Weird Beauty Trends Through History

By smei

Posted 19/12/17

In 2017, people may have stepped into a beauty salon and asked a beautician or make-up artist to recreate some of the stranger, wonderful, and unusual beauty looks of the year – including trends such as crown eyebrows, nose hair extensions, and beard transplants.

But weird beauty trends are not a new phenomenon – so, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the most unusual beauty looks of all time.

Dying to be Pale

Bizarrely, Victorians had a preference for the pale, sickly look associated with cholera. Queen Victoria saw make-up as “vulgar”, so women were expected to achieve the desired look naturally. However there were many ways around this, and many of the popular methods of achieving the look without make up were dangerous, including using wafers of arsenic to remove freckles and using eye drops containing deadly nightshade to increase the size of the pupil [1]. White lead was another historically popular method of achieving the “pale and interesting” look, which had the unfortunate side effects of causing baldness, paralysis and death [2] [3].

Black Teeth

The painted white faces of Japanese women was a culturally iconic look that originated as early as 600AD and remained popular until the end of the 19th Century. The stark white make up could make teeth look yellow in comparison, and it was thought that black teeth were a better complement to the look. This led to the practice of “ohaguru”, in which a mixture called “kanemizu” was used to dye teeth. This was quite an unpleasant and smelly process, which had to be repeated quite frequently but had an unexpected benefit of preventing tooth decay. There is evidence that suggests black teeth were also fashionable in England during Tudor times. Sugar was relatively new to the UK when Elizabeth the 1st was Queen, meaning it was rare and difficult to get hold of. Because of this black, rotten teeth became associated with a wealthy lifestyle [4][5].

Vampire Facials

If you’ve seen a picture of a celebrity with their face covered in blood recently you may already have heard of vampire facials, but what are they? The facial uses the patient’s own blood to “stimulate the healthy activity of skin cells” with platelet rich plasma, which is alleged to give skin an “energy boost” [6].

Although the skin may temporarily look more youthful due to swelling of the skin, there is no evidence of a long term improvement [7].

A Brief History of Eyebrows

These days it seems that the bigger the eyebrow the better, with some beauty bloggers taking the “scouse brow” to the extreme. However, during medieval times the opposite was the case. The forehead was considered the most attractive and erotic part of a woman so it was fashionable to remove eyebrows and eyelashes to accentuate its shape. Unsurprisingly, this is not a look you see represented in period dramas about this era [8]!  In contrast, during Ancient Roman times the dreaded “unibrow” look was popular, which was achieved by darkening and extending the eyebrows inwards using soot [9].

Tapeworm Diet

Up until the Victorian era larger figures were more desirable as they signified wealth, as visible in paintings from the Renaissance period. However, by the 1800s the slimmer physique rose in popularity, and so came the advent of the fad diet [10]. One of the most potentially dangerous was the “tapeworm diet”, which involved swallowing a pill containing an egg that would grow into a parasitic tapeworm. The dieter effectively becomes host to the tapeworm, which was said to feast on their dinner during digestion, allowing the host to lose weight without changing their diet. Although there is no definitive evidence to prove whether these pills really contained tapeworms or were a placebo intended to part wealthy dieters from their money, people were willing to take them.

The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable and should be understood to be general risk management and insurance information only. The information is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.

Sources

[1] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-poisonous-beauty-advice-columns-of-victorian-england

[2] http://jpninfo.com/38502

[3] http://mentalfloss.com/article/50259/fatal-attraction-7-terrifying-beauty-practices-history

[4] http://jpninfo.com/38502

[5] https://www.zmescience.com/other/feature-post/tudor-england/

[6] https://www.allure.com/story/vampire-facial

[7] https://www.allure.com/story/vampire-facial

[8] http://www.marieclaire.com/beauty/news/a13574/the-history-of-women-and-their-eyelashes/

[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/5129102.stm

[10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20695743

Posted 19/12/17

Author: smei

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