The Skin – It’s Beauty, Uses, Construction And Management – The Vintage Woman.
Every person knows what the skin is, its external appearance, and its general properties; but there are many of my readers who may not be aware of its peculiar and wonderful construction, its compound character, and its manifold uses.
It not merely acts as an organ of sense, and a protection to the surface of the body, but it clothes it, as it were, in a garment of the most delicate texture and of the most surpassing loveliness.
In perfect health it is gifted with exquisite sensibility, and while it possesses the softness of velvet, and exhibits the delicate hues of the lily, the carnation, and the rose, it is nevertheless gifted with extraordinary strength and power of resisting external injury, and is not only capable of repairing, but of actually renewing itself.
Though unprotected with hair, wool or fur, or with feathers or scales, as with the brute creation, the human skin is furnished with innumerable nerves, which endow it with extreme susceptibility to all the various changes of climate and of weather, and prompt the mind to provide suitable materials, in the shape of clothing, to shield it under all the circumstances in which it can be placed.
The importance of the due exposure of the body to daylight or sunlight cannot be too strongly insisted on. Light and warmth are powerful agents in the economy of our being. The former especially is an operative agent on which health, vigor, and even beauty itself, depend.
Withdraw the light of the sun from the organic world, and all its various beings and objects would languish and gradually lose those charms which are now their characteristics. In its absence, the carnation tint leaves the cheek of beauty, the cherry hue of the lips changes to a leaden-purple, the eyes become glassy and expressionless, and the complexion assumes an unnatural, cadaverous appearance that speaks of sickness, night and death.
So powerful is daylight, so necessary to our well-being, that even its partial exclusion, or its insufficient admission to our apartments, soon tells its tale in the feeble health, the liability to the attacks of disease, and the pallid features (vacant and sunken, or flabby, pendent and uninviting) of their inmates.
Even the aspect of the rooms in which we pass most of our time, and the number and extent of their windows, is perceptible, by the trained eye, in the complexion and features of those that occupy them. So in the vegetable world—the bright and endlessly varied hues of flowers, and their sweet perfumes—even their very production—depend on sunlight. In obscure light plants grow lanky and become pale and feeble.
They seldom produce flowers, and uniformly fail to ripen their seeds. In even partial darkness the green hue of their foliage gradually pales and disappears, and new growths, when they appear, are blanched or colorless.
The best method of keeping the skin clean and healthy, by ablution and baths, may here be alluded to. The use of these, and the washing of the skin that forms part of the daily duties of the toilet, appear to be very simple matters, but writers on the subject differ in opinion as to the methods to be followed to render them perfect cleansers of the skin.
Some of them regard the use of soap and water applied in the form of lather with the hands, and afterwards thoroughly removed from the skin by copious affusions, rinsing or sluicing with water, or immersion in it, as the best method. This is probably the case when the skin is not materially dirty, or its pores or surface obstructed or loaded with the residual solid matter of the perspiration or its own unctuous exudation and exuviae.
To remove these completely and readily, something more than simple friction with the smooth hand is generally required. In such cases the use of a piece of flannel or serge, doubled and spread across the hand, or of a mitten of the same material, will be most ready and effective.
Friction with this—first with soap, and afterwards with water to wash the soap off—will be found to cleanse the skin more thoroughly and quickly than any other method, and, by removing the worn-out portion of its surface, to impart to it a healthy glow and hue that is most refreshing and agreeable.
This effect will be increased by wiping and rubbing the surface thoroughly dry with a coarse and moderately rough, but not a stiff, towel, instead of with the fine, smooth diapers which are now so commonly employed. At the bath, the flesh brush usually provided there will supersede the necessity of using the flannel.
The small black spots and marks frequently observed on the skin in hot weather, particularly on the face, generally arise from the accumulation of the indurated solid matter of the perspiration in its pores. When they assume the form of small pimples (acne punctata), and often when otherwise, they may be removed by strong pressure between the fingers, or between the nails of the opposite fingers, followed by the use of hot, soapy water.
The subsequent daily application of a weak solution of bichloride of mercury—as in the form commonly known as Gowland’s lotion—or of sulphate of zinc, will completely remove the swelling, and generally prevent their re-formation.
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Are too well known to need any lengthy description here. They are usually classified, by writers on the subject, into: animalcular eruptions, or those due to the presence of animalcula (minute acari) in the scarfskin, which occasion much irritation, and of which the itch furnishes a well-marked example; papular eruptions, or dry pimples; pustular eruptions, or mattery pimples, of which some forms are popularly known as crusted tetters; scaly eruptions, or dry tetters; and vesicular eruptions, or watery pimples.
