All kinds of trends have come and gone over the years. Just take eyebrows. At the turn of the century, it was all about having the thinnest eyebrows you could manage. However, as we enter the twenties, it seems that thick, more natural-looking brows are here to stay. Many of us also once wanted our face to be one matching color thanks to plenty of foundation and not a lot else. Now, many of us prefer all kinds of looks, from natural looks all the way up to lavish trends.
Some of us think that we’ll do anything to make sure we stay on-trend, but how far would you really go? It turns out that people throughout history have been pushing their bodies to the limits all in the name of beauty.
Removing the natural glow
Some of us prefer the sun-kissed look while others prefer the pale appearance instead. Throughout history in Europe, many people have fallen for pale skin – and they were willing to go to some pretty extreme measures to make sure they got what they wanted. It’s thought that pale skin showed that you were noble and wealthy as you weren’t out in the sun all day.
Wanted to look more prosperous than everyone else in town? That’s simple. All you needed to do was grab some leeches and attach them to your ears. Here, they would suck the blood out of people’s faces until it looked as though there was none left in their body at all. However, they’d have to repeat the process when the blood returned to their face.
Rubber masks for clear skin
Sheet masks are all the rage at the moment. All you do is place one of the infused sheets over your face and let it work its magic. Would you believe that beauty masks have been around for a lot longer than many of us think? Sadly, the 1875 version released by Madame Rowley was one of the more terrifying beauty routines from history.
It was supposed to help people rid their skin of impurities without using harsh chemicals or unnatural additions. All you needed to do was slide the rubber mask on each night and let it work its magic. Rowley claimed that it would cause users to sweat, riding their pores of any impurities. It was also said to help relieve certain medical ailments.
Vibrating exercise belts
Although vibrating exercise belts were invented in the 1850s, they didn’t hit their first peak until 1900. They were popular for 30 years before there was a brief dip, only for the trend to reappear between 1950 and 1970. People suddenly had a way to lose weight without the work. All they needed to do was hook up to this vibrating belt, and they were good to go!
You could place the belt anywhere on your body that needed toning, such as your stomach or things. It was thought the vibrations were similar to a massage and would help people to lose weight. Sadly, these belts often did nothing of the sort. However, they are still a popular option in health clinics as full-body versions are used to improve balance and back pain.
Removing all that makeup
Geishas are known for their heavy makeup. So how do they get it all off at the end of the day? Bird droppings. Yes, you read that correctly. It turns out that face masks using the stuff have been used for thousands of years. It’s all thanks to the guanine in the droppings that makes it such a good cleanser. It’s made from nightingale passings, but no one is really sure why it has to come from this bird in particular.
Geishas typically wear thick, white face makeup that was once made from lead and zinc – both toxic and harmful for our skin. Using the soothing droppings helped to preserve skin as well as calm any inflammation from the makeup. Amazingly, these facials are still on offer today.
Many of us have tried all kinds of products to freshen our breath and whiten our teeth. What about using human liquids? While you might wince at the thought now, this was once the thing to do. In fact, Ancient Romans were so determined to get white teeth that they would import Portuguese passings to make sure they had the best on offer. Why Portuguese?
It was thought that theirs was the most potent on the planet. It became such a widespread practice that the Roman emperor Nero actually started to tax the stuff. Amazingly, the ammonia found in the liquid actually does whiten people’s teeth and is still used in many toothpastes today. Thankfully, it’s derived from another source that’s a lot less icky.
Gems for blonde hair
The Renaissance and Middle Ages saw people opt for all kinds of ways to make their hair as blonde as it could be. That was because angels were often shown with blonde hair, and people wanted to look as angelic as possible in real life. People across Scandinavia and Germany soon settled on a way to make their flowing hair glow: wearing opals in their locks.
The gems were thought to be lucky as they showed all the colors. People believed if they pinned the gems into their hair, then it would retain the golden color and add extra shine. To top it off, people often thought that opals were magical and that wearing one in their hair would protect them from wind, rain, and other winter weather.
Impressive hair routines
Once upon a time, Empress Elisabeth Sisi ruled over Austria. However, it wasn’t her ruling ways that got people talking. Sisi was famous for her thick mane of curly brown hair that she wore with pride. Believe it or not, but the empress had so much hair that she often suffered headaches. She only washed her hair every two weeks with drink and egg yolks and would cancel all of her plans to wash her hair.
Sisi would only let one woman touch her hair, but she insisted that the hairstylist wore white gloves and saved any broken hairs in a silver bowl while spending around three hours working on the empress’ braids. Sisi would then inspect the damage, but the stylist was clever. She hid any stray hairs under her apron.
