper, I mentioned tooth-powders. Charcoal is unsightly but very effective, and it can be made more so by rubbing up with an ounce of it as much quinine as will lie on a sixpenny-piece; a few drops of otto of roses may be added. Or, make a tooth-powder thus (if you can find a pestle and mortar): Equal parts of burnt crust of bread, white sugar, and Peruvian bark, and a drop or two of otto of roses. If you prefer a paste, add a little honey. Use a soft and a hard tooth-brush, and never omit brushing the teeth inside and out after meals as well as in the morning.

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