The treatment of all of the above, except the first, in simple cases, where there is not much constitutional disarrangement, consists mainly in attention to the general principles of health, cleanliness, exercise, food, ventilation, and clothing. Occasional doses of mild saline aperients (Epsom salts, cream of tartar, or phosphate of soda, or of sulphur combined with cream of tartar) should be taken, and warm or tepid bathing, preferably in sea-water, or, if not convenient, rain water, frequently had recourse to.
Stimulants of all kinds should be avoided, and the red meats, ripe fruits, and the antiscorbutic vegetables should form a considerable portion of the diet. Lemonade, made by squeezing the juice of a lemon into a half-pint tumbler full of water, and sweetening with a little sugar, should be frequently and liberally taken as one of the best beverages in such cases.
To relieve the itching and irritation (except in the pustular, crusted, and vesicular varieties), brisk friction with a fleshbrush or a fleshglove may be employed. The parts should also be wetted with an appropriate lotion after each friction or bath, or the use of soap and water.
In all the scaly eruptions, iodide of potassium internally, and ioduretted or sulphuretted lotions or baths are invaluable. In many of them of a malignant or obstinate character, as Lepra Psoriasis, Lupus, etc., small doses of solution of arsenite of potassa (liquor arsenicalis; the dose, from 3 to 5 drops, gradually and cautiously increased to 7 to 9 drops, twice a day, after a meal) prove highly serviceable.
In the forms of psoriasis popularly called baker’s itch, grocer’s itch, and washer-woman’s itch, the application of ointment of nitrate of mercury, diluted with ten or twelve times its weight of lard, has been highly recommended. A course of sarsaparilla is also in most cases advantageous.
The small, hard, distinct pimples—“acne, or acne simplex” of medical writers—that occur on the forehead, and occasionally on the temples and chin, generally yield to stimulating lotions, consisting of equal parts of strong vinegar, or spirit, and water, or to weak lotions of sulphate of zinc, assisted by occasional doses of cooling laxatives, as the salines, or a mixture of sulphur or cream of tartar.
The round or oval-shaped yellowish or brownish-yellow spots, resembling stains, common on the face and the backs of the hands of persons with a fair and delicate skin who are much exposed to the direct rays of the sun in hot weather, are of little importance in themselves, and have nothing to do with the general health.
Ladies who desire to remove them may have recourse to the frequent application of dilute spirit, or lemon juice, or a lotion formed by adding acetic, hydrochloric, nitric, or sulphuric acid, or liquor of potassa, to water, until it is just strong enough to slightly prick the tongue. One part of good Jamaica rum to two parts of lemon juice or weak vinegar is a good form of lotion for the purpose. The effect of all these lotions is increased by the addition of a little glycerine.
The preceding are also occasionally called “common freckles,” “summer freckles,” and “sun freckles.” In some cases they are very persistent, and resist all attempts to remove them while the exposure that [produces them is continued. Their appearance may be prevented by the greater use of the veil, parasol or sunshade, or avoidance of exposure to the sun during the heat of the day.
Another variety, popularly known as cold freckles, occur at all seasons of the year, and usually depend on disordered health or some disturbance of the natural functions of the skin. Here the only external application that proves useful is the solution of bichloride of mercury and glycerine, or Gowland’s lotion.
“Psora” and “scabies,” of medical authors; the “gale” of the French,—already referred to, in its common forms is an eruption of minute vesicles, generally containing animalcula (acari), and of which the principal seats are between the fingers, bend of the wrist, etc.
It is, accompanied by intense itching of the parts affected, which is only aggravated by scratching. The usual treatment is with sulphur ointment (simple or compound) well rubbed in once or twice a day; a spoonful (more or less) of flowers of sulphur, mixed with treacle or milk, being taken at the same time, night and morning.
Where the external use of sulphur is objectionable, on account of its smell, a sulphuretten bath or lotion, or one of chloride of lime, may be used instead. In all cases extreme cleanliness, with the free use of soap and water, must be strictly adhered to.
The small, soft discolorations and excrescences of the skin, popularly called moles, may be removed by touching them every second or third day with strong acetic or nitric acid, or with lunar caustic. If covered with hair they should be shaved first.
