20. SOBRE A CULTURA DA BELEZA,
GRAÇA E SAÚDE NA JUVENTUDE – V
MY DEAR SIBYL, – I promised you this week a discourse about the care of the complexion, figure, and so on, in early youth. And as just now the vacation season is close at hand, and you will before long be thinking about carrying off your young people to some sea-side or country resort, I think a few suggestions in regard to holiday-making from the hygienic point of view will hardly be inappropriate.
In the first place, having selected a suitable spot for your summer retreat, you cannot be too cautious in your choice of a habitation. Bear in mind that a large number of nomad visitors to our coasts and inland sanatoriums frequent such resorts, in order to re-establish their own or their children’s health after attacks of infectious fever and other malignant maladies, leaving behind them, of course, in the abode they have temporarily occupied, a virulent contingent of disease germs, ready to seize upon the first unfortunate who unsuspectingly comes within their reach. Nor is this the only danger of the sort which threatens the frequenters of such places. Children recovering from measles, whooping-cough, scarlatina, and other similar complaints are to be met with in plenty, digging on the sea-shore at low tide, scrambling among the rocks, bathing, wading,
and airing themselves, under maternal or nursery guardianship, on pier, parade, and promenade. Common prudence, therefore, suggests that you should not only protect your family against the chance of infection in lodging-houses by strenuous inquiry and other precautionary measures, but that you should also warn your young folk of the risk incurred by consorting out of doors with chance acquaintances, concerning whom nothing further may be known than that they are well-dressed, pleasant in manner, and disposed to be friendly. It is no uncommon thing, unhappily, for a family to leave home on the annual sea-side visit in excellent health, and in a short three weeks or so to contract, by infection, some malignant sickness involving much immediate peril, perhaps even loss of life, or a long period of subsequent trouble and anxiety. Not infrequently, too, lodgings are dangerous from causes other than those just mentioned: drainage may be defective, bed-rooms damp, water-supply insufficient, or the arrangements of the lower premises unsanitary. All such matters should be subjected to careful scrutiny before any agreement is made; otherwise great inconvenience, expense, or worse, may result.
It is always best, I think, whenever possible, to lodge en pension in some well-conducted hotel or boarding-house, for in such establishments the risk incurred, both from accidental infection, and from unsanitary construction, is minimised. Hotel companies and managers of pensions, having capital at command, and large commercial interests at stake, are far less likely than needy, and therefore greedy, proprietors of “apartments” to be neglectful of the hygienic interests of their clients in regard to the questions under consideration. Moreover, arrangements at hotels and boarding-houses are usually
made by the week, and not fur the season, as is the case with most private lodgings, so that should any difficulty arise in respect of cleanliness or otherwise, nothing is easier than to change one’s quarters. Again, it is worth while observing, that unless one brings one’s own servants and batterie de cuisine, the cookery in lodging-houses is, as a rule, bad beyond description; the proprietors and their domestic staff usually appropriate the larger and better share of the comestibles; the attendance is abominable, the linen retained too long in use, and the whole detail of “service” unsatisfactory in the extreme. Far different is the hotel table d’hôte, freshly furnished every day, prepared by good cooks, and attractively served on clean linen, with shining glass and unimpeachable plate. Happily, the continental and American custom of living en pension at large establishments is increasing rapidly in this country; first-class hotels, “with every modern improvement,” now receiving guests on these terms at most of our chief watering places; and the old-fashioned, insalubrious, and often uncleanly lodging, with its sour spinster landlady, its detestable cuisine, and general discomfort and unsavouriness, is in a fair way to become a legend of bygone times.
If precautions are thus necessary in regard to the choice of an abode, they are requisite also in connection with a score of minor accessories. For instance, my dear Sibyl, avoid using bathing-dresses, towels, wraps, and so forth, which are public property. Let each one of you go to the morning dip provided with his or her own apparel and linen; wear nothing, and make use of nothing which has served for the toilette of strangers; and even, if you can manage it, charter your own bathing-machine to be set apart for your especial behoof. If you go to a bathing station where you have friends, or
where you meet other families known to you, it is the most convenient and easy to make a co-operative arrangement among you for the monopoly of a machine by the month or the season. Some people take their own tents, which can be pitched on any unfrequented spot along the shore – guaranteed safe for wading or swimming purposes – and which can be utilised in turn by boys or girls. Or, if the site selected be quite retired, and the bathing costumes of both sexes appropriate, a canvas partition added to the tent will readily enable the whole family to enter the water together, after the sociable and sensible fashion prevalent abroad. As, in a former letter, I have already discoursed at some length on the advantages of learning to swim and float, I will not now dwell further on the subject than to observe that after leaving the water it is well, for the complexion’s sake, to bathe the face in fresh soft water, so that the saline constituents of the sea brine may not dry on the skin, and harden or excoriate it.
