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Complexion

Updated on January 14, 2010

One of a woman's greatest assets is a clear, smooth skin, and her ambition should always be to keep it so, for no amount of covering blemishes with cosmetics will in the end hide the disfigurement of an unhealthy skin. Besides being a disfigurement, disorders of the skin have a bad effect on the general health, by preventing it from carrying out its normal functions.

The skin must be cared for from within as well as from without, for it is a living part of the human body, and is influenced by many disturbances of health, particularly digestive disorders. Unhealthy diet is soon reflected in the condition of the skin: sallowness, eruptions, pustular spots, discolorations, etc. Especially is this the case when constipation is present, and when too many rich and sweet dishes are included in the diet. Too much strong tea or strong coffee or condiments, eating between meals, and taking meals late at night are other dietary mistakes which soon leave their imprint on the skin.

A simple diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables and plenty of water, is always indicated when the skin begins to lose its freshness and to show various blemishes and discolorations. Fresh air and plenty of exercise in the open air are also essential for the smooth working of the skin; exercise is specially useful in stimulating the secretion of perspiration.

It is most important that the skin should be kept thoroughly cleansed of the accumulations which otherwise may clog the pores, lessen the translucency of the outermost layer, and give rise to tenderness and irritation of those parts where it falls into folds or creases. Among these accumulations are the residue of perspiration when the moisture has evaporated, the oily secretion (sebaceous matter) of the skin glands, the dead cells which are constantly being shed from the surface layer, and the dust and grime of the atmosphere.

The texture of the skin of the face varies very much with different individuals and reacts differently to exposure and to cleansing processes, while fresh air and a certain amount of sunlight and thorough cleanliness are necessary for the health and beauty of all skins; there are some which are easily irritated by cold winds or by soaps which contain free alkali, while very fair skins react by soreness and burning to strong sunlight unless exposed gradually so that the protective pigment can be adequately formed. Skins which are "dry," i.e. deficient in the natural oily secretion, are particularly susceptible to such influences and require special care and the application of creams or other artificial lubricants.

Cleansing with Soap

The advisability of washing the face with soap and water has been much discussed. Some "beauty specialists" recommend that the face should always or nearly always be cleansed with creams, and regard soap and water as something to be avoided at all costs. While creams are very useful for a preliminary removal of the day's accumulations, warm water and a good toilet soap are the only certain means of leaving the skin perfectly fresh and free from the last traces of all surface residue. But the variety of soap used is important, and the water should be as soft as possible. Rainwater is the softest and least irritating of all, but if it is unobtainable, and if the water of the district is hard, a good plan is to keep a small bag of oatmeal (which must be frequently replenished) and squeeze it into the water before using it for washing the face.

Soaps are made by the addition of an alkali to an animal or vegetable fat. Those which contain too much alkali are very irritating to the skin, as are also those which contain coconut oil. Soaps without free alkali can only be produced by using the best ingredients and special care in the process of manufacture. It is, therefore, obvious that soaps for use in the kitchen cannot possess the properties necessary for a good toilet soap, and are unsuitable for a skin that requires care.

Olive-oil soaps, made with the alkali sodium and a special brand of olive oil, make a good lather and are non-irritating. Superfatted soaps are the best toilet soaps of all. They contain about i per cent of lanoline, which counteracts any alkali irritation and also any tendency to dry-ness. Transparent soaps differ very much according to their method of manufacture. The better ones, which are prepared from ordinary neutral soap by a further refining process, are free from alkali and non-irritating, but the cheaper ones which are made by adding alcohol, glycerine or sugar to the soap are not to be recommended.

Cleansing with Cream

As already mentioned, cleansing creams are very useful for removing dirt from the skin surface before washing with soap and water. They should be applied thickly and thoroughly all over the face, working from the centre outwards, left on for a few minutes, and then gently removed with soft paper tissues or cloths.

Cleansing by Steaming

Steaming cleanses the pores by increasing the perspiration. It can be applied either by holding the face over a jug of boiling water (the head being covered with a towel) or by wringing out as dry as possible a piece of Turkish towelling, folded in two or three layers, in water as hot as the hands can comfortably bear and laying it over the face. After such treatment, which should not be carried out more than once a week, the face should be dashed with cold water or rubbed with ice to prevent too much relaxation of the pores and lightly massaged with a soothing cream.

The following may be recommended as a routine procedure for thorough cleansing of the skin:

At Night

Apply a layer of good cleansing cream, smoothing gently into the skin from the centre of the face outwards, paying particular attention to the sides of the nose. Leave on for five minutes, then wipe off with paper-cleansing tissue or with a soft cloth. Wash thoroughly with warm (not very hot) water and a good, preferably superfatted, toilet soap, using a soft Turkish cloth. Rinse thoroughly with clean warm water, then with cold, so that no trace of soap remains. Dry thoroughly, then massage with cold cream (see below) and remove the superfluous cream by means of a piece of cotton-wool soaked in rose-water. If the skin is inclined to be very dry, a thin film of cream may be left on the face during the night, and most women over thirty will find it beneficial to leave a very little cream on the skin under the eyes, which is liable to wrinkle easily.

In the Morning

Wash with warm water (no soap is necessary unless cream has been left on overnight), dash the face well with cold water, dry thoroughly before applying a day cream and whatever cosmetics are used. Massage. Skilful massage of the skin is a valuable measure in keeping it soft and supple and in good condition, but if it is done roughly or in the wrong direction it may do much harm. It is not, however, a difficult matter to learn to carry out a simple procedure for daily massage with very good results.

A good cold cream, or one of the variety of "skin foods" on the market, should be taken on the tips of the fingers. It should be mentioned here that the term " skin food" is somewhat misleading, for creams do not actually penetrate the skin and nourish the deeper layers. They do, however, replenish the fatty material which is lacking in abnormally dry skins, restoring their suppleness, and they serve as lubricating agents.

Vanishing Creams

Of all varieties of cream, those known as "vanishing" or "day creams" should be chosen with care. Many of them are chiefly composed of a kind of tallow Which, while imparting a waxy bloom to the skin, may form such a coating on the skin that the pores become blocked, causing "blackheads" or acne. The function of the oil glands becomes disturbed, so that the skin is not properly nourished and becomes greyish, flabby and wrinkled. Some varieties of vanishing cream which produce a particularly bright lustre contain oxide of zinc or oxide of tin or white lead, all of which are especially harmful to the texture of the skin. The "glycerine" creams are useful for occasional use when the skin is chafed or irritated by cold winds, but should not be used regularly, since they have a tendency to produce enlarged pores.

Cold Creams

A very good cold cream is one which contains spermaceti, oil of almond, sodium borate and rose-water. Many cold creams have some variety of this formula as the basis of their composition, but since spermaceti and oil of almonds are inclined to become rancid easily, some of them substitute other ingredients.

How to Massage the Face:

(1) With the tips of the first, second and third fingers, beginning at the point of the chin, smooth in the cream with firm strokes upwards towards the lobes of the ears—six strokes. Then six strokes reaching the middle of the ear, and six strokes more reaching the tip of the ear.

(2) Starting from the side of each nostril, make firm strokes over the cheekbones (not touching the skin immediately below the eyes) upwards to the roots of the hair. Repeat twelve times.

(3) Starting in the middle of the forehead, just above the root of the nose, make firm strokes upwards and outwards following the direction of the eyebrows. Repeat twelve times.

Using one finger only and beginning just above the outer edge of each eyebrow make circular movements very gently round the outer half of the eye socket. The skin immediately under the eyes is very loose and sensitive and any rough movements are likely to stretch it, with the result that ultimately it falls into wrinkles.

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