False hair has likewise sometimes been the means of introducing parasites, which give rise to obstinate affections of the scalp.
Cleanliness of the entire surface of the skin should next demand attention, and that should be done by using water as the medium of ablution. It is a well-known physiological law that it is necessary, in order to enable the skin to carry on its healthful action, to have washed off with water the constant cast of scales which become mingled with the unctuous and saline products, together with particles of dirt which coat over the pores, and thus interfere with the development of the hairs. Water for ablution can be of any temperature that may be acceptable and agreeable, according to the custom and condition of the bather's health. Many chemical substances can be combined with water to cleanse these effete productions from the skin. Soap is the most efficacious of all for cleanliness, health, and the avoidance of disease. Soap combines better with water to render these unctuous products miscible, and readily removes them thoroughly from the skin. The best variety of soap to use is the pure white soap, which cannot be so easily adulterated by coloring material, or disguised by some perfume or medicinal substance.
Ablution with soap and water should be performed once or twice a week at least, particularly to the head and beard, in order to keep open the hair tubes so that they may take in oxygen, give out carbon, carry on their nutrition, and maintain the hairs in a fine, polished, and healthy condition. In using water to the scalp and beard, care should be taken not to use soap-water too frequently, as it often causes irritation of the glands, and leads to the formation of scurf. It is equally important to avoid using on the head, the daily shower-bath, which, by its sudden, rapid, and heavy fall, excites local irritation, and, as a result, loss of hair quickly follows. In case the health demands the shower-bath, the hair should be protected by a bathing cap. The most acceptable time to wash the hair, to those not accustomed to doing it with their morning bath, is just before retiring, in order to avoid going into the open air or getting into a draught and taking cold. After washing, the hair should be briskly rubbed with rough towels, the Turkish towel heated being particularly serviceable.
Those who are delicate or sick, and fear taking cold or being chilled from the wet or damp hairs, should rub into the scalp a little bay rum, alcohol, or oil, a short time after the parts have been well chafed with towels. The oil is particularly serviceable at this period, as it is better absorbed, and at the same time overcomes any dryness of the skin which often follows washing.
It might be well to add in this connection that I have frequently been consulted, by those taking salt-water baths, as to the care of the hair during and after the bath. If the bather is in good health, and the hair is normal, the bather can go into the surf and remain at least fifteen minutes, and on coming out should rub the hair thoroughly dry with towels.
Ladies should permit it remain loose while doing so, after which it can be advantageously dressed.
It is, however, often injurious to both men and women having some wasting of the hair to go into the surf without properly protecting the head; the sea water has not, as is often thought, a tonic action on the scalp; on the contrary, it often excites irritation and general thinning. Again, it is most decidedly injurious to the hair for persons to remain in the surf one or two hours, the hair wet, and the head unprotected from the rays of the sun. This latter class of bathers, and those who hurriedly dress the hair wet, which soon becomes mouldy and emits a disagreeable odor, are frequent sufferers from general loss and thinning of the hair.
An agreeable and efficient adjunct after ablution, which I have already referred to, is oil. Oil has not only a cleansing action upon the scalp, but it also overcomes any rough or uneven state of the hair, and gives it a soft and glossy appearance.
The oil of ergot is particularly serviceable in fulfilling these indications, and, at the same time, by its soothing and slight astringent action upon the glands, will arrest the formation of scurf. In using oil, the animal and vegetable oils should always be preferred, as mineral oils, especially the petroleum products, have a very poor affinity for animal tissues.
Pomatum is largely used by many in place of oil, as it remains on the surface and gives a full appearance to the hairs, thus hiding, sometimes, the thinness of the hair.
It will do no harm or no special good if it contains pure grease, wax, harmless perfume, and coloring matter, but it is often highly adulterated, or, the fat in it decomposing, sets up irritation on the part to which it is applied. I therefore always advise against its use.
The comb and brush are also agents of the toilet by which the hair is kept clean, vigorous, and healthy. The comb should be of flexible gum, with large, broad, blunt, round, and coarse teeth, having plenty of elasticity. It should be used to remove from the hairs any scurf or dirt that may have become entangled in them, to separate the hairs and prevent them from becoming matted and twisted together.
The fine-tooth comb, made with the teeth much closer together, can be used in place of the regular toilet comb just named when the hair is filled with very fine particles of scurf, dirt, or when parasites and their eggs infest the hairs. It should, however, always be borne in mind that combs are only for the hair, and not for the scalp or the skin, which is too often torn and dug up by carelessly and roughly pulling these valuable and important articles of toilet through the skin as well as the hair.
The brush with moderately stiff whalebone bristles may be passed gently over the hair several times during the day, to brush out the dust and the dandruff, and to keep the hair smooth, soft, and clean; rough and hard brushing the hair with brushes having very stiff bristles in them, especially the metal or wire bristles, is of no service, but often irritates the parts and causes the hair to fall out. [Dr. Shoemaker then denounced the use of the so-called electric brush, saying its use was injurious, as also was the effort to remove dandruff by the aid of the comb and brush. Continuing, he remarked:] And now the question arises, Should the hair be periodically cut? It may be that cutting and shaving may for the time increase the action of the growth, but it has no permanent effect either upon the hair-bulb or the hair sac, and will not in any way add to the life of the hair.