Poisoning

Poisoning by the Use of Hair Restorers, Head-Washes, etc…

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.

In addition to news about the abolitionist movement — especially after the Civil War — the National Anti-Slavery Standard carried reform news on temperance, universal suffrage, labor reform, and items like this consumer warning about cosmetics from the Journal of Applied Chemistry that appeared in the November 27, 1869 issue.

Poisoning by the Use of Hair Restorers, Head-Washes, etc…

A constant use of the various advertised hair-washes, invigorators, restorers, etc., produce effects which inevitably, sooner or later, produces ill health, and often great bodily suffering.

Lead in some form is one of the ingredients of all these mixtures. By the continued application of these washes to the skin or scalp an absorption of lead takes place, and its poisonous effects manifest themselves under the various forms of lead poisoning.

The effects are so slow and insidious that, until the sufferer is entirely beyond cure, they are unnoticed, and in many cases even then the original cause is unknown. There is no doubt that many have gone to their graves without even their physicians being aware of the real cause of the disease.

It produces neuralgia, paralysis of some of the muscles of the face and the limbs. Many persons complain of sudden pain in the head, ear or eye, or sometimes in the shoulders, often in the fingers, not unfrequently of a numbness in the limbs, hands, or feet. Careful inquiry traces these effects to the use of some of these deleterious compounds. It is time the warning voice of the press should be heard and heeded by the thousands who are in the daily habit of using these poisonous articles, more especially as their use is making such rapid advances in this country. So many of these washes are now thrown upon the market, all professing to be perfectly innocuous, that people use them without the slightest investigation, not even giving a thought to the inevitable consequences.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.
Of the various cosmetics now so universally used by the female sex, and also by many of the other sex, there is but one word to say—they are poison in the rankest form.

They are not only hurtful, by obstructing the natural pores of the skin, stopping up the mouths of the excretory ducts which are designed by nature to throw off, by insensible and sensible perspiration, the impurities of the blood, but also presenting to the absorbent vessels a poison which is taken into the system and penetrates to every portion of the body. The effect of these cosmetics is to destroy the natural texture of the skin, causing it to become dry, wrinkled and impervious to the oxygen of the air, and, by depriving the blood of this life-giving principle, producing rapid decay.

Hence we see the absence of those velvety, peach blossoming faces in our city walks. Instead, we meet at every step females who resemble a kalsomined wall, with here and there a little coloring matter thrown on to designate the different features. They are indeed blank walls, and the thought cannot but arise that behind these outer walls there must be but little, if any, of that intelligence which should and does beam forth in the clear eye and healthy complexion.

If the skin be kept in a clean and healthy condition by the frequent use of cold water, no cosmetic would ever be necessary. Its use removes all impurities from the skin, stimulates its delicate net-work, allows the oxygen of the atmosphere to come in contact with its blood vessels and thus supplies all the needed elements to enhance and preserve beauty.

That those who desire may be able to discover the presence of lead in any of these cosmetics and washes, we here give a few simple, but certain tests that may be applied with very little expense and one easily attainable at any apothecary’s store, viz.: by agitating a solution of sulphuretted hydrogen with the wash it will turn it black or dark, and generally throw down a precipitate at the bottom of the vessel. Sulphide of ammonium, or sulphide of sodium (glauber salts) have the same effect.

No one who values health and immunity from incessant pain should neglect to apply this test to any compound recommended for the purposes of improving the complexion or coloring the hair.

Instances are daily recorded by the press of the terrible effects of the absorption of lead into the system through the pores of the skin, by the use of popular skin and scalp washes, which would deter any but the most infatuated devotees of fashion from their use. And the instances which are made public are not a tithe of what could be furnished by almost any physician of an extended city practice.

We again warn all who use these cosmetics that they are gradually but certainly bringing upon themselves a condition of health which will be one of suffering and disease beyond the reach of remedy. By using the simple and inexpensive tests given above, and rejecting everything that is proved to contain lead in some form, they will avoid the slow poisoning which is sure to follow their constant application.

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