The good old days - Baldness

Baldness, or loss or deficiency of hair on parts usually covered, is sometimes seen in infants; it frequently occurs in male adults, even in the prime of life, and almost universally in a greater or lesser degree in old age.

The direct occasion of baldness is defect in the hair follicles, from which the hairs are developed. This defect may arise from diseases affecting the skin itself, from acute general disease, such as fever, or chronic constitutional disease, such as consumption. It may also arise from constitutional peculiarity, or the diminished circulation of blood, such as occurs in advanced life. Some families appear to be peculiarly liable to become the subjects of baldness even early in life; those who perspire much about the head are often bald.

After acute disease, if the hair falls off, shaving the part two or three times in succession will probably strengthen the growth. In other cases, much covering upon the head, which causes perspiration and consequently weakens the skin, must be avoided. The head should be well washed with cold water every morning, and afterwards rubbed and brushed to promote reaction. Various applications are recommended to prevent or cure baldness; they are all stimulant. Those of which cantharides, or Spanish blistering flies, form an ingredient are generally most serviceable. A drachm of tincture of cantharides, rubbed up with an ounce of lard, will form a sufficiently stimulating ointment.

An excellent hair-wash can be made as follows: mix tincture of cantharides, 1 drachm, spirit of rosemary, 1 ounce and elderflower water 1 pint. This wash may be freely applied to the roots of the hair.

Falling off of the hair, which is occasioned by eruptive disease, or which is accompanied with inflammation of the skin, requires a different and more soothing treatment. Probably medicine is required, and the case is better submitted to a medical practitioner.

From A Dictionary of Domestic Medicine and Household Surgery, by Spencer Thomson MD LRCS and J C Steele MD, published in 1882 by Charles Griffin and Company, London.

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