The hygiene of the skin embraces all the factors that are essential for the maintenance of general good health. Sleep, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, proper elimination of waste, balanced diet, protective, but nonrestricting clothing and bathing are all necessary. At present we are concerned with the local care and cleansing of the skin.
All dermatologists and most honest beauty specialists agree that the best way to cleanse the skin is through the regular use of good soap and water, the temperature of the water varying with the type of water, the type of soap and the amount and type of dirt that has accumulated on the skin. Soft water cleanses more easily than hard, and therefore can be used at a cooler temperature. Some soaps lather only in soft water, while others lather in both. Again, some soaps require water of a rather high temperature before they lather, while others lather equally well in cooler temperatures.
The manner of washing, i.e., the use of tub, shower, cloth, brush or fingers, and the number of times one washes, is an individual matter and depends largely on the nature of one’s skin and one’s environment. A tender skin cannot be bathed as frequently as a hardy one (although, to be sure, such a skin may be conditioned to more frequent ablutions), an oily skin and one that tends to perspire excessively must be cleansed more frequently than a dry one, and a skin exposed to the dust and grime of the city requires frequent washing. The only rules that can be generally applied are: wash as frequently as necessary, wash until the skin is thoroughly cleansed, use only that soap which “agrees” with one’s skin and rinse and dry thoroughly.
It is logical to assume, however, that the best time for a complete cleansing bath is at night, just before retiring. Ordinarily the water should be quite warm for the cleansing operation and should be followed by a cool shower or immersion. Most persons find that a warm bath at night is not exciting in fact, is rather soothing and relaxing. Some, on the other hand, find that they cannot sleep, that such a bath is stimulating. Such individuals, of course, had better confine their full bath to the day time, preferably the morning on arising. But whichever time you find best suited to your constitution and habits, remember that the face and hands should always be cleansed thoroughly before retiring, and if possible at least two or three times during the day. Even a tender skin can stand that, providing it is dried thoroughly and water near the body temperature is used.
Speaking of full baths, do you know how to draw a tub of water? The question probably seems absurd at first glance, but we are almost willing to wager that your answer (and those of most of your friends if you ask them) is equally absurd. And we are also willing to wager that we know just how you draw a tub (and this method applies likewise to those of you who prefer the shower). You turn on the spigots full force until the tub is filled and then you step into it gingerly or nonchalantly, depending on your courage and toughness of skin. Ouch! it’s hot. This time the cold water is turned on full blast until the water reaches the right temperature. And no doubt you had to let out some of the hot water. By the time you step into the tub, the bathroom is filled with a nice wet steam that somewhat resembles a London fog. And when you emerge you find the walls actually weeping and the mirrors are no longer to be seen. What’s worse, no matter how much you rub, you can’t get dried. As a result you’re in a good condition to “catch cold”.
Fortunately there is a right way to fill a tub (or regulate a shower). Run the tub almost one third or one half full of cold water, turn off the cold water, and then run in the hot, until the right temperature is reached. You’ll be surprised to find that your heating bill is considerably less, that the room won’t be filled with steam and that when you leave the bathroom you will feel pleasantly dry. And, best of all, the next occupant (particularly if she is a modern woman who indulges in permanents and “make-up”), will bless you, and she will doubly bless you if she is a good housewife who takes pride in shiny walls devoid of water marks and mirrors that really reflect.
Even if you are accustomed to take your cleansing bath at night, you probably enjoy a quick bath in the morning it is an eye opener and makes you look so fresh. Hardy souls like a brisk cold shower and are apt to look down upon those of us who prefer a warm one, probably finished off with a short cool immersion or shower. If you feel chilly after a cold shower, have a queer sensation in your head, or have any other sensation save one of exhilaration, don’t try to emulate the cold water addicts and don’t feel that you are a softy you’ll probably Iive just as long or longer than the cold water men. You might ask them, the next time they tweek you, how they feel after a warm or hot shower in the morning. But if some puritanical streak in you makes you feel that you should brave the cold shower, consult your physician and get his verdict first. It is well to remember, too, that it is wise to wrap a wet towel around your head or sprinkle your body with cold water before immersing yourself in cold water. In this way you will avoid any shock to your system or pressure headache. It is also wise not to take a full bath directly after eating, or to go out in the cold after a warm bath.
It might surprise you to know that the first bath tub with running water was built less than a hundred years ago. A Mr. Alan Thompson of Cincinnati, Ohio, installed one made of mahogany and lead in his home December 20, 1842. He gave a Christmas party to introduce it to society and some of the bolder guests actually bathed in it. It received wide-spread publicity through the newspapers and controversies waxed hot and furious throughout the whole country. The consensus of opinion was that it was unsanitary. The next year Philadelphia enacted laws prohibiting its installation and in Virginia one was compelled to pay a tax of thirty dollars a year if he wanted to have such a doubtful luxury in his home.
