The general public will perhaps be astonished to learn that, according to many renowned dermatologists, it is the exceptional woman who knows, until she has been taught, how to wash her face, and that most of the ordinary skin ailments are the results of an ignorance of the skin structure of the face and of a most restricted idea as to what real physical purity of the skin means.
Some years ago, I organized a class for the purpose of teaching a group of fashionable women how to wash their faces. Of course they were, as every member of the beau sexe is, intensely interested in such vital matters as the beauty of their complexions, and how to properly and hygienically care for their charming countenances.
I quote from an article which appeared in a New York paper after the first lesson had been given.
“Standing beside a large dressing table supplied with ewer, basin, hot-water kettle, and upon one corner of which were heaped Turkish mittens, face scrubbing brushes, and a pyramid of delicately scented soaps, the leader of this new cult said: `I take it for granted that no woman present is positively satisfied with the condition of her skin or she would not be here, and I ask every one’s pardon when I say that as a nation, we do not have beautiful complexions mainly because we have never learned the scientific way of keeping the pores of the skin covering our faces free, and that if we do not aid the channels with which Nature has supplied us to throw off the accumulations of effete and useless matter, by friction and a detergent, they become choked, these thousands of wonderful ducts intended as respiratory or breathing organs of the marvelous skin structure, and as a result each little useful pore is clogged with the sebaceous matter which it should and would throw off, mingled with the oils and salts of perspiration. The functions of the skin are partially suspended and the result, as in all cases of congestion, is disease.
“`I am going now,’ said the instructor, `to show you the way the average gentlewoman washes her face, just as I washed mine up to a few years ago; and I doubt not just as you washed yours this morning,’ and with a smile, the bodice of the tailor made gown, the linen chemisette, and cuffs were unfastened, and laid aside, and the professor of face scrubbing stood revealed in the dainty but simple lingerie of the fastidious and patrician woman who is femme de race, as the French say, to her finger tips.
“A little burst of laughter and applause greeted the change of costume, and a shout of merriment proceeded from the class as the face washer poured about a quart of water into a bowl, added a few drops of perfume, and then, taking a bit of soft old linen about the size of a small handkerchief, wet it coquettishly in the liquid, and with lightest touch proceeded to dabble her face most gingerly, and immediately after to as carefully dry it as though it were a Dresden figure with lace ruffles.
“Now, she said when she had finished, `is this not a fair example of the way we wash our faces ?’ and the women laughed aloud and cried: ‘Yes, indeed, that’s taken from life.’ ‘You are quite right,’ etc., for they saw those brushes and knew in a measure what was coming, and how utterly absurd the little rag looked as an argument for cleanliness, against the heap of searching bristles.
“When, said Mrs. Ayer, ‘you can keep your hands, or your arms, or the bit of lace at your throats, clean, sweetly, scrupulously clean, by a rag and a little tepid water, the same method will answer for your faces. Now I am going to show you how to really free the face from all superficial impurities, from the dust of this morning, the superfluous and frequently abnormal flow of oil from the glands, and the dead particles of the scurf skin which is always changing, always renewing itself, and can only be gotten quite rid of by friction. And also, I may add, by this very stimulant the result of the friction the clogged pores throw off the hardened secretions and the skin responds as the breathing cells of the leaves of a plant to the assistance we shall give it.’ Mrs. Ayer now poured from the ewer of hot water as much as a large washbowl would hold, and, pinning back her loose locks of hair from brow and neck, she took a face scrubbing brush, dipped it into the hot water, rubbed it vigorously with a cake of soap, and, bending over the bowl, she scrubbed her face and throat with amazing vigor.
“For goodness sake,’ cried one young Knickerbocker matron, `she’ll take every bit of skin off.’ `I’d just as soon attack my classic features with a nutmeg grater,’ said a second. ‘No human woman can stand such a barbaric process,’ cried a lady of sixty; but the teacher of face washing only smiled, emptied the basin, filled it with fresh hot water, and, dipping a soft Turkish mitten into it, proceeded to carefully wash again, saying as she did so, ` I am now rinsing the soap out, for it is just as harmful to clog the skin with soap as with any other foreign matter.’
“Once more the water was emptied, this time the basin was filled with cooler water; a fresh mitten, another rinsing, then the drying process with a linen towel, and afterwards with a roguish look, the instructor said :
“If there be any one present who feels that I have not exhibited the courage of my convictions, she has the floor,’ but only laughter greeted her remark. Then she rearranged her hair and dress, and, throwing wide the shutter so that the bright April sun flooded the room, she asked the pupils to come to the light and see how free from irritation her skin was.
The class in a body hastened to accept the invitation. They critically examined the face of the leader of the new school of philosophy, and were satisfied. Seeing was believing, and the subscribers to the face-washing class meekly accepted a brush, cake of soap, and. a Turkish mitten, and departed to return the following week to report their experiences, and to learn how to use the electric battery, and to obtain a few points in crow’s feet.”
Women accustomed to a daily scrub, which includes the face, rarely are benefited by the steaming process. The fad, like many another, is a passing one, but it is worthy of a word of caution. Face steaming is supposed to open the pores of the skin, and during the operation, we are assured, that all foreign matter, dust, and clogged secretions, are expelled.
A spasmodic cleansing of the face which requires daily friction to remove all extraneous substances from it, is, first of all, illogical; and I have found that face steaming frequently leaves the cuticle dry and parched even when the operation is performed under the most favorable circumstances, which, of course, is in one’s own home, where the patient may remain some hours at least before exposure to the outer atmosphere.
An occasional face steaming in one’s own dressing room will do no harm, but it is trifling with a very precious possession to subject the face to the heat of the steamer,and, within an hour or so, to a chilling wind or a frosty, penetrating cold.
The Austrian women are noted for their fine complexions. They use quantities of hot water on their faces, not only in bathing, but they dip cloths in hot water and apply them. My experience leads me to believe the cloths more efficacious than the steamer; they have also the additional advantage of not being painful to the eyes as the steam is.
To those women who persist in steaming, I suggest that no apparatus is required. A chafing dish or even a teakettle, with a funnel placed in the spout, will do. The water must boil and the subject cover her head and focus the steam wherever she desires.
The following lotion is very agreeable to use after face steaming, particularly if the skin seem tender and appear very red:
LOTION (Pol Vernon) Rose water …. 900 grammes. Tincture myrrh …. 10 grammes. Tincture opopanax…. 10 grammes. Tincture benzoin….10grammes. Essence of citron…. 4 grammes. Tincture of quillaia, sufficient quantity to make an emulsion.