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9 Vintage Beauty Tips We’re Glad No One Uses Anymore – #3 is A Big Relief!

As the age old saying goes, beauty is pain, and these vintage beauty tips are a prime example. Forget tripping over in your high heels and accidents with the eyelash curler, old-timey beauty ideals were not only unattainable, they could also be deadly.

Lead Face Powder

Lead has been used as foundation since ancient times to smooth out the skin and cover blemishes, as well as an ingredient in mascara, rouge and other cosmetics. Lead face powder is often associated with Queen Elizabeth I, who is believed to have died from blood poisoning caused by ceruse, a paste formed from a mixture of lead and vinegar popular in the 1700s. People who used lead-based cosmetics poisoned themselves slowly and eventually died, but not before suffering through prematurely grey hair, dried-out skin, severe abdominal pain and constipation. Yuck!

Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com
Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com

Lard As Hair Gel

In the late 1700s, those huge hair dos seen on the likes of Kirsten Dunst in ‘Marie Antoinette’ hit their peak. To get their hair to stay up, women would use everything from wooden and iron frames, leather horse hair pads and tonnes of hair extensions. The hair was then styled with hot curling tongs, covered with lard to hold it in place, then coated with lead to set it. Considering hygiene standards weren’t particularly high at the time, it wasn’t washed very often, and the lard attracted lice and vermin. Someone women even slept with cages on their heads to stop mice from nesting in them.

Image courtesy of redredlesspacuthong.blogspot.com
Image courtesy of redredlesspacuthong.blogspot.com

Deadly Nightshade Eye Drops

Want that doe-dyed Bambi look seen on the likes of Dakota Fanning and Amanda Seyfried? Well, all you need to do is drop deadly nightshade, AKA poison into your eyeballs. It dilates your pupils, but long-term use also causes blindness.

Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com
Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com

Eyelash Extensions

This newspaper article from 1899 explains the process of eyelash extensions in detail:

“An ordinary fine needle is threaded with a long hair, generally taken from the head of the person to be operated upon. The lower border of the eyelid is then thoroughly cleaned, and in order that the process may be as painless as possible rubbed with a solution of cocaine. The operator then by a few skilful touches runs his needle through the extreme edges of the eyelid between the epidermis and the lower border of the cartilage of the tragus. The needle passes in and out along the edge of the lid leaving its hair thread in loops of carefully graduated length.”

Sounds painful!

Image courtesy of twincitieslashes.com
Image courtesy of twincitieslashes.com

Eating Arsenic

Once people had moved on from lead, arsenic took over as the miracle product for a beautiful complexion. In the 19th century people ate arsenic for radiant skin, clear eyes and “sexy stoutness”. However, like it’s predecessor arsenic is very, very bad for you. It destroys red blood cells, which does give you pale skin, but it also kills you.

Image courtesy of nymag.com
Image courtesy of nymag.com

Cyanide Hair Dye

‘Beauty’s Aids’, a book written in 1901 by the anonymous “Countess C__,” recommends this recipe for a strong black hair dye:

“To obtain a more pronounced black, use a mixture of celeste (ammoniated solution of sulphate of copper) water with a solution of yellow cyanide. (Take great care in using this preparation; the cyanide is a terrible poison.)”

Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com
Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com

X-Ray Depilation

In the 1920s, Austrian physician Leopold Freund started marketing x-rays as a painless form of hair removal. Although it worked, it also caused wrinkled skin, lesions, dermatitis and cancerous growths. So not worth it!

Image courtesy of blogs.mcgill.ca
Image courtesy of blogs.mcgill.ca

Radioactive Skin Care

In the 1930s French cosmetic line Tho-radia claimed to cure any beauty problem imaginable: “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 ageing and gets rid of wrinkles, conserves the freshness and brightness of the complexion.” However, two of its main ingredients were thorium chloride and radium bromide, which could cause radiation poisoning, which is not a good look.

Image courtesy of mentalfloss.com
Image courtesy of mentalfloss.com

Hair Removal By Sandpaper

During wartime when everything needed to be rationed, even beauty products, 1940s women improvised by using sandpaper to remove unwanted body hair. Ouch!

Image courtesy of lafenty.hubpages.com
Image courtesy of lafenty.hubpages.com

Sophie Lloydhttps://culturepoppress.wordpress.com/
I’m a freelance journalist and general arty person. I love anything creative and I have a degree in Fine Art as well as a Master’s in Arts Journalism. I’m passionate about fashion, feminism and bacon, and have a morbid streak that can only be satisfied with pizza and horror films. Follow me on Twitter for more of my random ramblings.


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