Extreme paleness of the skin
When not symptomatic of any primary disease, generally arises from debility, or from the languid circulation of the blood at the surface of the body; often, also, from insufficient or improper food, want of outdoor exercise, and the like.
The main treatment is evident. Warm baths, friction, and stimulating lotions and cosmetics may be here employed, together with a course of some mild chalbeate (as the lactate, protophosphate, or ammonia-citrate of iron) and hypophosphate of soda.
Roughness and Coarseness of the skin
When not depending on any particular disease, may be removed or greatly lessened by daily friction with mild unguents or oil, or by moistening the parts, night and morning, with a weak solution of bichloride of mercury containing a little glycerine.
Rashes and redness of the skin
Of a common character, often arise from very trifling causes, among which indigestion, suppressed perspiration, irritation, and the like, are the most frequent. Nettle rash or urticaria, so called from the appearance and tingling sensations resembling those caused by the sting of nettles, in some people, is very apt to follow the use of indigestible and unwholesome food.
It is usually of short duration and recurrent. The treatment consists in the administration of mild saline aperients, and, in severe cases, of an emetic, particularly when the stomach is still loaded with indigestible matter. These should be followed by copious use of lemonade made from the fresh expressed juice.
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The patient should be lightly but warmly clothed during the attack, and exposure to the cold, or to draughts of cold air, should be carefully avoided. The further treatment may be similar to that noticed under “eruptions.” To prevent the recurrence of the attack, the objectionable articles of food, and any other known exciting causes, must be avoided.
Red rash, red blotch, or fiery spot, a common consequence of disordered health, a sudden fit of dyspepsia, and, in females, of tight lacing, and rose rash, false measles, or roseola, having commonly a similar origin to the preceding, for the most part require the same treatment.
Scurf —“furfur or furfura”
Is a formation depending on the natural and healthy exfoliation of the skin on every part of the body on which hair or down grows, but most extensive and observable on the scalp, on account of the abundance and darker color of the hair there. Scurfiness, or excessive scurfiness, is the result of morbid action, and may be treated by the frequent use of the fleshbrush or hairbrush, ablution with soap and water, and the use of mild stimulating, astringent, or detergent lotions.
Is a disease which, even in its incipient and early stages, when its presence is often unsuspected, is most injurious to the skin and complexion. It usually commences with unnatural sallowness, debility, and low spirits.
As it proceeds, the gums become sore, spongy, and apt to bleed on the slightest pressure or friction; the teeth loosen, and the breath acquires a fœtid odor; the legs swell, eruptions appear on different parts of the body, and at length the patient sinks under general emaciation, diarrhœa, and hemorrhages.
Its chief cause is improper food, or, rather, the absence or insufficient supply of fresh meat and vegetables in the diet; to which cold, humidity, want of exercise and fresh air may be added as secondary ones. Hence its frequent, fatal visitations formerly on shipboard, and its still occasional occurrence in ill-victualled ships during long voyages.
The treatment mainly consists in adopting a liberal diet of fresh animal food and green vegetables, with ripe food and an ample allowance of mild ale or beer, or lemonade made from the fresh expressed juice, as beverages. In serious cases, tonics, as quinine and steel, should also be administered.
Wrinkles and looseness of the skin
Depend chiefly on the attenuation of the cutis or true skin and the reduction in the bulk of the underlying surfacial portions of the body. They cannot be regarded as a disease of the skin; but are the result of long continued bad health, anxiety and study, and of general emaciation and old age.
Cleanliness, nutritious food, vigorous outdoor exercise, agreeable occupation of the mind, and an equable and happy temper, retard their formation. Whatever tends to promote the general health and to increase the bulk of the body, and particularly the disposition of fat in the cellular tissues, also tends to remove them and to increase the smoothness and beauty of the skin.
The free and frequent use of warm water and soap, followed by the daily use of mild, stimulating, cosmetic lotions or fomentations, or friction with warm oil of a like character, and cod-liver oil internally, is all that art can do for the purpose.
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In popular language, are those cases of soreness produced by chafing under the arms, behind the ears, and in the wrinkles and folds of the skin generally. They occur chiefly in infancy, and in stout persons with a delicate skin, who perspire excessively.
Extreme cleanliness, and carefully wiping the parts dry after washing, with the subsequent use of a little violet powder, or finely powdered starch, or French chalk scraped or grated very fine, dusted over the parts once or twice a day, will generally remove them and prevent their recurrence.
Excerpt From The Ladies Book Of Useful Information.
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