CLOSE

7 Historic (and Seriously Unhealthy) Beauty Practices

While our modern beauty regimens certainly don't lack weird ingredients, by tradition our good looks have often been achieved at the cost of good taste and health. What deadly and disgusting things have people used to stay young and pretty? Here are a few of the truly disturbing used throughout history.

1. Bathing in Crocodile Excrement

For some reason, the ancient Greeks thought crocodile excrement had restorative and beautifying properties. It was mixed into natural mud holes or baths full of warmed mud, and Grecian lovelies hung about in it until they felt restored and beautiful (I'm guessing that took quite a while.) We don't know how they collected it (or why they decided it was a good idea in the first place) but it was all the rage in the wealthy and youth-seeking circles. Thankfully, bathing with water was also in vogue and there are no official reports of reptile-poo poisoning.

2. Sticking Bird Droppings Up Your Nose

In the early days of the geisha, Japanese women used a whitening paste on their faces made mostly of rice flour and bird droppings. It was applied over the entire face, including the ears, inside the nostrils, on the eyelids and lips.

3. Dyeing Hair With Cow's Blood

Hair dye has long been a staple of modern women, but ancient Iranian women also enjoyed a good dye-job. They compounded a nasty mix of henna, tadpoles, and the blood of black cows, which they applied liberally to darken and condition their hair. It was thought that the blood gave the cows their dark coloring and would do the same for human hair. Although henna is used as a natural dye to this day, the inclusion of tadpoles still confounds me.

4. Wearing Wigs That Caused Nosebleeds

queen-eliz.jpg

The women of England have been famous throughout history for their elaborate and strange beauty routines. In the era of Queen Elizabeth, when red hair was in fashion, women used a powder made of sulfur and safflower petals to color their hair and wigs. The blend caused headaches, nausea, and frequent nosebleeds.

5. Wearing Poisonous Eye Makeup

When it comes to heavy metal poisoning, no one trumps the ancient Egyptians. Men and women painted their eyes almost daily with a mixture called mesdemet, made from a dark gray lead, among other things. Also, a green paint called udju was used, made from a copper ore. Although neither product could be considered healthy, the eyepaint that Egyptians wore is credited with repelling insects and preventing infections due to the high antimicrobial activity of copper ore.

6. Liberally Applying Arsenic Powder

In a medieval version of today's CoverGirl compact, European women used a powder (pressed into cakes or small jars) to whiten their skin. The fashionable pallor was created by using white lead ore and arsenic, among other unhealthy-but-white ingredients.

7. Gargling With (Portuguese) Urine

Dental care was a little lax throughout most of history, but Romans in the time of Jupiter appreciated white teeth nearly as much as we do today. To improve the color of their teeth and freshen their breath, Romans imported Portuguese urine (believed to be stronger than their own) to rinse their mouths. While obviously unpleasant, urine contains several compounds like ammonia and urea that actually kill germs and help fight the gum disease gingivitis.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
video
Tips For Baking Perfect Cookies
5668610549001

Perfect cookies are within your grasp. Just grab your measuring cups and get started. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
entertainment
Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
iStock
iStock

Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
Netflix

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios