In this generation, cosmetics are used by women of practically all walks of life. Most of these preparations are harmless, provided their ingredients are whole-some and pure, that all poisonous materials are excluded, that care is exercised in their manufacture, and that the proper attention is given the skin, once their use is begun. That cosmetics are regarded as a means of improving the skin and beautifying the complexion is well established. That they are here to stay may be deduced from the enormous amount of newspaper and magazine advertisement of face powders, rouges and creams, from the tremendous increase in the number of beauty parlors, and from the ever-increasing millions spent by the public for cosmetics.
When one realizes that hundreds of new recruits are daily added to the vast army of cosmetic users and that most of them have no definite knowledge of the effects of cosmetics upon the skin, save for the questionable information furnished by the various manufacturers, it is but little wonder that this subject assumes a most vital role. Were the reasons for this increasing army of cosmetic users sought for, responsibility for this state of affairs would be found in the change from a rural to an urban civilization, where the quiet country peace-fulness is replaced by the city hustle and bustle, where the simply prepared foods have yielded to greasy, oversweet delicacies, where God’s open playground has been transformed into a dusty, dirty, smoky and germ-laden atmosphere, and where the calm, nervous constitution has been completely converted into a highly charged center. All these have robbed the natural bloom of its color and beauty, the skin becomes dry and harsh and resort must be had to cosmetics to supply these unbecoming deficiencies. Because of the vast hordes of uninformed cosmetic users and the potential dangers lurking in the improper application of these combinations, the author has deemed it his duty to lay before his readers those facts definitely established by cosmeticians and strengthened by the results of his recent experiments with cosmetics.
Cream.Creams justly merit first consideration, as they serve more purposes and enjoy greater popularity than the other preparations of the same class.
As a Cleanser.Are creams to be used for daily routine cleansing of the face? Only under certain circumstances is this permissible. In spite of the numerous so-called cleansing creams, soap and water still remain the best cleansing agents for the face. Those who have either an inherited dry skin or have developed this condition, and who may therefore experience more or less discomfort, such as itching, roughness and scaling following the use of soap and water, can overcome these inconveniences without resorting to creams as routine cleansing agents. The irritation of ordinary soap may be overcome by substituting a neutral soap, and that of plain water by adding either boric acid or starch to it. The former is employed in the pro-portion of one teaspoonful of powder to every glass of water; the latter is used in such quantity that a little starch remains undissolved in the bottom of the basin. When boric acid is used, it is boiled with the water until all traces of the powder are dissolved and is then cooled. Starch water is made by adding the dry starch to lukewarm water, without boiling.
Where the above suggestions have been faithfully followed and the dryness and scaliness of the face still persist, the use of a bland cream, once daily, will certainly remedy this condition.
The Value of Cream as a Skin Food.Do creams actually penetrate into the depths of the skin and nourish it? To answer this question let us recall the structure of the skin. We have learned that the top portion of the skin (the epidermis) is composed of a number of layers and of these only the deepest is alive in the sense that it is nourished and reproduces. As the cells of the deeper part of the epidermis approach the surface, they lose their softness, are not nourished, and become hard, horny, and resistant. In order for any cream to nourish the skin, it would be necessary for that material to pass through not only the horny layer, but also the intermediate structures before finally reaching the living cells. Then, if this were possible, it would be necessary that the particular sub-stance be suitable as a nourishing material. As a matter of fact, neither of the above suppositions really happens, contrary to the belief that certain creams are skin foods. Normally, fatty material is present in the top cell layer of the epidermis and this substance, to a large degree, imparts to it softness and pliability. Under certain conditions this fatty substance diminishes in quantity. In such cases, the application of a bland ointment serves to supply this deficiency and restores the natural suppleness of the skin. Creams, therefore, do not nourish the skin, but serve only as lubricating agents, especially grateful to those with an abnormally dry skin.
Value of Creams in General.We must not dismiss the question of creams with the impression that they serve no useful purposes. Indeed, these preparations have distinct and valuable uses. They lubricate and soften the skin; they give excellent protection against cold winds and sun; and they remove much dirt from the skin surface, if rubbed off immediately after being applied.
Varieties.Many different substances are used in the manufacture of creams. Fat creams are those made with vaseline, lanolin, etc. These are best suited for dry skins. Dry creams are those prepared with soap, gelatin, etc., as their base. These are most useful for oily skins. Creams made with glycerin, jellies, or gum tragacanth are soluble creams, while those containing vaseline, fats, and oils are known as insoluble creams. The addition of small quantities of oxide of zinc to a cream increases its whiteness. Creams that give the skin a particularly bright luster have as their base stearic acid, oxide of tin, glycerin and watery substances. Tin should not be incorporated in creams as it is poisonous.
The ideal cream must act like the secretions which normally lubricate the skin. It must not interfere with the breathing of the skin nor with the flow of its secretions. A cream should be absorbed by the outermost cells of the skin and to accomplish this, it must contain as much of the watery materials as possible.
How to Use Creams.As a rule, it is best not to begin the use of creams too early and to remember that once the constant use of creams is begun, it has to be continued. To apply creams properly, use a piece of sterilized absorbent cotton or a very fine linen. Spread the cream lightly and manipulate in the following direction: from the middle of the face towards the circumference, from the middle of the forehead towards the ears, and from the nose towards the cheeks and chin. The manner of re-moving creams depends upon whether they are soluble or insoluble. Soluble creams are easily removed with a cloth moistened with cool, boiled water when the skin is dry, and with slightly warm, boiled water when the skin is oily. Insoluble creams are best removed with linen, moistened in hot water, or with small wads of absorbent cotton, soaked in well-heated, neutral, white vaseline.
Cautions in the Use of Creams.Creams cannot replace soap and water as a routine cleansing agent for the face.
