10 Craziest Ancient Beauty Practices
Since time immemorial, women have been subjecting themselves to crazy beauty practices to look beautiful and be more appealing. Today, we have different products easily available on the market. But in ancient times, people had to get creative. From changing the shape of one’s feet to using highly poisonous materials on the face, we bring to you 10 such craziest ancient beauty practices.
1 In China, foot binding was considered a mark of beauty until the 20th-century. Tight binding was applied to the feet of girls at a young age to modify the shape of their feet to look like a lotus. This resulted in limited mobility for women, and some even had to suffer from lifelong disabilities.
Despite the immense pain, women in China kept alive the tradition of foot binding for many years. The concept was made famous by a 10th-century court dancer named Yao Niang. Her feet were bound into the shape of a new moon! The emperor was enchanted by her dancing on just her toe inside a six-foot golden lotus.
Eventually, other ladies of the court started trying out the method, and it turned into a tradition. It became a symbol of one’s status along with beauty and sexuality. Down the line, it became so embedded into the Chinese culture that a girl without feet binding had only negligible chances of getting married!
The process starts when the girls are between four to nine years in age. This is the time when the arch of the feet is not fully developed and is easier to bound. The preparation involves the foot being washed with warm, herbed water and animal blood.
This was done to soften the feet. Next, the toenails are clipped as far as possible to avoid growth. The toes on each foot were curled under the foot by pressing with great force. This was done until the toes broke. Once the desired lotus shape of the feet was achieved, bandages were used to tightly hold the feet in shape. Eventually, with time, the feet became numb.
There were many health issues related to this process the most common being infections. Blood circulation to the toes was completely cut off because of the tight binding. This meant that any infection on the toes would never heal and ultimately lead to rotten flesh.
Moreover, the mobility of the women with bound feet was restricted to a large extent. Some even had to suffer lifelong disability in lieu of the broken bones and terrible infections. (source)
2 The Greeks and Romans used crocodile excrement in their body-toning mud baths. It was also used in face masks, as it was believed to slow down aging.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used various animals and animal byproducts for medicinal and beautifying purposes. One common belief was that reptile excrement had the power to slow down the aging process. So, the Greeks and the Romans used to fill their bathtubs with a mixture of warm mud and crocodile feces.
They would then sit there for hours hoping their skin to magically turn younger. Some of the wealthy people were also known to create face masks out of the excrement and mud mixture.
The great Greek physician, Galen, noted that women who desired luxury preferred crocodile dung face masks to complete body baths. This was definitely one of the grossest beauty practices, but still, nobody was harmed while trying it out. (source)
3 In 1936, Isabella Gilbert invented the “Dimple Maker” so that dimples could be “made to order!” The device consisted of a spring with two tiny knobs that press into cheeks to create the dimples.
Who doesn’t love dimples? There are so many people who wish they had dimples. If only there was a machine that could magically create dimples on our cheeks! In reality, there existed one such machine. Known as the “Dimple Maker,” it was created by Isabella Gilbert in 1936.
The machine came with just simple instructions: “Wear dimplers five minutes at a time, two or three times a day, while dressing, resting, reading, or writing. Look into the mirror and laugh. There will be a semblance of a line where you should always place the dimplers until your dimples are made.”
The device consisted of a spring-like contraption with two rounded knobs. The knobs were to be placed where the dimples are desired.
So, the knobs would just press the cheeks hard to create two depressions on both sides of the face. The doctors at the American Medical Association denounced the machine in 1947, as they believed that the prolonged use of the machine might lead to cancer. (source)
4 Tho-Radia, a French cosmetics brand, manufactured products that contained radioactive chemicals like thorium chloride and radium bromide. They were supposed to provide a “radiant” skin.
With the discovery of radium by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, the entire scientific community jumped on it. It was not long before radium came to be used in medical and commercial requirements. Beauty is one segment that accepted radium with open arms.
Many cosmetics companies started infusing radium into their products with the promise of a more “radiant” skin. In 1933, Alexis Moussali, a pharmacist, and Alfred Curie, a Parisian doctor, joined hands to launch a range of French radioactive beauty products. The product range was called “Tho-Radia” and included a cleansing milk, skin cream, powder, rouge, lipstick, and toothpaste.
The products were marketed as a scientific method of beauty. Advertisements showed a highly-glowing face that can be achieved by using the products.
Furthermore, each advertisement carried claims such as “Stimulates cellular vitality, activates circulation, firms skin, eliminates fats, stops enlarged pores forming, stops and cures boils, pimples, redness, pigmentation, protects from the elements, stops aging and gets rid of wrinkles, conserves the freshness and brightness of the complexion.” (source)
5 Belladonna or deadly nightshade was used in eye-drops by women to dilate the pupils of the eyes to make them appear seductive.
Crave seductive eyes? Put a drop of deadly nightshade into your eyes! That’s what ancient Italian women used to do!
The common name “belladonna” for the poisonous nightshade came from its use by women to look more appealing. Bella donna is Italian for “beautiful lady.” Women used to prepare drops from the plant and apply it to their eyes.
This would give a pupil dilating effect which was considered seductive at that time. The drops act as a muscarinic antagonist, which means that it works by blocking the receptors in the muscles of the eye which, in turn, constricts the pupil in size. It was quite dangerous, as prolonged use had the potential to lead to permanent blindness. (source)
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