President Fillmore was the first president to use a bathtub. After trying the celebrated Cincinnati tub, he had one installed in the White House in 1850. Yet we must not forget that a tub quite similar to our own was recently excavated by archeologists in what was of old called Olynthus, and that many ultra modern establishments have adopted its style.
We have from time to time mentioned soap as the best cleansing agent for the skin. There are, of course, many women (and a few men) who are deluded in the belief that their skin is too delicate for soap and that they can only use cold creams. In reality such skins are rare indeed, and the few that cannot endure soap are usually under a dermatologist’s care for some abnormal condition or disease. The humorous part of it is, toilet soap is made of the identical ingredients that creams are. Indeed, many soaps openly. claim to be made with cold cream or lanolin, and all of them are more actively detergent than creams. For that matter, it might interest those with “delicate skins” to know that soap was originally used as a medicament and that its basic formula was not much different from that used today.
Toilet soaps may be divided roughly into about eight classes. Milled soaps are prepared by first obtaining a finely powdered or flaked soap that is pure and dry, then adding perfume, if desired, and compressing the soap into cakes. More delicate perfumes can be used for this class of soaps, since the perfume is mixed in the process of milling, than in ordinary soaps where the perfume is added before the soap is dried. Milled soaps are economical as they contain little water. They are of good appearance and may be used with-out deteriorating or changing shape.
Floating soaps are soaps in which tiny air bubbles are incorporated into the hot soap by a specially constructed crutcher. These air bubbles are so small that they are almost invisible and so numerous that they not only make the soap lighter in water, but also largely increase the surface of the soap exposed to the water when used and therefore render it more quickly soluble than soap without bubbles.
Castile was one of the first, if not the first, toilet soap to be manufactured on a large scale. It was originally made from pure olive oil and caustic soda without the admixture of any other fat. Many of the so-called Castile soaps, especially those having distinctive names, are plain coconut oil soaps and are not good toilet soaps. No other soap is so much imitated as Castile. In the United States in particular one must be wary of Castile soaps for now the term Castile refers to a type of soap.
Transparent soaps were originally made by dissolving soap in alcohol, filtering and evaporating off most of the alcohol. Now the transparent is generally due to the presence of alcohol, glycerol or sugar. The transparency was formerly considered an indication of freedom from impurities, but is actually no indication whatever of quality or purity.
Various drugs are often combined with a soap with the purpose of making it prophylactic, antiseptic, bactericidal or curative. Theoretically soaps should be more useful than they are, but in practice they do not prove as satisfactory as they promise in theory. They do not carry the drug as well as ointments do and the dosage is uncertain in amount and concentration. Aside from the fact that such drugs may prove irritating to the skin, it is not likely that the soap itself is improved insofar as its cleaning power is concerned. Usually it is lessened.
A superfatted soap is one which contains an excess amount of fatty substance. The fat is usually olive oil or lanolin, the latter being superior since it does not become rancid. Such a soap, providing the excess of fat does not exceed 4 per cent olive oil or 1 per cent lanolin, is particularly good for sensitive skins which cannot endure excess free alkali.
There are many other forms of toilet soap such as tar soap, liquid and green soaps, special hand grit soaps, etc., but since they are not in general use there is no need to dwell on them here.
The effect of soap on the skin may be divided into beneficial effects and injurious effects. In the first division are included the detergent action, the germicidal or antiseptic action and the emollient action of the soap. The injurious effects may manifest themselves as physical or chemical irritation or allergy. We have already described the various types of dermatitis that are caused by foreign substances that come in contact with the skin, and elsewhere allergy will be discussed more fully, so that it is not necessary to describe the manifestations of soap irritation they are the same.
Any of the ingredients which go into the making of a soap may cause irritation. Certain fats and oils, for example, are highly irritating, coconut and cottonseed oil being the worse offenders and tallow, lanolin and castor oil being the mildest. Free alkali in excess amounts is also irritating. Many perfumes, dyes, rosin, orris root, soap bark, silicate of sodium and the medicaments of so-called germicidal soaps may be offenders of the first rank, both from an allergic and chemical standpoint. Therefore, the greatest care must be exercised in the selection of a soap.
It must be remembered, too, that since soap is generally used in conjunction with water, the action of the soap depends to a certain extent on the concentration of the solution, the temperature and quality of the water. Water itself may act as an irritant since even when used alone it removes the normal oils of the skin.
While no theory has been definitely established as to the action of soap, it is known that a soap solution, due to its power of lowering surface tension, with the aid of mechanical action, detaches and breaks up loosened particles of dirt and surrounds them with a soapy film which prevents the particles from adhering to the surface being cleansed. The particles are held suspended or emulsified in the water and soap solution. Both the soap and dirt are removed by thorough rinsing.
