How to preserve the beauty of the skin

A Victorian Opinion On Healthy Skin

The idea of wellness, health,and diet leading us a more woke and consiencious selves may seem like a fad, or so it would seem.

Yet it is not surprising to find writings such as our below presentation on “How to preserve the beauty of the skin” from an 1853 edition of the Boston Domestic Journal of Medicine and written by C. H. Cleaveland, M. D. in 1852. We do not endorse this, or any health or beauty advice, even when they make sense. This article is presented here for enjoyment and observation.

Writings from the Boston Domestic Journal 1853
By C. H. Cleaveland, M. D.
Waterbury, Vt. December 1852.

A clear, pure, healthful, beautiful skin is a source of deep and pure pleasure, both in the wearer and the beholder. Flexibility and healthiness of the skin is one of the principal prerequisites of a state of health and comfort to an individual; and, on the other hand, no one can long suffer from disease of any part of the system, without that disease being manifested in the change produced in the appearance of the skin, and especially in that which covers the face.

In order, then, to preserve the beauty of the complexion, it is necessary that the health of the entire body should be preserved, and, all habits or customs which infringe upon the healthy condition of the general system, or any of the organs of the body, should be at once and forever abandoned.

Many young women in former times, and perhaps even in the present, have been accustomed to eating chalk, charcoal, vinegar, and other pernicious substances; and to applying some preparation of lead, or of mercury to the skin, with a view to heightening its beauty, and preserve a youthful appearance after the period of youth
has passed.

Others who have not considered the need of personal cleanliness of all parts of the body, or have indulged in sedentary habits, or have partaken of unhealthy food and drinks, or whose kidneys, or skin, have not acted to remove the impurities of the system as they should have done; have been very unpleasantly surprised to find these impurities manifesting themselves in the form of pimples, and blotches upon the face, neck, and arms, where they have remained regardless of the washes, lotions, and cosmetics, that have been applied for their removal. And there they will remain until the habit or the derangement of the system which caused their appearance, be removed.

Three things are requisite to preserve or improve the health of the skin. The first is to pay due attention to keep up the natural action of the perspiratory tubes of the skin that through them, and by means of the insensible perspiration, the impure fluids of the body may freely pass away. In a healthy state, more than three pounds of fluid is excreted from the body by this process.

The importance of keeping patent’ the perspiratory ducts of the skin, maybe judged from the fact that Dr. Erastus Wilson has estimated their combined length at nearly twenty-eight miles.

No disease can be cured while the skin does not act to remove this fluid, neither can an individual long retain health after this perspiration has become suppressed.
Therefore due attention should be paid to this matter, and such measures adopted as will ensure the healthy performance of this important function.

Among these measures, perhaps none are more important, then the regular exercise of the whole body, in the open air, or at least when the atmosphere is free from all impurities.

Exercise is an excellent promoter of perspiration, and perspiration not only tends to remove the effected matter from the system, but it acts directly to keep the skin soft and pliant and to lead to the free circulation of the blood -through the cutaneous arteries and veins.
Bathing also acts both indirectly and directly to the same end, as it removes all uncleanliness from the surface, stimulates, and enlivens the skin, and so acts upon the cutaneous extremities of the nerves as to produce a sensation of cheerfulness, health, and activity.
It also promotes a free and uniform circulation through the more solid parts under the skin, rendering them soft and pliable, and thus acts as a powerful means of preserving the beauty of the surface.

Everything of an unclean or impure nature, especially clothing that has been worn until it has absorbed the exhalations of the body, and all that can tend to suppress or retard the natural secretions from the skin should be carefully avoided.

The fluids of the body should be kept pure and healthful. The veins, arteries, and lymphatic vessels, although small, are distributed throughout the skin in such immense numbers, as that the point of a needle cannot be passed through it without rupturing one of these organs; therefore if through any irregularity of digestion, or of the action of any of the other functions of the body, these vessels are supplied with fluids in an unnatural or unhealthy condition, it must be obvious that the appearance of the skin must be changed.

This fact is peculiarly apparent in those who indulge in the grossness of diet, or in the use of any considerable amount of intoxicating drinks; or whose stomachs are flooded with large quantities of strong tea or coffee.
All such proclaims in the appearance of the face and complexion of the skin, the nature, and extent of the violation of the laws of health to which they are accustomed to this unnatural indulgences.

These last, but especially the use of tobacco, and intoxicating drinks produce an unnatural rush of unhealthy blood to the head and face, by means of which the cutaneous vessels of those regions become preternaturally clogged and congested, the skin becomes dry and parched, while yet the skin is stained with the impure fluids contained in its vessels so that the purple and mahogany tints remain during the remainder of life.

The skin cannot be maintained in its natural health and beautiful state, but with proper care in practicing all those usages that tend to preserve its natural powers and functions and avoidance of all habits that have a tendency to produce a derangement or suppression of those functions.

C. H. Cleaveland, M. D.

Waterbury, Vt. December 1852.

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