"The average woman does not realise how much her appearance depends upon health. She spends money on toilet adjuncts, on creams and lotions, powders and pastes, anticipating as a result the beautiful complexion which can only be acquired by attention to health and hygiene. She yearns for the glow and colour which health alone can give, and expects a complexion whilst neglecting every one of the laws of health and hygiene which ensure it.
Perfect health is almost a synonym for beauty. It means, at least, that the skin is clear, well tinted, and absolutely free from blemishes. It means that the hair is glossy, and the scalp free from dandruff. The perfectly healthy woman's hair cannot come out. Health also provides bright eyes and a "live" expression, a keen, interested manner, all of which are beauty points; but women do not seem to know it. Very few women, of course, are perfectly healthy in the sense that they are sound physically, keen mentally, and restful and placid of mind. With such attributes of health, beauty is not far to seek. The whole personality appears to exhale it.
Perhaps the most important factor of beauty in a woman is a good skin, and, in the broad sense of the word, this is entirely dependent upon health. Every woman can have a good skin if she likes, although the fine and perfect skin is a gift from Mother Nature which, at the same time, can be ruined by neglect and poor health. At least no woman need have a bad skin if she will study the common-sense laws of health and hygiene which it is the object of the Woman's Medical Book to preach. From the hygienic point of view the skin must, in the first place, be kept absolutely clean. Acne, or "black-heads," is perhaps the most disfiguring skin condition of the everyday type, and in many cases it is brought about by insufficient washing of a naturally greasy skin. You may wash your face four times a day, and still leave it hygienically unclean, in that fine particles of dust are left in the pores, and by blocking the skin-ducts blackheads are formed. A thorough cleansing once a day has far more hygienic importance than several inefficient washings.
The second hygienic necessity of the skin is plenty of fresh air, which can only be obtained by going out of doors for several hours daily, and thoroughly ventilating the living and sleeping rooms. Light, in the third place, makes a great difference to the colour and texture of the skin; and that is why so many girls who have to live sedentary lives, and work perhaps in badly lighted shops and offices, are pale and sallow. They can, however, counteract the ill effects by getting exercise and fresh air at other times.
The Complexion and the Food Question
The health factor is largely influenced by diet and digestion. Erratic eating, strong tea, indigestible food will ruin the best skin in the world. The girl who is careless about what she eats, who rushes through her meals, and takes them at all sorts of odd times, who must have her tea almost black, and needs coffee as a stimulant, can never hope to possess a naturally good skin. She loses her colour and her complexion, whilst flushing and redness of the nose are possibilities of the near future.
Diet is perhaps the most important factor in the case, and any woman who will take the trouble to study this question, to give up eating what she knows will disagree with her, and to limit herself to three meals a day, is taking the first important step to procure a good skin. Insufficient food will cause anaemia, pallor, and a poorly nourished appearance, which spoil the looks of even a pretty woman Over-feeding, on the other hand, with indigestible food is one of the commonest causes of greasiness and the skin blemishes which are the result of unhealthy blood. For this reason, external applications are of very little use unless measures are employed to cleanse the blood of impurities and correct any digestive disorder. Hurried meals will in themselves affect the skin adversely even if the diet is ideal.
A very large number of everyday ills and ailments are due to some digestive disorder, which in many cases owes its origin to insufficient mastication of food. How few women would ever dream that the spots and blemishes that harass them periodically are to be removed, not by expensive toilet lotions, but by giving ten minutes longer to masticating their food at each meal.
The gospel of chewing has been preached steadily during the last few years, but, in spite of this, the great majority of people sadly require education on this point. The remedy is cheap and within the reach of all, so give it a fair trial. Diet yourself by avoiding indigestible foods, such as pickles and rich pastries, but even these may be eaten if they are sufficiently masticated. Take three meals a day, but chew them. Chew every type of food thoroughly and systematically, and you are taking another most important step towards the attainment of a good skin.
The average woman is far too careless about her food. She does not see the absurdity of curtailing her meal hours because she is rushed for time, and then devoting half an hour every night to beauty treatment, which would be unnecessary if she divided this same half-hour into ten minutes extra for each meal to chew her food thoroughly.
Teeth and the Complexion
From the medical point of view, one of the first things to be investigated in the treatment of a bad skin is the state of the teeth. If the teeth are tender and in poor condition, chewing is a physical impossibility. If there is one septic tooth in the mouth, the skin will assuredly indicate its presence to anyone who understands the relationship between them. A septic, or decayed, tooth is discharging poisonous matter, which is absorbed into the blood, and is thus carried throughout the body. The blood circulating in the skin tries to get rid of such poisons, and spots and other blemishes are the result.
