The second variety of tubes, those which furnish an oily-like fluid to the skin, resemble in great part those which serve for the office of perspiration. At the extremity away from the surface of the body, each one has a gland, the oil gland, which secretes the oily material. The pores or outlets which open on the skin, however, are a good deal larger than the similar orifices of the perspiratory tubes, but they are not distributed so equally throughout the body. In certain parts of the skin they are especially numerous, as on the nose, head, ears, and back of the shoulders. The unctuous matter which is secreted by these oil glands is intended to keep the skin moist and pliant, to prevent the too rapid evaporation of moisture from the surface, and to act as a lubricant where the folds of the skin are in contact with each other. At times in these oil tubes the contents extend to the opening on its surface; the part in contact with the air then becomes darkened, and forms the little black spots so frequently seen on the face of some persons. The white, greasy matter which is thus contained within the tubes can often be squeezed out with the fingers or a watch key, and on account of its shape and black end is popularly supposed to be a grub or maggot.
The tube into which each hair of the body is inserted differs materially from the two preceding, in that its function is more restricted. It serves to form a sort of sheath which contains each hair, and is called the hair follicle. Usually one of the last described ducts opens directly on the side of the hair follicle, and its secretion serves the purpose of keeping the hair pliant. It will be more convenient, however, to enter into a fuller description of the hair and hair follicle when we come to speak of the hair, the nails, and the teeth.
Having thus gained some knowledge of the structure of the skin, and of its delicate formation, it will be the more readily understood why strict attention to the bath is necessary to produce a healthy frame. There is a continual new growth of scarf skin going on, and there are likewise the secretions from the perspiration ducts and oil tubes being poured forth. The outer skin which has served its purpose is being incessantly cast off in the form of whitish looking powder, but instead of being thrown clear from the body it clings to it and becomes entangled with the perspiration and oily material, thus forming an impediment to the free action of the skin. If the pores of the latter be obstructed and occluded in this manner, the impurities which should be removed from the system cannot escape, and have therefore to be expelled by some other channel. Hence the work of removing this impure and deleterious material is thrown upon the liver, bowels, or kidneys, and often results in their disease. In our warm climate, where the skin acts more freely than it does in colder latitudes, the use of the bath is certainly indispensable, if the health of the body is to be maintained at all.
The cold bath, at any rate during the summer months, should always be taken before breakfast, but in the cooler part of the year the shock may be lessened, if it be desirable, by using tepid water instead of cold. And since there is, as we have seen, a good deal of oily matter excreted by the skin, it becomes necessary to use something in addition to water for cleansing purposes, for the latter is unable to displace the greasy collection by itself. The only thing which will render it easy of removal is soap, as by its action it softens the oily material and dislodges it from the skin. Soap has acquired an evil reputation which it certainly does not deserve, and if it disagrees it is either due to the fact of its being an inferior article, or else the skin itself must be at fault. The best soap to use is the white, not the mottled, Castile, as it is made from pure olive oil. By the proper and judicious use of soap the skin is kept soft and natural, and the complexion is maintained in the hue of health.
Even in the matter of washing the face, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. The basin should be moderately filled with water and the face dipped into it, and then the hands. The latter are to be next well lathered with soap, and gently rubbed all over the face, following into the different depressions, such as the inner corners of the eyes and behind the ears. It is quite a mistake, however, to apply the lather to the inside of the ears, as it seems to favour the formation of wax; the different depressions and canal of the ears can be very well cleaned by means of the finger tips moistened with water. The face is then to be dipped into the water a second time and thoroughly rinsed, but it is better to pour away the soapy water for the rinsing. Many people apply the soap to the face by means of a sponge or bit of flannel, and do not wash the soap thoroughly off with fresh water before drying with a towel. The hands unquestionably make the softest and most delicate means of bringing the lather completely into contact with the surface of the skin, and, besides this, the amount of pressure to be applied can also be regulated to a nicety. The face and neck should always be carefully and thoroughly dried by means of a suitable towel. But for the ears something of a softer material, such as a clean handkerchief, is more convenient in following out the various hollows and the canal itself.
Many houses, and fairly sized houses too, are destitute of a bath, and if there is no room for the erection of one, or if the means for having it built are not forthcoming, it becomes necessary to see what cheap and efficient substitute can be made. A sponge bath, or large tub, with a bucket of water and a good-sized sponge, can readily be obtained, even in the most humble dwelling, and answers as well as can be wished. When the body is simply sponged over with tepid water it makes one of the mildest baths that can be taken; but those who are in ordinary health can well lather themselves over with soap and cold water, and then wash it off with some squeezes of the sponge copiously wetted with the water.