Encourage your children to be as much as possible out in the open air and sunshine during the holidays. In our climate there is not much fear of sunstroke, but on hot July and August days it is, nevertheless, wise to guard against the chance of such an accident by wearing large straw hats enveloped with white cambric puggarees, and covering the neck and upper part of the back with a long flowing lappet. If the head and spine are thus protected, there is, as a rule, very little danger to be apprehended from English sunshine. Should, however, the heat of the season be unusually fierce, and no shady resort be available, you will act prudently in keeping your young people indoors during the middle of the day. Sunstroke is an accident which has several degrees, the severer of which are seldom experienced in temperate
latitudes. Sudden death, delirium, and violent cerebral congestion smite the unwary under tropical suns, but here the worst effects of summer heat are usually limited to headache, nausea, giddiness, bleeding of the nose, and sleepiness. All these symptoms are due to congestion of the nervous centres, and are best treated by rest in a darkened room, abstinence from food, applications of some cooling lotion – as, for instance, vinegar and water – to the head and spine, and a dose of simple aperient medicine.
As for the effect of sunshine on the skin, that also is liable to show itself in various degrees, according to the constitution of the individual, the condition and texture of the cuticle, and the degree of sunlight encountered. Some complexions scorch, some tan, some freckle, some become eruptive under strong sunshine. The peculiar dark tint produced on the epidermis by the action of solar light is due to the exaggeration, under its influence, of the pigmentary deposit in the secreting glands of the skin, and to the chemical decomposition of the iron present in this deposit under the same action; a process which gives rise every here and there, where it is most energetic, to the formation of little brown and yellow stains called freckles. Freckles, however, are of two kinds; some are evanescent and dependent on the season, others are constitutional and permanent. I do not now speak of the latter, which are referable to other causes than exposure to sunshine, and are not, therefore, amenable to the treatment I am about to propose. Against summer freckles, due to the chemical action I have just mentioned, a lotion composed of an ounce of alum, two table-spoonfuls of lemon-juice, and a pint of elder-flower water, may be usefully applied twice daily. This wash is quite harmless, and may be employed with
confidence for even very delicate skins; but the following remedy, recommended by Erasmus Wilson, though excellent in obstinate cases, does not suit all complexions equally well: –
Elder-flower ointment ...................................... 1 ounce.
Sulphate of zinc ............................................. 20 grains.
Mix well, and rub into the affected skin at night. In the morning wash the cerate off with soap and soft water, and afterwards apply a lotion thus composed: –
Infusion of roses ................................................. ½ pint.
Citric acid ....................................................... 30 grains.
All local discolorations, Dr. Wilson affirms, will disappear under this treatment, or, if the freckles do not entirely yield, they will, at least, be greatly ameliorated. Should, however, any unpleasant irritation or roughness of the skin follow the application, a lotion composed of half a pint of almond mixture (Mistura Amygdalae), and half a drachm of Goulard’s extract will afford immediate relief. Lait Antéphélique, invented by Dr. Hardy, of the St. Louis Skin Hospital in Paris, and sold in this country by all druggists and perfumers, is also a good, though somewhat violent, remedy against freckles and tan marks. This “milk,” which, among other ingredients, contains acetate of lead, modifies the skin by peeling off the cuticle, and thus renewing the surface of the complexion. But it is obvious that as soon as this new surface is exposed to the action of the air and sun, freckles will again form upon it, and the operation will have to be repeated de novo.
Here is a formula which I have heard much praised; it is a good substitute for Erasmus Wilson’s recipe: –
Chloride of ammonia .................................... 1 drachm.
Distilled water ...................................................... 1 pint.
Lavender water ........................................... 2 drachms.
Apply by gently dabbing the freckled skin with this lotion two or three times daily.
Powdering the face with finely-pulverised rice or starch protects the skin against the action of solar light, and if to this precaution be added that of constantly wearing a gauze veil – not net or tulle – when out of doors in sunny weather, no reasonably practical measure for the prevention of sunburn will be omitted. I may add that blue or green veils are the most efficacious for the purpose, but as they are undoubtedly trying both to wear and to behold, some more neutral tint approximating to these colours may with advantage be substituted.
Some skins, under the action of summer heat and light, develop erythematous, or even erysipelatous eruptions, which cause more or less severe irritation and disfigurement. In such cases great attention must be paid to diet; coffee, wines, liqueurs, shell-fish, and all heating and stimulating foods must be avoided, sea-bathing should be discontinued, and a cooling lotion used, containing either oxide of zinc, laurel-water, or hydrocyanic acid. Aperient saline draughts should also be administered, and warm site-baths taken night and morning. Powdered magnesia and rice mixed, Fuller’s earth, or orris-root may also advantageously be dusted over the skin.