Bathing in crocodile products
There have been plenty of alternative beauty routines throughout history, including one that involved using crocodile droppings. Apparently, this was a popular practice in Ancient Rome and Greece. People believed that crocodile droppings contained something that would dramatically slow down the aging process. People wanted to be as youthful as possible, so they would load baths full of the stuff mixed with mud and soak away for hours at a time.
That wasn’t all. Aristocrats of the time often favored face masks made from crocodile droppings and would regularly cover their faces in the stuff all in the name of youth. That sure is dedication to beauty and one we’re not sure that we want to try. Some things are best left in the history books.
At one point in Ancient Greek history, if you didn’t have a unibrow, then you weren’t up to date with the latest trends. Sure, Frida Kahlo rocked the look throughout her life, but the look had been around for centuries before the artist came along. It was thought that women with unibrows were beautiful and highly intelligent. However, not everyone could grow one of their own.
What were they to do? Some people opted to try and connect their natural brows with dark powders or popular eye makeup at the time. Others went one step further. They would apply tree resin to their face to act as a kind of glue before using goat hair to fill in the gaps. Must have been pretty itchy!
Dangerous eye makeup
If you’ve ever seen Ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings, then the chances are that you’ve noticed how much they liked to emphasize their eyes. This was more than just a trend. It’s believed that people were trying to honor the ancient god Horus while also protecting themselves from the evil eye. They achieved the look by using a mineral-based makeup called kohl.
They would apply it around their eyes and in their eyebrows to make them seem as dramatic as possible. Plenty of people used kohl, but the wealthy kept theirs in specially decorated boxes. They were even buried with the stuff. Sadly, it was eventually discovered that the kohl contained a high amount of lead and would have been toxic to use on the skin.
Dedication to blonde
It turns out that people really did think that blondes have more fun. Why else would people go so far to make their hair as blonde as possible? Some people were so dedicated to the color that they would regularly wash their locks in human liquids to try and naturally bleach the color out of their hair. Noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia was famous for her blonde locks.
It’s thought that she would spend days at a time grooming her hair. Some of Borgia’s routines included rinsing her hair with lemon juice and lye for hours at a time. She would then dry it in the sunlight to try and achieve that golden glow. The best bit? Borgia would cancel all of her plans so that she had time to work on her hair.
People at the beginning of the 20th century were willing to do whatever it took to make their skin look as bright and flawless as possible – even if it had dangerous consequences. It turns out that people would eat arsenic wafers in a bid to clear their skin. While people might have been willingly ingesting the harmful chemical, they had no idea of the danger they were in.
The wafers claimed to remove any impurities and even out skin tone. Amazingly, it did work, but only because arsenic removes red blood cells from our blood. People would often lose their hair, and if they stopped using the wafers, their skin would usually worsen. As the benefits seemed to outweigh the dangers to many, they continued to use the products until the 1920s.
Shiny hair with camels
It turns out that camels had all kinds of uses back in the day. Of course, Arabian people have used the animals to cross the deserts for years, but there was something else these animals provided. The secret? Their golden liquid. Yes, it turns out that people would often dip their hair in the stuff to try and achieve glowing, shiny locks.
It’s also believed that people would use it to make their hair softer and to help their hair grow. Some would use the connection as shampoo in the hopes that it would help take their hair care routine to the next level. Sadly, some people would also drink the stuff to get the full effects, but this just made them sick and caused many people to lose their lives.
Creating blush and lip stain
Victorian times in England was a strange time when it came to makeup. Apparently, Queen Victoria said that only actors and ladies of the night should wear makeup, leading many people to avoid it altogether. However, some people wanted to break the rules – and they would do anything to give their cheeks and lips a little extra pop.
It’s thought that people would bite their lips and pinch their cheeks to get the blood flowing and add some color to their face. However, judging by how long these colors lasted, women must have been pinching and biting pretty hard. We guess that some beauty routines seemed to be worth the pain as women wanted to look their best before they met their suitors.
Achieving the pale look
Many people across ancient Europe wanted to look as pale as possible for all kinds of reasons. While there were many methods to create the look, a popular choice for many was to use ceruse. This was a type of paste made from vinegar and lead that was then spread over people’s faces. Although it achieved the look, it came with some dangerous side effects.
People often suffered poor dental health, scarred and blackened skin, and hair loss thanks to the makeup. Queen Elizabeth, I was one of the many that brought the trend to light as the royal was rarely ever seen without her white makeup. Historians now believe that her use of lead was part of what caused the queen to lose her life.
Adding on veins
Although looking pale was all the rage for many people, many wanted to use safer methods to achieve the look. During pre-Revolution France, people came up with a new way to make their skin look as pale as possible. Rather than using white makeup, they would draw on dark veins to make their skin look paler. They would often use purple or blue pencils to draw these veins onto their chests and collars.
