Strange Beauty Treatments Throughout History

Human history is full of people doing strange, dangerous, and sometimes downright insane things in the name of beauty. Some of these have become part of the popular consciousness, such as Chinese foot-binding, where the feet of young girls were bound tightly to prevent them from growing further and ruining the beauty of tiny feet. Others, however, have been more or less lost over the years and fallen into obscurity – but not for any longer! Here are some of the strangest things we’ve ever done in the name of looking good.

After a while, crocodile – way after a while. Ancient Greeks are known for many amazing things – Democracy, drama, advances in math, science, and philosophy – but this little nugget has managed to stay under the radar: they used to bathe in crocodile excrement. Why? For some reason, it was thought to have restorative and beautifying properties, so they would mix it into mud baths and soak in all that crocodile goodness.

Hey there, Red. Queen Elizabeth’s subjects so loved her flaming red hair that many tried to imitate it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t just pop down to a store and pick up a box of dye, so they were forced into using a mixture of quicklime, lead, sulfur, and water. If you think that sounds icky, you’re right – often it led to nose bleeds, headaches, and nausea.

You’re pale as a ghost. In the Middle Ages, a pale pallor was considered beautiful and fashionable, and the beauty pros of the time knew just how to get that look: rub white lead all over your face. If your first thought is “lead poisoning,” you’re absolutely right – many women who tried this particular beauty tip literally died for their “good” looks. Hopefully they at least came back to haunt those so-called pros!

Show me those pearly whites. Rich citizens in the Roman Empire were all about looking good as a way to flaunt their wealth and status, and white teeth were considered beautiful much as they are today. Unfortunately, they didn’t have mouthwash or toothpaste available, so they imported – no joke – Portuguese urine. They believed it was stronger than their own and could help whiten their teeth and freshen their breath. Here’s the amazing part, though – they were kind of right. Urine actually has several elements that help with dental care, such as urea and ammonia that fight gingivitis and kill germs. Take that, Listerine!

Kiss of death. Luscious red lips were all the rage in the Egypt of Cleopatra, but they could be just as deadly as they were beautiful. Women used a mixture of iron oxide (rust), red clay, iodine, seaweed, henna, and bromine mannite to get that ruby look, which was a big problem since bromine mannite is incredibly poisonous and known to kill not only the wearer, but sometimes even her make out partner.

All of these sound pretty strange, but don’t pass judgment until you think about some of the crazier ways we make ourselves “beautiful” today – starvation diets, plastic surgery, and waxing away our body hair may one day be looked at as just as insane by a future civilization!


Today’s guest blogger, Debbie Sweet is a skincare enthusiast, who works for a Chicago dermatology clinic, and loves to try new beauty and skincare products.


Note:  All views expressed in this blog post are the personal opinions of the guest blogger. doesn’t favor any particular skincare brand or take advertising from any of them. Our scientific algorithm is entirely unbiased based on your skin profile.


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