There are various obvious, but often forgotten, maxims of beauty care. First is the well-known saying: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. The concept of what is beautiful – in women and men – is intensely personal and individual. One generalization we can make is that nowadays beholders tend to go for the ‘fresh and natural’ look, rather than the heavily made-up faces and fixed hairstyles of previous decades. This brings us to the second maxim: if you want to look beautiful, you must take care of your health. And lastly there is that old adage: ‘Beauty is only skin deep’. Taken together, these maxims provide good basic advise about beauty care.
Natural beauty care
To supplement the benefits to appearance of a healthy lifestyle, there are natural techniques that stimulate blood flow and exercise various body muscles and so improve the appearance and condition of your skin. Body massage releases tension by relaxing muscles and by helping to remove impurities from aching muscles by increasing their blood flow. A massage does not, however, help you lose weight. You can be taught to carry out your own facial massage but, unless you do it with a gentle-to-firm upward and outward motion, you can stretch and damage the skin and break the connective tissue. Properly done, facial massage provides a soothing and relaxing feeling. Claims that it increases the skin’s ‘efficiency’ and is therefore healthier are in the main unfounded, because a normal healthy skin performs its functions perfectly adequatly without the aid of facial massage.
Exercising face muscles can help to keep facial tissues in good condition – firm but supple. Normal activities such as talking, chewing, laughing and smiling provide excellent exercise for the skin and muscles of the face, but you can supplement these as follows: . open your mouth and eyes wide so that the muscles are fully stretched, . screw up your eyes and mouth, . wrinkle your nose so that the muscles are contracted, . such exercises are quite strenuous, so perform each only once a day, for a maximum of six seconds.
Cosmetics and cleansers
Cosmetics are used for many different purposes. They cleanse, moisturize, hide blemishes, enhance good points and minimize bad ones, create a new image, enable you to follow the latest fashion or simply boost your morale. Many manufacturers’ claims are at best doubtful; cosmetics do not make skin lose its wrinkles or become more ‘youthful’. They only change the external appearance of the skin without having any effect on the underlying tissues. Inevitably, the number of different products available is enormous and it is important to choose cosmetics that are harmless both to skin and to general health. Reputable cosmetics are extensively tested and are of no threat to general health. The main problem is that some people have allergic reactions to certain cosmetics, such as a rash, itching, weals, redness or swelling. There is no way of predicting which cosmetic will evoke an allergy in a given individual. Some manufacturers now produce so-called nonallergenic beautifiers that are much less likely to evoke allergic reactions, although no substance can be guaranteed to be completely allergy-free for all individuals. These products are more correctly termed ‘hypoallergenic beautifiers’, and are well worth trying if you have sensitive skin. Unfortunately, some people who suffer from allergy often use more and more of the harmful substance in the hope that it will make the skin better. One of the more common forms of cosmetic sensitivity is lipstick dermatitis caused by eosin, the colouring ingredient in the lipstick. Many creams and lotions contain as their base lanolin (a fatty substance derived from the natural lubricant on sheep’s wool), a potent allergen which causes skin sensitivities and allergies in a large number of people. Mascara in eye make-up is another fairly common cause of allergy, producing puffiness of the eyelids and swelling round the eyes. Nail varnish can cause hives (nettle rash) and other problems wherever the skin is touched by the varnish, so if a sensitive individual puts nail-varnished hands anywhere round the mouth, nose or eyes she (or he) may get redness, swelling and itching. Perfumes, either on their own or in other cosmetics, can also evoke allergic reactions. The most common effect is skin irritation which produces more pigment than normal, so that brown patches appear. Allergic skin reactions are difficult to treat and many take a long time to clear up; for these reasons any cosmetic that produces an adverse reaction should be avoided. An interesting variant on cosmetic creams is the beauty mask or face pack. This is a smooth paste containing miscellaneous substances such as gelatine, wax, glycerine, honey or egg yolk. It is applied to the skin, allowed to dry and wiped away. The aim is to clear dead cells from the skin’s surface, to ‘draw out’ toxic wastes, to remove wrinkles and even to improve circulation. The beauty mask may well create a pleasant and relaxing sensation and some temporary improvement in the skin but, because pores cannot permanently shrink, and wrinkles permanently smooth out, the effects usually wear off quite quickly. Before you go to sleep it is important to remove any make-up or heavy creams so that the skin pores do not become permanently blocked. Many make-up products are oily and must be removed with purpose-made cleansing products. Unfortunately, these substances are themselves difficult to remove from the skin because, being oily, they cannot be washed away with water. They should be gently but thoroughly rubbed off with soft paper tissues or cotton wool.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
The only permanent method of removing unsightly or unwanted hair is depilation by electrolysis, in which a fine probe is applied to the skin and kills the hair root with a small electric current. It is a lengthy and expensive procedure, because only a few hairs are treated at one session. Shaving causes stubbly re-growth; plucking allows regrowth, can be painful, and may lead to follicle damage and misshapen hairs; waxing and depilatories tend to be messy and may leave the skin sore, or cause an allergic reaction. One temporary measure is to bleach dark hairs with a mild cosmetic bleach.
Drastic cosmetic techniques
Major cosmetic problems such as disfiguring birthmarks or misshapen facial features require more drastic treatment, including the branch of plastic surgery known as cosmetic surgery. Laser therapy is sometimes used to treat the birthmarks commonly called port-wine stains, abnormal collections of tiny blood vessels beneath the skin. After several sessions the birthmark may gradually and permanently disappear, although sometimes the treated area remains a slightly different colour to the rest of the skin. Plastic surgery includes well-known cosmetic operations such as face-lifts, modifying unshapely noses and chins, removing bags under the eyes and reshaping eyelids.
It has more relevance to health when used to repair tissues lost or damaged by burns or other injuries, although the negative psychological effects of particular features on someone who regards himself or herself as ‘ugly’ should not be neglected. Someone considering plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons only should remember the following: . all surgery carries a risk, albeit small, . the operation may not work out exactly as planned, . the immediate aftermath of any operation, particularly one involving the skin, can be unpleasant, with discomfort or pain for days or weeks, . many operations leave scars.