If you were really dedicated to your look, then you would use the pale makeup methods of the time and complete the look with some of these veins. The result? People looked ghost-like. We guess they achieved their goal, but at what cost? Their health, mainly.
There have been many rumors about people swallowing tapeworms over the years in a bid to lose weight. It was once all the rage to have a small waist. Although many people opted for corsets to squeeze their bodies into unnatural shapes, it’s believed that some wanted to help things along. If the rumors are true, then people would swallow a pill that contained a tapeworm that would later grow within their body.
Once they lost all the weight they needed, all they had to do was take another tablet that helped the remove the tapeworm. If this is true, then people were at risk of epilepsy and dementia. That is if the worm didn’t grow so large that it caused them to choke.
X-raying away hairs
X-rays were discovered at the beginning of the 1900s, and it wasn’t long before people had a new way to achieve the looks they wanted. Many knew that x-rays helped to remove unwanted hair if they were exposed to the rays for long enough. Sadly, this process didn’t always achieve the desired effects. People could be exposed to x-rays for up to 20 hours at a time and would quickly lose hair all over their bodies.
They also suffered thickening of the skin, ulcerations, and organs wasting away. In the end, many people that opted for this beauty routine also ended up developing cancer. Several people losing their lives eventually showed the world that x-rays might not be the best hair removal tool, after all.
Adding black teeth
We live in a world where many of us want teeth that are as shiny white as possible. However, things weren’t always that way. At the end of the 1800s, people in Japan wanted their teeth to be an entirely different shade. In fact, they wanted their teeth to be as black as possible. All people needed to do was drink a mixture of cinnamon, iron-based dye, and other spices.
This would be enough to color people’s teeth black and actually helped to protect their teeth. However, it was banned in the 1870s as the empress of the time showcased a set of shining white teeth. It’s believed that she wanted to modernize the beauty industry and thought that black teeth should be put to rest.
Bathing in blood
There is a good reason that Countess Elizabeth Báthory was known as Blood Countess. Legends state that the ruler would bathe in blood to try and hold onto her youth. The countess ruled over Slovakia, where it’s believed that she would use the blood of young women to fill her baths and remain as youthful as possible. If the stories are true, then the countess could have ended the lives of 100 to 650 girls throughout her reign.
The countess was eventually caught performing the routine and held accountable for a number of missing girls throughout the nation. She was then held in a castle prison until she lost her life. The chances are that if your beauty routine means ending people’s lives, you should probably give it a miss.
Thought out beauty marks
There have been plenty of famous faces with beauty marks over the years. Just take the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford. However, this was a trend long before these women dominated Hollywood. For many years, beauty marks were patches that could be stuck on to help try and cover pockmarks or scars. Some people would even design trees on their faces to hide larger marks.
In the 1700s, people in France took the trend to a new level with silk patches known as mouches. Marie Antoinette was one of the many that embraced the look. It was all about placement, and different beauty marks symbolized different things. In England, people would use beauty marks called plasters to show their allegiance to certain political parties of the time.
Marie Curie changed the world in 1898 when she discovered radium. It wasn’t long before people thought they had a brand new beauty trend on their hands. Many salons and cosmetic companies claimed that radium could be the answer to all of our worries, thanks to the revitalizing effects that it had on our skin. Some released face masks to help smooth out complexions, while others opted for toothpaste, soaps, talcum powders, skin creams, and a host more beauty products.
To top it off, some women even took baths in radium to help give their skin a glow like never before. People advertised that radium would add energy and revitalize living tissue. The reality? People ended up with anemia, cancer, weak teeth, cataracts, and even lost their lives.
Beetles for blush
Ancient Egyptian queens had plenty of beauty tricks up their sleeves. In fact, Cleopatra had so many that she even wrote a book about them all. One of her favorites was a bath made from donkey milk. It required 700 donkeys to fill the tub, but Cleo claimed that it helped smooth her skin and reduce aging.
Sometimes, Cleopatra would even bathe in rose petals to make sure she smelled sweet. She wasn’t alone. Queen Nefertiti also had a few beauty tricks of her own. It’s believed that she would make her own eyeliner and would crush beetles into clay to make her own blush. She would then smear the paste onto her face to add a touch of glow to her look.
Fire facials and treatments
How far would you go to reduce fine lines and wrinkles? It turns out that some people are so determined to get them gone that they’re willing to light themselves on fire – kind of. The ancient Chinese practice has been used for many years. People are covered in a towel that has been soaked in flammable liquid and several herbs before the entire thing is lit on fire.