To ensure a clear skin good health is absolutely necessary. Poor, anaemic blood means badly nourished skin, lack of colour, and tendency to wrinkles. Blood laden with poisons produces the blemishes, . winch are so difficult to get rid of by any toilet application in the market. So that one of the first steps necessary if a good complexion is desired may be a visit to the dentist. Sound teeth are imperative. If they are in bad condition they should be attended to at once, as the longer they are neglected the more difficult will it be to put them right.
Fresh Air and Exercise
At the same time, if a woman seriously makes up her mind to achieve the good skin which is the reward of perfect health, she must see that she has a liberal allowance of fresh air and muscular exercise. By breathing fresh air the blood gets its due allowance of oxygen, which is the food of the tissues, including the skin. The whole vitality is affected by the quantity of fresh air breathed by anyone in the twenty-four hours.
Further, the effect of fresh air directly on the skin itself is distinctly beneficial. It tones the skin, keeps it healthy and clean, and assists it to get rid of waste matters. For this reason alone indoor ventilation must never be neglected. The sallow complexion is the sure reward of sleeping in a room with shut doors and windows. The skin of a girl who is terrified of draughts, and who sits by the fire, is invariably colourless, dull, and unhealthy. The outdoor girl is rewarded by the glow of health which comes to her cheeks, as well as by the increased vitality and energy she gains in proportion to every hour she spends in healthy exercise out of doors.
And now, how does muscular exercise affect the complexion? By exercise, waste products pass from the muscles to the blood, and are excreted by the skin, etc., instead of being retained in the system. The skin is a very important excretory organ. Waste substances are carried directly from the blood through the sweat-glands to the surface of the skin, from which they pass off by evaporation. The woman who has a bad skin would improve it considerably if she made up her mind to take a definite amount of exercise every day, such as walking or cycling.
The "lazy habit" is very easily established. The 'bus or the underground railway is preferred to a two-mile walk to a shopping centre; and even the business girl takes tramway or tube, when, by a little arrangement, she could provide herself with sufficient time to walk to and from work. The daily walk provides exercise and fresh air, which are very necessary for health and good looks. When outdoor exercise cannot be easily obtained, muscular movements such as were described in the articles on Obesity ought to be practised. (See pages 865 and 980 of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.) A later article will be devoted to the study of exercises for making a girl graceful.
Now let us summarise the facts given above, in order that the woman who desires a good complexion will have some definite lines to work on.
1. Ask yourself if you have been committing physiological mistakes in eating unwisely, neglecting your food, and rushing through meals. Too many business women make coffee and buns, or tea and cakes, their staple articles of diet. See that you get well-cooked, nourishing meals, a good breakfast, and plenty of fresh milk, stewed and fresh fruits.
2. Give up tea and coffee for a month, save for one cup of weak China tea in the day.
3. Practise thorough mastication, and you will get more flavour and more nourishment from the food you eat.
4. Banish the worry habit, especially at meal times, because it upsets the digestion and depresses the digestive organs, producing after headache and discomfort. Toxins in the blood inevitably follow, in association with which a good skin is an impossibility.
5. Visit the dentist if you have any idea that there is even one bad tooth in your mouth. Absorption of septic matter of any sort is fatal to the appearance of the skin. For this reason a chronic rhinitis, or inflammatory condition of the nose, giving constant colds, will produce the same effect, and all such local conditions should be treated at once if the general health and appearance are to be considered seriously.
6. Cleanse the skin every night with warm water, rubbing it dry briskly, especially if there is any greasy condition denoting poor circulation. Let the skin have as much fresh air as you can possibly allow it, because it is the best tonic, and far more effective in its good results than the most expensive toilet applications.
7. Make a regular habit of a daily bath or a cold sponge, to keep the entire skin of the body health and resistant to cold. This measure, by improving the circulation and bringing more blood to the skin, produces the glow of health and vitality which affect the appearance of the complexion very much.
8. Never on any account neglect daily muscular exercise. Without exercise the muscles are flabby and ill-developed. The skin loses its elasticity and colour, and becomes easily wrinkled. The blood does not get rid of waste matters from the body, and therefore the whole health is affected adversely, and the appearance of the skin is simply an indication of the condition of health.
Attend to health and hygiene, and even in a week an improvement can be observed, which will continue if the above rules are attended to and faithfully followed.