The daily application of facial creams is only justified by those whose skin is so unusually dry that they must have the artificial lubricating effect of grease. The ordinary skin or an oily skin may be somewhat benefited by the occasional application of a bland cream, but no oftener than once a week, provided the excess of grease is immediately removed and the skin cleansed by soap and water.
The daily use of creams by those who are blessed with a good complexion is not beneficial but most harmful, for the reason that most creams contain wax, a harmful substance. This wax may form such a coating on the skin that its breathing is difficult, and finally the function of the oil glands is disturbed and the skin becomes thinned and wrinkled.
Dangers from the Improper and Continuous Use of Creams.The following few paragraphs contain a brief summary of the facts which make clear our stand relative to the use of creams. Those who are interested in a more detailed account of our experimental work will find this information in the pages that follow. The result of our studies with cosmetics, based on experiments with laboratory animals (guinea pigs), justifies the following conclusions.
We have found that creams often cause an in-crease in the activity of the old hair sacs and even the probable production of new hair sacs. These facts will amply explain the increase in the amount of down and the development of fully grown hair, now so often seen on the faces of young girls and women.
We have also observed that particles of cream can gain entrance into the pores, especially if enlarged, and when lodged there for some time may cause an irritation, assisting in part, at least, in the production of pimples (acne). Further justification for this statement is based on the fact that many creams contain either mineral wax or oil (derivatives of crude oil) and it is well known that crude oil may either cause or predispose to pimples (acne).
We have also learned that certain creams may so irritate the skin that roughness and wrinkling result. That this fact is well known to cosmeticians is attested by their insistance on the use, in con-junction with creams, of massage and other manipulative measures, with the hope of overcoming these drawbacks.
Face Powders.Face powders usually contain zinc, magnesia, and iron in combination with certain other chemicals. In themselves they are harmless, but where the skin is oily, or the pores enlarged, or where creams are used as a base for the powder, presence of blackheads and pimples may be encouraged. Since practically all powders are scented, harm may follow through an irritation set up by the perfume.
Rouges.-=The substances which enter into the make-up of rouges are such heavy metals as magnesia, iron and silica, and eosin, carmine or some of the aniline dyes. They do not, as a rule, pro-duce any harmful effects. However, those susceptible to aniline dyes may, because of their presence, experience varying grades of irritation.
Lipsticks.Lipsticks consist of wax, pomade, or cocoa butter, in varying amounts, with either carmine or some aniline dye. Rarely do lipsticks cause trouble. Where there are splits in the lips, or in rare instances, where absorption of the aniline dye has taken place, serious consequences may result.
The Author’s Experiments with Creams.
The first step in this research consisted of an analysis of many of the commonly used commercial creams. It was shown that almost all contained mineral oil, mineral wax, and water. In some instances, metallic substances, scented oils, and an antiseptic, such as a boric acid compound, were also found present. It is known that mineral wax and mineral oil are obtained from crude oil and it was believed that it would be most interesting and instructive to apply these substances alone, and to compare their effect upon the skin of an animal, with that obtained with some of the creams in which these substances are the chief ingredients. Our experiment was, therefore, divided into a number of parts. For the first part, vaseline and liquid albolene, substances obtained from a crude oil, were selected. For purposes of comparison, lanolin, a fat obtained from sheep’s wool, was also used. In this set of experiments, a uniform plan was followed which consisted in twenty daily rubbings of a fraction of a minute each. After a course of such applications, a small section of skin was removed, under an anesthetic, and examined under the microscope. The following results were noted :
The skin to which vaseline was applied showed a thickening of the upper layer of the skin, and the cells lining its hair sacs appeared to be more numerous than normal. It also seemed as if new hair sacs had been formed.
The effect of liquid albolene applications consisted of a thickening of the top layer of the skin, and the hair sacs appeared as if the number of cells lining them were greater than what was normal. It was apparent from these observations that vaseline and liquid albolene produced almost identical effects when applied to the skin of the guinea pig.
The examination of the skin upon which sheep-wool grease (lanolin) had been used showed a thickening of the top layer of the skin, as well as a peeling off of the upper layers of the cells. The cells lining the hair sacs were increased in number and new and immature hair sacs seemed to have sprung up.
For the second part of this experiment, four of the most commonly used cosmetical creams were selected. These were also applied to the skin of guinea pigs. Daily applications were made, twenty rubbings being given, each for a fraction of a minute. After such a course of treatment, a small portion of the skin of the guinea pig so treated was removed under an anesthetic. Study under the microscope showed a thickening of the top layer of the skin and an apparent increase in the number of hair sacs, together with an over-growth of the cells of the older hair sacs. In several of the pieces of skin examined, diseased conditions of the true skin were noted. Very significant was the observation that in the case of one of the creams used, the microscope disclosed such pus collections in the hair sacs as one finds in the condition known as pimples (acne).
In this set of experiments, the time interval of the rubbings was varied. It was observed that when the substances were rubbed in for only five seconds, little or no change was seen, but when the rubbings were continued for ten seconds or longer, noticeable results were present. No matter what time interval was employed, no changes visible to ably assisted by his associates, Dr. Maurice Jaffe and Dr. Michael M. Wolfe, to whom he wishes to express his gratitude.
The striking and visible changes in the skin of the guinea pig, following the application of the cosmetical creams, consisted of a thickening and wrinkling of the skin and more or less redness. The creams used influenced the hair growth of the guinea pig differently; in most instances the hair growth was thicker than previously, in others about normal, but after a time, more or less baldness resulted. After each application, the excess of the cream was wiped off. Removal of the creams with soap and water after every second or third application did not alter our results.
It is readily seen from an evaluation of these experiments that the conclusions arrived at, relative to the harmful effects from the improper use of cosmetical creams, are justified.