7 Dangerous Beauty Rituals of the Past That Make My Skin Crawl

It’s weird — I’m generally low maintenance and natural in my day-to-day look, but I’ve done more than my fair share of weird things in the name of beauty. I’ve allowed hundreds of tiny needles to be rolled over my skin. I’ve steamed my  lady parts in hopes of heaven knows what. I’ve consumed nothing but green juice for a week. I’ve tattooed my eyelids, and I’ve dipped my eyelashes in latex, but when I read Cheryl Wischhover’s recent post at about the horrors endured in the name of beauty in centuries past, I literally wanted to scream and cry and jump out of my skin so that no one could ever be subjected to any of the things she was talking about.

Is today’s micro-needling tomorrow’s radioactive facial? I dunno — let’s explore…


    Image courtesy of Maks Karochkin on Flickr

  • Lead Heads 2 of 8

    Today we (rightfully) spring into a panic when lead is found in our cosmetics. But back in the eighteenth century, folks just straight mixed it with vinegar and rubbed it on their faces to get that famous powdered look that was oh so popular at the time. They also probably died of lead poisoning.


    Image courtesy of Steve Snodsgrass on Flickr

  • Arsenic Facial? 3 of 8

    A side effect of arsenic poisoning is pale skin, so naturally it was marketed as a whitening miracle product once lead was found to be, well ... deadly. According to NYMag, products like arsenic wafers and arsenic soap were around until the early 1920s.


    Image courtesy of fdecomite on Flickr

  • Imported Urine Mouthwash 4 of 8

    It may not be dangerous, but it sure is effing disgusting. Ancient Romans reportedly imported urine from Portugal (believe to be more potent than the locally produced stuff) and gargled with it to prevent gingivitis. To add insult to injury, this apparently works due to the ammonia and urea in the urine.


    Image courtesy of Nicholas Nova on Flickr

  • Eyelash Extensions, V1 5 of 8

    Before you could just glue fake eyelashes on like a normal person, an 1899 newspaper article touted a surgical procedure in which hair from your head could be "threaded in loops of carefully graduated length" along your lash line. SHUDDER AND SCREAM AND OMG AM I DYING?


    Image courtesy of Sean Tiernan on Flickr

  • Look RADIANT with Radiation! 6 of 8

    According to, actual radioactive face creams were popular when radium was first discovered. I'll bet before their skin fell off, those women were absolutely GLOWING.


    Image courtesy of pellesten on Flickr

  • Red Wig, Includes Nosebleed! 7 of 8

    In the days of Queen Elizabeth I, when red wigs were particularly en vogue, women used to mash up safflower petals and sulfur ... a combination which, when combined, causes headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds.


    Image courtesy of Ben Grantham on Flickr

  • They May Have Built The Pyramids… 8 of 8

    And mummification is pretty impressive, but ancient Egyptians also famously deposited high doses of lead right into their eyes via their dark black Kohl eyeliners.


    Image courtesy of schristia via Flickr

More from Morgan:
18 Makeup Gift Sets for Everyone: From Beginner to Maven
12 Bizarre Beauty Treatments Explained
My Hair Adventure: How to Grow Out a Pixie Cut

Article Posted 2 years Ago
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