But the truth is that you cannot have beauty without health, so the foundation of good looks must be laid in the nursery, and although no mother can endow her daughter with large, dark eyes, or a Grecian nose, most of the other attributes to beauty can be developed by judicious care in youth.
All healthy babies are born with good complexions, with the potentialities of a good head of hair, an erect, well-set-up figure, good teeth, a graceful carriage, pretty manners, and a sweet expression.
These seven items will make any woman pass for pretty, even if her eyes are small and her features irregular. It rests with her mother, therefore, to see that the small, pink, podgy infant develops into the charming woman, whose appearance is a pleasure to everyone she meets. No doubt there are a few exceptional beings whose vitality is such that they grow up beautiful against all odds, who can scrub their faces with strong soap and hard water immediately after meals, and yet retain a complexion to advanced old age. But such happy mortals are rare, and the average girl baby grows up "ordinary looking" merely from neglect in the nursery.
I speak of girls, because it is so important for a girl to be outwardly pleasing; her looks are the pretty binding which attract people to glance inside the book, and see the real sterling merit of the work. But it is really quite as important nowadays for men to be well set up, well groomed, and youthful-looking, and however much little boys may rebel in the nursery, they will be thankful to their mothers in later life for having trained them in the habits which will help to improve their appearance.
Take, to begin with, baby's complexion,
No face powder, not even the ten-shillings-a-box variety, can reproduce the exquisite bloom of a clear, fine-grained, velvety, white skin such as any ordinary baby possesses. It is really worth while taking a little pains to preserve it - at any rate in girl babies.
The four great enemies of the skin are hard water, bad soap, indigestion, and exposure.
The first of these, hard water, is responsible for the great majority of rough and coarsened skins. If a complexion census were taken of Great Britain, it would be seen that, on the average, women in places where the water is soft - Essex, parts of Ireland and of Devonshire - have far better skins than women in places like London, Hereford, and the South Coast, where the water is hard. This is partly because soft water is much more cleansing, and dirt ruins the skin; and partly because hard water contains microscopic particles which literally scratch the delicate surface.
Some skins resist its action better than others, no doubt, but all suffer in time, and the increased use of powder within the last few years may be traced to the introduction of "company's" water, which is mostly hard, in place of the rain-butts and well-water which our grandmothers used.
In the country, rainwater can generally be arranged for; in towns, it is apt to be too dirty to use; but distilled water is equally good, and may be had from any stores or chemist's at 4 1/2d. or 6d. a gallon, with a small deposit on the jar. A gallon will last one person a week or more, and it should always be used cold.
Nurse and child should be taught that the face must never be washed in the bathwater. Morning and evening washing of the face is quite sufficient unless some journey or other cause of extra dirt has arisen. The habit many people have of scrubbing their children's complexions a dozen times a day is perfectly deplorable; it upsets the natural action of the skin and widens the pores till they seem to attract and hold the dirt, instead of letting it lie on the surface, as it does with a fine-grained skin. If the skin "feels grimy" without due cause, it shows it is in bad condition and needs medical treatment, not perpetual washing.
How to Wash and Dry the Face
Sponges and flannel should never be allowed to touch the face; water should be dabbed on with cotton-wool, or squares of butter-muslin, and these should be constantly renewed. The water should then be thoroughly wiped (not scrubbed) off with a soft linen diaper towel kept for the face alone. But as soon as possible the child should be taught to splash and dab the water on her own face with her own hand, which is the method recommended by all the best French beauty doctors.
From the first the face should be dried in the right way - the forehead up; the eyes across (from nose outwards); the nose down, and the cheeks from the jaw upwards; the neck from the jaw-bone downwards.
If soft water is used to wash the face, soap will seldom be needed. A cake of the very best, pure unscented soap may be kept in the nursery for extra grimy faces, but, as a rule, a little cold-cream applied with the finger and wiped off with a clean, soft rag is more satisfactory.
Some people praise milk baths for the face, or the habitual use of cream instead of water, but this advice is of dubious value because all grease encourages the growth of "superfluous" hair.
Neither the face nor the hands should be washed without being thoroughly dried afterwards. Children and servants alike are prone to give their hands a hasty rinse, and then merely to dab with a towel. This is a habit which is responsible for many red hands. Once a day at least the nails should be rubbed round to press back the cuticle, and polished against the palm of the hand. There need be no thought of vanity in this; unpolished nails, like unpolished boots, should simply be regarded as untidy.
Indigestion may exist, and play havoc with the complexion, without necessarily causing "a pain inside." Its presence may be first detected by the sight of a greasy nose, a shiny or flushed face, or some tiny blackheads, that at first yield readily to treatment, but later reappear as " enlarged pores," which, of all disfigurements, are the most difficult to get rid of when once they have been established.
Now, indigestion usually comes of improper feeding. Most modern mothers study their children's diet, and children never have been so sensibly fed as now, but all the care given to supply plain, wholesome meals may be wasted if the following rules are neglected:
Drink little at meals, and plenty of water between them.
Do not rush about, do not read, for ten minutes after each meal.
Do not nibble between meals.
A properly fed child should not want to eat between meals, and often her "hunger " will be better assuaged by a glass of water than by a "bicky." Children do not need stimulants, and many of the most beautiful society debutantes never touched tea or coffee till they "came out."
Good sweets are wholesome at meal times, for sugar is a heat-producer and muscle food, and is necessary to children, but perhaps this food may be better administered in the form of brown sugar on bread-and-butter, and golden syrup, because, if the taste for sweets is once acquired, the child is apt to buy them for herself, and buy for quantity instead of quality. Cheap sweets are most pernicious; they contain all manner of complexion-injuring ingredients.
Cheap chocolates, for instance, are often adulterated with tallow, and this is a substance which even the most careless mother would not select to nourish her offspring !
If sweets are absolutely barred, but sufficient sugar supplied, no hardship will be felt. Children are quite sensible enough to understand that their body is a beautiful machine, which cannot be replaced or renewed if it is spoiled. Sweets between meals hurt the machine, just as grit in the gear-case clogs the bicycle. Once convince the child of this, and there will be no difficulty in enforcing the prohibition.
The English climate is kinder to complexions than that of the Continent or of America; it is moist, and drought is a great enemy of the skin. Sunburn in spring and summer, chaps and roughness in winter, however, should be guarded against.
The late Duchess of Leinster, one of the loveliest women in England, was never allowed to go out as a child without a large, shady hat and a thick, blue veil. Such drastic treatment certainly preserves the delicate bloom of childhood, but it is not to be recommended, because the lack of fresh air and freedom reacts on the health in other ways, and, it will be remembered, the Duchess of Leinster died of consumption while she was still quite young