5 Shocking & Deadly Historical Beauty Trends

Posted by in Lifestyle

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Modern day beauty trends can sometimes seem a little extreme, frighteningly long nails and collagen injections here there and everywhere. However extreme our beauty trends might seem, they’re nothing compared to what women throughout history have done in the search for beauty. Here are some of the most extreme (and sometimes deadly) historical beauty trends.

Lead Makeup

Lead makeup has been used throughout the ages, from Egyptian times in 4000BC when women would apply a substance called “galena mesdemet” which was made of a blend of copper and lead ore. By combining burnt almonds, oxidized copper, different coloured copper ores, lead, ash and ochre (a blend which is also known as Kohl) they would decorate their eyes in a traditional almond shape. The only downside was that using lead as makeup commonly resulted in lead poisoning, information which the Egyptians were unfortunately not privy to at the time as lead poisoning causes abdominal pain, declined mental function, memory loss and miscarriage. White lead was often used as a powder to make the face paler amongst Grecian women, also sadly resulting in the same rather unfortunate side effects.

The Tapeworm Diet Plan

If you think rejecting carbs is a rough way to diet, consider what the women of Edwardian England went through when they swallowed a tapeworm to maintain their svelte figures. Tapeworms are parasites that in modern times only infect humans when eggs or larvae are consumed in undercooked meat. The parasite then consumes the food ingested by the host and causes extreme weight loss. Now it might sound like an ideal solution, eat all the cake you like and suffer none of the weight gain, but beef tapeworms have been known to grow up to 17m in length. Yup. 17m. The worm weaves through the intestine and causing diarrhea, stomach pain and loss of appetite and if that isn’t enough to put you off, just remember that when the worm dies it has to leave your body one way or another. All 17m of it...

Lion Pee Highlights

Yep, you read that correctly. Historically Venetian women were known to pour lion’s urine onto their hair and then sit in the sun to get gorgeous, sun-kissed tresses, we dread to think what that tanning session must have smelt like. Thankfully today we have much safer methods of bleaching our hair because whilst pouring urine over your head might not seem terribly dangerous (just super disgusting) don’t forget the poor soul who had to collect that urine. Lion urine…

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The Arsenic Diet Plan

Many of you are probably familiar arsenic, known today for it’s properties as a pretty effective poison which causes headaches, hair loss, bleeding and eventual death. However in the 19th century English women considered arsenic to be a great beauty product for brightening the skin. When pale skin was all the rage, as it indicated wealth and privilege, women would consume arsenic as it made the complexion clearer and paler. The only downside being of course that eventually this cut the lives short of all women who partook in this rather unconventional beauty trend.

The arsenic consumption trend also triggered another fashion in the 19th century, you might have noticed many women from this era are depicted with particularly large foreheads in paintings. Large foreheads were the ultimate look at the time, but perhaps what they weren’t aware of was that this “5-head” look was the direct consequence of consuming arsenic which caused significant hair loss. However it was clearly popular as many women would shave the front of their hair to extend their foreheads and even completely remove their eyebrows to further accentuate this part of the face. Not sure that this is a trend that will be making a comeback any time soon...

Deadly Nightshade Eye drops

The Italians were the founders of the cosmetic product “Belladonna”, which translates to Beautiful Lady, which was Deadly Nightshade in the form of eyedrops. These drops would cause the pupil to dilate giving women a wide-eyed look that was considered beautiful at the time. The only downside was that this aptly named “Deadly Nightshade” would cause visual distortions, light sensitivity and, if used frequently, fairly speedy death. We’ll just stick with eye liner thanks…

It seems pretty unbelievable when you read about the length women went to in the past in the pursuit of beauty. After reading all of these I certainly feel very fortunate that beauty and cosmetics has come on such a long way so that deadly poisons no longer have to play a role in my daily skin care routine. Perhaps opting for natural beauty isn’t such a bad shout after all, I’m not sure I could realistically source any lion pee to give my hair a fresh new look anyhow.

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