Throughout history women (and men) have gone to great lengths to achieve beauty. Some methods were dangerous, others disgusting, but they all make for a great read. If you think you suffer now to be beautiful, take a look at women of bygone eras went through to be beautiful (and thank your lucky stars you were spared!).
If you thought the ‘80s had the corner on the big hair market, think again. Ladies living during the Middle Ages loved big hair so much they would go to great lengths (pun intended) to achieve it. Their diet was not sufficient for growing long, healthy hair, though, so what they didn’t have, they faked. Enter wigs.
Wigs in the Victorian Era were enormous hairpieces that were held together by wooden frames. The hair was glued to these frames and draped over to create the desired look. They didn’t use Elmer’s, though. No, they used what they had on hand which was a mixture of beef lard and bear grease. That must have emitted a lovely aroma. Oh, and rats found the concoction to be quite tasty. Let your imagination take you where it will.
Mouthwash made from the Urine of Portuguese People
Before modern dental technology existed, people had some odd ideas on dental care. Case in point, the ancient Romans used urine to keep their teeth clean and white. Not just any urine would do, though. Plain ole Roman urine didn’t cut the mustard. The Romans believed that the best urine came from Portugal. While urine is high in ammonia and ammonia is a good disinfectant there is just that ew factor. Nonetheless, urine was an active ingredient in mouthwash for a long time – at least up to the 18th century.
Death becomes her? This beauty trend seemed to bring that home. During the 6th century, Aristocratic women were considered the epitome of beauty if they sported extreme pallor. Of course it was better to achieve this naturally as opposed to using powders (which were used eventually – more on that later) so controlled bleeding became the means by which they reached this beauty goal. Well, those who survived this beauty treatment anyway.
White Lead Makeup
Speaking of pale skin, Aristocratic Women who lived during the Age of Enlightenment (1620-1780) also had an affinity for extremely pale skin. If you had pale skin you appeared rich because you did not have to work outside (signified by a tan – my, how times have changed). They concocted a powder that was made from hydroxide, calcium carbonate, and, wait for it, white lead. While this makeup may have done wonders for making them appear pale and rich, the inflammation and baldness it caused didn’t do much for the beauty. The toxic ingredients didn’t do much for the life expectancy either.
If you were a woman – or man – living in 19th century England and you were feeling a little portly, there was a diet fad that would have you slim and trim in no time. All you had to do was swallow a capsule that contained, wait for it, a tapeworm larva. Granted the tapeworm had been “sanitized” but that does not make this any less icky. Apparently the worm would homestead in your stomach where they ate whatever you ingested, all the while getting bigger and bigger. It is said that the removal process was quite unpleasant – we’ll just leave you to your imagination there.