It’s claimed that this rejuvenates the skin and stimulates it to smooth out any wrinkles. Although there is no proof that this works, people still use the practice today. One leading practitioner says that he has never seen any injuries, and there is someone on hand to extinguish the flames at all times.
Achieving the forehead look
Beauty trends have changed a lot throughout history. While many of us want our hair to look as full as possible, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, people wanted it out of the way so that they could show off their foreheads. People in the Middle Ages believed that an egg-shaped head was the most attractive and that people needed to find a way to alter the appearance of their face.
Many people used bandages that had been soaked in ammonia, vinegar, and walnut oil to remove their eyebrows and lashes. They would then remove the hair from the front half of their heads to try and make it look as though their foreheads were as large as possible.
Creating towering hair
Plenty of eras have seen wigs become a major part of beauty trends. Marie Antoinette was one of the many that showcased towering hair throughout her time. People that couldn’t afford wigs would typically add powder to their hair to try and get it to stand as high as possible. It was thought that the bigger the hair, the wealthier and more important someone was.
However, these wigs were incredibly heavy and were typically worn for weeks at a time. They were styled with lard to keep them in place, but this simply attracted rats. People actually had to wear a cage over their wigs to keep them safe at night. They would then finish the looks with trinkets and ribbons to add some shine to their hair.
Nowadays, people are tattooing freckles on their faces in a bid to get a new look. However, that wasn’t always the case. Many people once wanted their freckles gone for good. Many people have tried various treatments over the years, including natural honey and juice masks and ointments. Back in the 1930s, women had the option to freeze away their freckles.
Dr. Matarasso was behind the practice that saw people plug their nose, cover their eyes, and breathe through a tube. Then, the doctor would freeze areas of people’s skin and dig the freckles out with a needle. A few weeks later, their skin would heal freckle-free. While it might not have been the best option, Dr. Matarasso did pave the way for the use of dry ice, so there’s something.
Chewing leaves for red lips
People in South Asia have been using a tried and tested beauty routine for hundreds of years. All they do is chew betel leaves, and it wasn’t long before their lips were dyed bright red. However, that was just the beginning. The leaves also stain people’s teeth and saliva, meaning people’s entire mouths quickly turn red.
Sadly, the leaves also lead to tooth decay and can cause various types of cancers related to the mouth and throat. That doesn’t stop people from still chewing the leaves today. They are often mixed with other ingredients, and people claim that it gives them a buzz similar to energy drinks. There are now large campaigns to try and warn people about the dangers of chewing betel leaves.
The double-chin remover
There are plenty of beauty worries that have been around for years. A double-chin is one of the many. People in the 1890s were so worried about having a rounder face and unwanted additions that they were willing to give most things a try. The double-chin remover was invented by Professor Eugene Mack. He reportedly sold the device for $10 – around $250 in today’s money.
People applied the tool to their faces and would pull the cord side to side to massage their chins. The professor claimed that this could help swollen glands and would reduce any build-up around chins, leaving people with narrower chins and slimmer necks as a result. To top it off, it was also claimed that using one of these devices helped add color to people’s cheeks.
Hiding body odor
Do you use some deodorant and spray a little perfume before you leave the house? While they are great ways to make sure that we smell great nowadays, people once had to find other ways to keep smelling great. That’s where flowers came in. People would walk around with bouquets of flowers to try and hide their stench as most only bathed once a year.
This also became a widespread practice during the “Black Death” as the smell of people who had lost their lives was overwhelming. People would hide flowers in their skirts to try and cover the smell. This is also why we have flowers at funerals. People needed a way to cover the scent of the person who had passed.
Beauty through leeches
Would you believe that people have been using leeches for over 2,500 years? They have been an important part of medicine and beauty all that time. The creatures suck people’s blood. People would let leeches do their thing before smearing their own blood over their faces in the hopes that it would tighten their skin and reduce aging. However, leeches typically leave scars.
No worries; people just used smaller leeches instead. By the 1800s, people across the world wanted to use leeches in their beauty routine. The routine only started to dwindle because it became too expensive to ship the creatures, and their numbers were declining. Some people still opt to use leeches in their beauty routine, but there is a risk of infection and other health risks.
Just as people wanted to remove freckles, they also wanted to add dimples to their faces. These are a natural addition, and they weren’t as easy to create as beauty marks or veins. It wasn’t long before Isabella Gilbert saw a gap in the market and took her chance. In 1936, she invented a contraption known as the Dimple Stamper.
The wireframe hooked over people’s ears and ran down the jaw and cheeks. On the side, there were two screws that could be used to imprint dimples onto people’s cheeks. Thankfully, the device never took off like Isabella had hoped, and it was pushed to one side. However, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to create their own simples ever since.