The Care of the Skin

bathed continually in gently moving airRecently I got to thinking about skin and sweat and stickiness and then showers and baths and soap and…ah…sweet! How could Inot think about it with all this miserable Washington, D.C., heat? Some further thoughts on the importance of our skin are brought to you this week from Youth, Sex, and Life, written by Gladys Cox.

1946: The Care of the Skin

The skin cannot carry out its important work effectively so as to protect us from a dangerous rise of temperature or from harmful chilling, unless it is kept clean and well ventilated.

Why we wash. Even when we are at rest, and there is no perceptible moistness of the skin, our sweat glands secrete about a pint of sweat a day through their tiny openings, the pores. The sweat contains certain waste products, as has been stated previously, and these are left upon the skin; the surface of the skin is constantly shedding dead skin cells, like leaves falling from trees in early autumn: the skin secretes, in addition to the sweat, a greasy material which keeps it waterproof. On the surface of the skin, then, there collects a mixture of sweat, grease, dead cells, together with dirt from without ~ particles of clothing and dust.

The daily bath. You will now realise the benefit of a daily bath with warm water and soap, to cleanse the skin and enable it to keep active. A cold bath is invigorating, but it has not the same cleansing effect as a warm bath ~ you know how much easier it is to wash greasy dishes in warm water than in cold. The ideal for health is to have a daily bath with warm water and soap, and then finish with a cold sponge down or shower. A clean and healthy skin is a sensitive skin, able to keep in close touch with the temperature-regulating centre in the brain by means of its sensory nerve endings and able to carry out its cooling functions efficiently, and so to protect you from overheating and from chills.

Skin ventilation. In order to be healthily efficient, the skin needs something more than cleanliness: it needs proper ventilation ~ it must be bathed continually in gently moving air. In the absence of proper ventilation the skin is surrounded by a layer of moist, over-heated and stagnant air, and cannot carry out its proper cooling functions. Such a skin becomes partially paralysed and insensitive to changes in temperature, and fails to respond properly to the protective temperature-regulating centre in the brain.

This is why clothing has such an important bearing on health. There are many people who are enervated and depressed, who dread the winter because they are continually catching cold ~ because they are wrongly clothed and so keep their skins half paralysed through lack of ventilation. A healthy, clean, well-ventilated skin is our greatest protection against chills and many other diseases.

Source: Cox, Gladys M. Youth, Sex, and Life. London: George Newnes Limited, 1946.
~ pp. 43-44 ~