This is precisely what happens when soap is used to cleanse the skin. Being a solvent for fats, soap emulsifies and removes the excess fatty secretion from the sebaceous glands which has combined with dirt particles, bits of dead skin and perspiration. Not only does such a layer of dirt make a fine culture medium for bacteria, but it clogs the openings of the sweat glands and sebaceous glands. As a result these glands cannot perform their function of lubrication properly. The skin becomes hard and scaly and tiny bumps appear. Unsightly blackheads stop up the opening of the glands and are often the beginning of infectious pimples. A mild, pure soap that cleanses thoroughly keeps the skin soft and pliable, partly by the emollient action of the oils and fats used in the making of the soap, and partly by the removal of the dirt, the hardened cuticle, excess perspiration and sebum. On the other hand, a soap that is too active or too harsh in its action may dissolve out the natural fat of the skin and leave it dry and thin.
In addition to its softening and cleansing action, soap has a definite antiseptic action. Until about 1880 soap was considered as a merely general hygienic agent. About that time the idea was conceived to incorporate various medicaments in soap to increase or impart curative or bactericidal properties. This naturally led to innumerable experiments to test the relative efficiency of the various types of medicated soaps and particularly their superiority to ordinary soaps. Such experiments have now definitely proved that the so-called germicidal soaps are by no means superior to ordinary toilet soaps in this respect. Indeed, as we explained above, they are generally inferior to the ordinary soaps in their cleansing action, and if it were possible to incorporate a sufficient quantity of the germicidal drug and to use the soap in a concentration and for a length of time sufficient to be effective, it would be highly irritating to the skin.
On the other hand, experiments have proved that ordinary toilet soaps are antiseptic and germicidal in their action. This property is partly due to the detergent action of the soap the washing away of the germs and partly due to its chemical action. The action, however, is selective. Soap will kill some frail microorganisms, but it cannot be relied upon, for instance, to kill staphylococci or typhoid bacilli. But if the skin is washed thoroughly with a good lather of any ordinary toilet soap, it will do away with many adhering diphtheria bacilli, streptococci and pneumococci.
We have now completed the story of the skin its delicacy and sensitiveness, the numerous and complicated functions it performs and the structural components of the organ that make it possible to perform these functions, and lastly, the effect that the condition of the skin has on the whole body and the absolute necessity of the utmost thoughtful care in order to maintain the health of the skin and the whole body. For the normal skin soap and water are the best guardians of health. But there are soaps and soaps on the market and almost as many claims of miracle performances as there are soaps. And not all soaps are good, any more than all claims are justified. How then, you ask, does one go about selecting a good soap? It’s really quite a simple matter.
Every soap should be selected primarily on the basis of its ability to meet the special cleaning requirements of the moment, and its effect on the substance to be cleaned, whether it be the skin, cloth, wood,metal or other substance. As almost all soap comes in contact with the skin, directly or indirectly, its effect on the skin is of foremost importance. Hence all soap, and toilet soap in particular, should be selected for its cleansing power and its non-irritating effect. The water content, the amount of free alkali or acid, the amount and kind of builders or fillers, the salt content, the quality of oils or fats used, the perfume and coloring matter and the relation of the weight of soaps to its price are all important. Experience will soon tell whether a soap is actively cleansing and whether it is non-irritating. And with respect to the latter qualifications, remember that one soap may be soothing to one type of skin, but irritating to another.
Generally speaking, avoid all highly colored and highly perfumed soaps and those containing medications which purport to make the soap a deodorant, a germicide or cure all. Don’t buy imported soaps you cannot be sure what they contain; they are apt to be rancid and always are more expensive than is warranted. Only soap manufactured by a reliable company with a reputation to be maintained should be purchased, and its directions should be followed exactly. When you find a soap that thoroughly cleanses your particular skin and leaves it smooth and clear, and when you know that the uniformity and the purity of that soap are assured by the manufacturer’s name, use that soap, and that soap alone.
Most persons will find that Dr. Charles A. Tyrrell’s Skin Soap meets all the requirements. It forms a rich, creamy, lasting lather that is actively cleansing, in both soft and hard water and in cold as well as warm water. It contains no irritating perfume or coloring matter, and the addition of cold cream and lanolin is an assurance against drying, chapping or any other form of irritation. In fact, it is so gentle in its action that many men have found it delightful to shave with. Moreover, it does not become rancid, crack or lose its shape or deteriorate in any other manner. It is economical, too, for a single cake lasts a long time and can be used down to its last bubble. But try a cake and see for yourself how clear and smooth and glowingly healthy your skin looks and how soft and satiny it feels.