We would like to send you notifications on the latest Product Review Club offers.

7 Crazy and Dangerous Beauty Practices Through The Ages

Posted by Alexandra C. | Friday January 3, 201415 comments

I've been known to try some crazy things in hopes of finding that one miracle beauty product. In fact, I've slathered everything from milk to Preparation H on my never ending quest for beautiful skin. I'm not alone, either. Ever since that first woman applied pigment to her cheeks and thought: 'Damn gurl, you look goooodddd", we've been trying out lotions, potions and more to look our very best. 

Though sometimes, this pursuit is quite misguided. You might even say deadly. Evidence: arsenic was all the rage when it came to beauty products. As in, arsenic the poison. You were sure to leave a pretty corpse! Through the ages, arsenic has been just one of many of the extremely dangerous beauty solutions. Want to know more? Read on! 

(via nymag.com

Lead Makeup: Lead was used as a foundation of sorts. In the 18th century, it was mixed with vinegar to produce ceruse, a foundation that gave the very popular pale look of the time. Lead is a poison and as women used it, they suffered side effects like grey hair, dried out skin, severe abdominal pain and more.

Arsenic: Arsenic was used in many products, or taken to clear skin of freckles, pimples and to achieve generally paler skin. Like I mentioned above though, arsenic is of course, a poison. So for those who took it, it might have lead to their death. Arsenic also played games with your skin, so if you stopped taking it, it would react and make the skin go bananas. 

Mercury: Mercury was a blemish-cure but along with curing your blemishes, it could cause birth defects, kidney and liver problems, fatigue, irritability, tremors, depression and a metallic taste in the mouth. 

Deadly Nightshade: Deadly nightshade was in the medicine cabinet of Italian women who used it as eyedrops to dilate their pupils (because I guess that was the hottest trend?). Like the name suggests, it isn't a fun time; it causes visual distortion and sensitivity to light and can kill you. 

Radium: We now know that radium causes cancer - but back then, radium was the hottest skincare product for glowing skin! 

X-Rays: Looking for a way to permanently remove hair? Before laser hair removal there were X-rays to get rid of unwanted hair. Some would go under X-rays for up to 12 hours! While the X-rays did remove hair, those who partook also experiences skin thickening, atrophy, ulcerations and cancer. 

Lard: Like the pageant queen saying goes: 'the higher the hair, the closer to God'. It seems women in the 1700's also believed this and to get the highest possible hair, they used wooden and iron frames, leather horsehair pads and extensions. Hair was curled with 'hot tongs', covered with lard to hold it in place then powered with lead. Now, here's where it gets super gross: vermin (rats and mice) would come to nibble on that lard. Uggghhhhh. Cringe.  

What's the most misguided beauty advice you've ever followed? 
(images via thebeautybubble.blogspot.ca, georgianacircle.wordpress.com, dailymail.co.uk, cosmeticsandskin.com, wikipedia.org, cosmeticsandskin.com, tetburyhospital.co.uk, theguardian.com, nourishedkitchen.com

More by Alexandra C.

Facebook Comments


on May 05, 2016  jmca  9,045 said:


I can't say I've tried anything "off"

on August 07, 2014  MaryMany  560 said:

Wow! Amazing what women used in the past to make themselves beautiful, but take a look at cosmetics today and what they're made with. I try to buy all natural cosmetics whenever I can. If I can't pronounce the ingredients I look for alternative because our skin absorbs all those chemicals in seconds.

on January 16, 2014  Anjanie777  1,682 said:

It is interesting how many of us say, "what will be said 20 years from now"?
I totally understand the x-ray issue. In fact, lasers are still not 100% safe or effective, as they can have side effects for certain skin types, and can prove ineffective depending on interactions with medications as well.

Trends change, and so do we. While we have gotten more considerate and concerned about what we do to our bodies, there are nevertheless, ingredients in our current products that are potentially dangerous to us. And who knows, we could discover that phthalates are not just mildly harmful to us, but could turn out to be a poison. Some chemicals in our make-up products found on the periodic table of elements are in fact poisons, but because we use them in moderation, they do not have that much of a harmful effect.

In other news, for those of you who purchase make-up or creams from South Asian or East Asian countries, be careful of formaldehyde and lead that are not listed in their products (as they would not be sold in Canada if they were listed). As well, most green tea from East Asian countries have a high concentration of lead.

on January 09, 2014  KatelynRose1984  20,704 said:

This article is intense! What makes me wonder the most is what my daughter is going to say about the beauty products & routines that I use, 20 years from now... Yikes!

on January 09, 2014  lovelydays  3,649 said:

This is horrifying. Although in 20 years we will probably know something we don't know now about how awful some of the ingredients in our products still are.

on January 06, 2014  boxcat  861 said:

Well I think we're much more aware of harmful skin agents now versus then, so even in a hundred years I doubt there will be that much to boast about. They will probably be condemning us for our lax sun protection and using makeup packed with preservatives and chemicals. I know when my mom was younger she used to slather herself in baby oil and tan in the yard, and now she's the biggest sun care advocate you'll find. I think ignoring sunscreen was / continues to be my biggest beauty blunder as well, but I'm trying to get better. Having olive skin that never really burns makes sunscreen a forgettable thing.

on January 06, 2014  MissyLee  1,610 said:

Some of what we use isn't much less scary actually! But thanks for the article - wild what "we" "used to do".

on January 05, 2014  Charmheart16  3,985 said:

Wow, very interesting. What people will do for beauty. I agree with imfeehily, I wonder what will be written about our current beauty procedures in the future.

on January 04, 2014  shanaz  5,961 said:

This article is SOoo interesting!

on January 03, 2014  imfeehily  8,865 said:

I guess in a few centuries from things we do will be discussed in an article like this.

Add Comment:

Blog URL: