10 Craziest Ancient Beauty Practices

by Unbelievable Facts5 years ago

6 Ancient dentists recommended Portuguese urine as perfect teeth whitening ingredient. Urine jars from Portugal were shipped because people thought that it was a more powerful cleansing agent than “home-grown” Roman urine.

Portuguese urine for teeth whitening
Ancient dentists recommended Portuguese urine as perfect teeth whitening ingredient. Image Credit: frolicsomepl via Pixabay, Kjerstin_Michaela via Pixabay

The first people to invent toothpaste for oral hygiene were the Egyptians. The ancient toothpaste was nothing like the ones we use today. They were just a mixture of pumice, a very light and porous volcanic rock, and wine vinegar. Next in the oral hygiene race were the Romans. They did not have any fancy kinds of toothpaste but a totally organic solution to oral hygiene. It was urine.

Daily teeth care for the Romans involved using a local toothpaste where the main ingredient was human urine. Wealthy Romans were ready to pay enough money to get their hands on the famous teeth-whitening toothpaste. Also, the urine was imported from Portugal.

It was believed that Portuguese urine had more efficiency when it came to whitening than Roman urine. Sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Later, the Portugal urine also made its way to mouth washing liquids in the 18th century. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, their oral hygiene methods were lost.

If we look into the science behind it, the Romans were actually on to something. Urine contains ammonia which is a great cleansing agent. Our modern toothpaste and mouthwashes contain ammonia to provide the whitening effect. (source)


7 Beauty patches, also known as “stick-on beauty marks,” were a cosmetic staple in the 1700s. The patches came in a variety of shapes and sizes, like stars, moons, hearts and even more intricate designs like a horse and carriage.

Beauty patches
Beauty patches, also known as stick-on beauty marks, were a cosmetic staple in the 1700s. Image Credit: Fashionable Forties, Witness2fashion

During the 18th century, beauty patches were all the rage. They were used to cover up pimples or blemishes on the skin. This was one of the earliest examples of the use of beauty techniques to convert facial flaws into fashion statements!

Smallpox occurrences in the 18th century were majorly responsible for the emergence of these beauty patches. Very few people survived the pox, but for those who survived, they were left with scars. Enter beauty patches to hide those scars.

The first beauty patches were made from costly fabrics such as silk or velvet. They were then coated with an adhesive so that they could be stuck onto one’s skin. They came in a variety of decorative shapes like crescents, circles, hearts, triangles, stars, etc.

Eventually, the beauty patches turned into a cosmetic staple. People started adorning them even though they had no blemishes or pimples to cover.

According to the  Pitt Rivers Museum, “Women pasted them on the face, neck, and breast, according to a newly emerging language of symbolism: a patch above the lip meant coquetry, on a forehead, grandeur, and at the corner of an eye, passion.” (source)


8 By the late 1800s, some women would use a blue or violet pencil to trace their veins to make their skin appear paler.

Women would use a blue or violet pencil to trace their veins to make their skin appear paler
Women would use a blue or violet pencil to trace their veins to make their skin appear paler. Image Credit: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

In the 1800s, beauty was defined by a neatly groomed hairstyle, a long neck, a tall and slender body with abundant bosom and hips. All these features had to be further accentuated with tight and perfectly shaped body cladding clothing. To further accentuate the physical features, padding was used to achieve the required shape and size. Amidst all these, there was one beauty practice that sounds a bit bizarre.

Women used blue or violet color pencil to draw out their veins in all the areas where the skin was visible. This was mostly the neck and the chest area. This was done to give out the illusion of a stark white complexion, even under yellow-colored lighting! Obviously, this was prevalent among the high class and rich women as they alone had the time and the help for such beauty rituals. (1, 2)


9 Poisonous bugs were crushed and made into a paste to be worn on the lips so as to give out a reddish tinge.

Poisonous bugs were crushed and made into a paste to be worn on the lips. Image Credit: Stephencdickson via Wikipedia

Lips are considered to be one of the most sensual parts of the female body. A woman wearing a red lipstick stands out in a crowd and makes people turn their heads.

The first use of lip color can be attributed to the Mesopotamians. They used to crush gem-stones and beeswax and apply that to their lips to color them. But it was the Egyptians who went one step further.

They first started by using seaweed, bromine mannite, and iodine to create distinguished colors. The colors they were able to create ranged from hot tangerine to pink. Moreover, when bromine mannite was mixed with iodine, it gave out a deep purple shade.

Then Cleopatra came up with her own signature color that she achieved by crushing poisonous beetles. The creation of this color was not easy as it required around 70,000 beetles to create just one pound of the dye. So much for beauty! (source)


10 In the 16th century, women used a skin whitener on their face called “Venetian Ceruse” that was made of highly poisonous lead carbonate.

Venetian Ceruse
Venetian Ceruse was used by women to get that stark white complexion. Image Credit: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

Skin whitening is one of the largest growing segments in the beauty industry today. And this trend is not something new. A fairer skin has been associated with beauty since time immemorial. White skin is a symbol of status, and people in ancient times took extreme measures to get that white glow.

Women in the 16th century resorted to the use of a product known as the “Venetian Ceruse.” Commonly known as “Spirits of Saturn,” it was used as a skin whitener. It was also considered the best to be available during the ancient times.

If it was so good, then why did its use disappear? As efficient as it might have been, the product was made from lead carbonate. The white lead used in the product was the cause of lead poisoning in many women. It also led to skin damage and even death if used for an extended period.

The product has been known to cause the death of Maria Coventry, Countess of Coventry, in 1760. She was just 27 years old. She regularly used Venetian Ceruse and it led to blemishes on her skin. To hide those, she applied more of the product, eventually dying of lead poisoning. (source)

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