Beauty trends can be hard to handle today. If you’re sitting in a salon chair for a time-consuming beauty procedure, perhaps waiting with some bleach on your hair, you might wonder to yourself, “Will this ever end?” However, today’s beauty procedures, from bleaching to blowouts, can look downright tame compared to some of the crazy things people have done for beauty in the past.
In the past, beauty trends often seemed to care more for perceived beauty than anyone’s health. Here are seven of the absolute craziest beauty practices throughout history—with some of them being surprisingly recent.
7. Deadly nightshade in the eyes
Large, dilated pupils were considered very beautiful only a few hundred years ago in Europe. Belladonna, which is also called deadly nightshade, was used in some eye drops to purposefully dilate your pupils, making you meet this beauty standard. If you’ve ever had your pupils dilated at the optometrist, you know this can make it difficult to see, not to mention the fact that nightshade itself can be fatal!
6. Lead on the skin
Lead has indeed been a common cosmetic ingredient for centuries. The ingredient was used to create a whitened paste, which created pale and smooth complexions. However, it would not be for centuries that doctors would realize that putting lead on your skin results in systemic lead poisoning, eventually leading to death for many of these women.
5. A daintier complexion with arsenic
If lead isn’t bad enough, what about arsenic? You might know arsenic from any number of scary detective stories where a woman poisons her husband with just a bit of it. But back in the day, it was sometimes sold as a complexion improver. Arsenic destroys red blood cells, creating a pale look that was heavily desired. Many women would ingest it or use soaps and poisons that contained it.
4. Mercury for all your blemishes
Nowadays, people know that mercury is incredibly poisonous. If you had a mercury thermometer and ever had it accidentally break, you may recall your parents worriedly telling you not to touch the mercury. However, its unique and beautiful silvery appearance led some people to theorize that it could be good for you. Back in the day, people would use it to cure blemishes.
3. X-rays for hours to remove hair
Sure, waxing can be painful and take quite a bit of time. However, in the early 20th century, when radiation was new and exciting, people would use X-rays to remove excess hair. With some people needing to sit in front of these X-rays for up to 20 hours, it’s impossible to know how many people ended up with harmful long-term damage due to all the radiation required.
2. Eyelash extensions with a terrifying twist
Eyelash extensions are now a process that many people are familiar with. But back in the old days, it wasn’t as easy as buying mascara or gluing false eyelashes to the lash line. Instead, they would take a hair off your head, thread it through a needle, rub some cocaine on your eyelid to numb it, and sew the hair on, just like a button on a coat. As difficult as it can be to sit through eyelash extensions today, at least no one is actually sewing them to your skin.
1. Styling gel made from lard
In Europe during the 1700s, people loved the highest, most voluminous hairstyles. However, because they didn’t have the same styling gel and hairspray we have today, they turned to the next best thing: lard. Because these styles took so long to get right, their styles would also attract lice, flies, and even small vermin, because they might not wash their hair for weeks.
While we may not use any of these terrifying beauty trends anymore, beauty trends are still a huge part of day-to-day life for most people. If you’re interested in learning all the ways that we do our own beauty trends today, consider signing up for the Ogle School cosmetology program to gain some safer and more well-thought-out beauty knowledge.