Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some people went to extreme and bizarre lengths to attain “beauty” throughout history and used some methods that were outright deadly.
From Ancient Egypt to the 1900s, we take you for a stroll back in time to look out the 10 most bizarre beauty trends in history, and one modern beauty trend we think is actually great for you.
Nowadays people seek tanned skin, but once upon a time pale or porcelain-like skin was all the rage in the Venetian era around the 17th century, and so was a potentially deadly skin treatment. Venetian ceruse was an application made with water, lead, and vinegar and used to rub on faces to provide ghostly-pale perfection. But of course...lead.
Use of ceruse, or white lead, caused hair loss, skin decay, and organ damage. It’s said that ceruse led to the death of Mary Coventry, Countess of Coventry, from overuse of the skin cream in her quest for the best skin. Not a pun you want to be known for.
It turns out that eye makeup, and current trends like cat eyes, can be traced back to Ancient Egypt — though this was nothing to post or boast about. To darken their eyes, Egyptians used a mixture of malachite (a colourful copper ore that`s poisonous as a powder), galena (a lead-based sulphide) and a lead-based kohl to create a smokey and mysterious complexion. These were also quite deadly if ingested or absorbed through the skin.
Extreme weight loss trends were VERY extreme back in the day. Women, to achieve an hourglass-shaped physique, would twist and contort their bodies into the desired shape with metal corsets cinched so tight they’d often pass out. Worse, this caused organs to shift out of place, and even shattered ribs!
Pale skin was in, but methods to achieve this varied. The outcome was usually bad. Back in the day, Bavarian women would submerge their bodies in arsenic baths that would give their skin a supremely pale and ethereal appearance. But this toxic bath, though it provided the pale skin, also poisoned many.
We know that the Greeks and Romans loved their appearance and utilised essential oils for health, but one method that has us holding out noses are their use of dung baths. Yes, the Greeks and Romans believed that crocodile dung rejuvenated their skin and often rubbed themselves in a mixture of mud and dung. Then again, these days there are expensive Japanese bird dung facials up for offer (Tom Cruise, we are looking at you).
In the 1930s, dimples were a look that was so desired it led to the invention of the Dimple Machine. Yes, a machine that gave you dimples...except it didn’t. This painful apparatus clipped around the head of a woman who wanted dimples, and two knobs twisted into place at the cheeks pinching the face in severely. Luckily, this torture-like device for dimples didn’t stick around long.
Another clear and whitening skin trend of old, and another dangerous one at that — eating arsenic wafers. Small wafers made of poisonous arsenic were sold even at large outlet stores and were said to help rid the skin of acne for good and give you a clearer and whiter skin complexion. Instead, it caused baldness and withering skin and could be deadly. To top it off, those who stopped taking it had sudden fluctuating skin issues, leading them to go back to the arsenic wafers as a solution. Yikes!
Want that glowing, radiating skin? Radioactive ingredients are not the way to go. But it was once thought to be. In the 1930s (what’s the deal with that decade?) hair and skincare products boasted revolutionary skin cream that would lead to healthier and younger skin. Problem is, they were made with the element radium, which is the kind of radioactive skin glow you don’t want!
Romans were all about rosy cheeks, and to get the blush colour they wanted they applied cinnabar (mercury sulphide powder) and red lead. This may have given their faces a light-pink complexion, but because mercury is now known as one of the most poisonous elements on earth — it also caused tremors, confusion, and death. Let’s pass on that trend!
When X-rays were discovered in the early 20th century, doctors marveled at the potential. And they noticed the potential for hair removal. It quickly became a popular option to remove unwanted body hair, and patients would spend up to 24 hours exposed to X-rays for it. As it turns out, that is not healthy AT ALL and caused atrophy, cancers, ulceration and eventually death. The pain of waxing or shaving sounds much more manageable now!
The Good Beauty Trend of Today!
Going Natural with Essential Oils
Wow, what a list above. Let’s cancel all of those trends for good! Though history seems filled with dangerous beauty trends, one movement we stand behind is the benefits of natural skincare products with essential oils. Essential oils too have been used extensively throughout history, and the history books write of how right they were instead of the reckless ones above.
Essential oils are some of nature’s most potent gifts with potential to make our bodies and our skin healthier, and ones like East Cape mānuka oil have profound antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial traits. That’s why we believe in the move to natural, especially for skincare and beauty products, and it's exactly why mānuka oil is our hero ingredient.
We’re all in with the Mānuka Oil Trend!
With no known allergies, East Cape mānuka oil is an essential oil that is completely safe to use on skin with an ever-growing list of benefits, and is 20-30 times more effective than Australian tea tree oil. Mānuka has been used for centuries by Māori healers to treat ailments and injuries, and now we have the science that backs the extensive benefits. And we aren’t talking science fiction or seriously bizarre trends like the list above.
ManukaRx is big on the benefits of mānuka oil and other essential oils, creating incredibly powerful essential oil blends and products to revolutionise your skincare regimen!