Old-fashioned Treatments for Acne and Pimples

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, June 9, 1912:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Carrie and I were going away this afternoon, but didn’t go as Pa and Ma went away and I had to take care of the house. Rufus brought Tweet home with her.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma referred to her sister Ruth as Rufus in this post. Tweet was the nickname of friend, Helen Wesner. And, Carrie Stout was another friend.

It sounds like Grandma was a little annoyed about being stuck at home—but it also sounds like an afternoon filled with the chatter of teen-aged girls. The probably talked about the same things girls talk about today. Might they are fretted over a few pimples?

Here’s information about pimples abridged from a hundred-year-old book.

Pimples or Blackheads and Acne

These are afflictions of youth, and are generally seen together, the last-named being simply a second stage of the first. It occurs most commonly about the face, on the back between the shoulders, or on the chest.

There exist in the sebaceous glands of the skin an infinite number of vulnerable points for infection. This inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands is apt to become chronic and may prove an obstinate affliction.

The impaired function of the general system must be corrected. First and foremost comes attending to the bowels. There must be a free daily evacuation. Fruits and vegetables are both laxatives and the very best.

All articles of diet must be easily digested, while at the same time they are nourishing.

Three pints a day of water should be taken because this amount is need to keep the kidneys properly flushed.

Pure air, associated with the proper kinds of exercise, promotes the functions of the skin, assists in keeping the blood in good condition, increases the vigor and keeps the complexion clear.

Steam the face. The increase secretion from the skin which is thus caused is helpful.

Sweating baths are of the highest value as a means of ridding the skin of its accumulated impurities, and in unloading the obstructed sebaceous follicles of their hardening contents.

When there is a tendency to pimples, massage of the skin of the face will do much to improve the circulation.  The massage is most effective when it follows steaming or washing the face in hot water.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna Galbraith

15 Responses

  1. Haha…these treatments sure have changed over the last 100 yrs.

  2. I was just thinking how much has not changed, then I read Brenda’s note. The diet info is still good, but maybe not massaging the face?

    • Yes, they probably don’t recommend massaging the face any more. Also, back then there probably was a stronger belief that if there were impurities in the body that it would lead to skin problems, which led to a focus on the bowels and kidneys to get all the impurities out of the body.

  3. When I was afflicted the only thing that really helped was an antibiotic ointment the doctor finally prescribed after years of self consciousness. ugh. hope they weren’t discussing pimples!

  4. Wish a doctor would have given this advice on all the years I have suffered and their only answer now is an antibiotic. Doctors have told me not the diet – however, this advice of a hundred years ago is very sound and natural advice. My uncle (the Irish farmer) told me when I was young the cure was to wash my face in a cow’s first urine of the morning. However, I wonder what time was the first urine and the comical thoughts that come to mind going out to collect it. ha ha He had me make a paste of black ash from the ash tree and butter and put it on my face – it was good for a laugh. Sulphur is the other cure and Andrew’s Liver Salts. Sigh.

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  6. My mother must have read something similar to this. Her advice to me was to drink plenty of water, get out and let the sun hit me and put my face over a pot of steaming water to cure my pimples. Pregnancy temporarily worked and aging appears to be my final cure.

  7. Oh my! What a great look back! Thanks, Sheryl! :)

  8. Wow, not exactly what you’re told to do today…

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