If we are not born handsome much can be done to remedy the unfortunate defect by the professional beautifier, provided Artificial Beauty he or she be a physician, educated, and capable of discriminating between what is helpful and what is harmful; but the astonishing folly with which women put themselves, their health, happiness and the remnant of beauty they may possess, into the hands of ignorant and unscrupulous quacks, is one of the most inexplicable problems of the present age. Women are fed on arsenic, which in tablet form is sent broadcast through the mails, to whiten the complexion, until by its prolonged administration the bowels are ulcerated, the heart becomes irritable and weak, the cutaneous sensibility impaired, the breathing shallow and difficult; and are only turned over to the physician when Bright's disease, paralysis, or impending perforation of the intestine has rendered the case hopeless. As the "beautifying treatment" is always kept religiously from the family physician, he is of course unable, frequently, to trace the etiology of the illness; and can only prescribe as best he may, and protect the quack by writing a death certificate when the inevitable contingency results. I mention arsenic, because it is the commonest, although only one, of hundreds of drugs used for similar purposes; and because it is, probably, the most insidious as well as fatal in its ultimate results.
As a typical instance of the effect of this drug in paralyzing the facial nerves, to which it owes its cosmetic power, it is related of the great operatic singer, Giulia Grisi, who died in Berlin in 1869, and who, to preserve that classical beauty of features for which she was so universally famous, resorted to the use of arsenic, that in 1S56, when she appeared as Semiramis in New York, her face was simply a death-mask, having completely lost its mobility through paralysis of the muscles of expression. She could neither laugh, smile, nor otherwise assist the power of speech with those delicate facial movements which so materially emphasize it; and those who conversed with her, off the stage, for some years prior to her death, describe her appearance, and efforts at articulation, as peculiarly strange, pathetic and ghastly.
The generally wrinkled and shrivelled appearance of the savage's skin is doubtless due in large degree to the custom of painting it, and the fact ought to be sufficient to call attention to a like danger attending the pernicious custom in our modern society. It does not require a medical education to appreciate the fact that the pores of the skin, the "breathing organs" of the body, and with excretory functions vitally important and necessary in eliminating waste matter from the system, can only be clogged up with paint, or powder, and deprived of their functional usefulness, at the peril of destroying both the beauty and life of the skin itself. This is amply proven by the haggard, dry and withered appearance of those who habitually use paint, when they are not "made up;" and as to the use of other cosmetics, it may be briefly stated that whatever tends to conceal, instead of to correct, any defect of physical function must be injurious.
To simply condemn the use of these so-called "aids to beauty," without directing attention to the fact that they in every instance defeat the very purpose they are used for, would be a waste of words; since the desire to be beautiful is so powerful and congenital an instinct, and so inseparably identified with our nature, that most of us, but particularly the female portion, would imperil our very souls to satisfy it.
All women desire to be loved; but since love can be easily shown not to depend on, nor exhibit inseparable connection with, the aesthetic pleasure which physical beauty excites, it is plain that it does not lie at the bottom of our desire to be beautiful. The savage mother who paints her child does it not for the purpose that she may love it more, but simply to make it more beautiful and agreeable to her eyes; and since, among all races, the Baconian aphorism might very appropriately readó beauty is power,1 we need hardly expect that the civilized woman will neglect those arts of personal decoration which instinct has taught her savage sister to adopt; unless, as I have intimated, it can be shown that the practice destroys rather than aids such a purpose, which, I think, I have shown to be the case.