Beauty Treatments Throughout History

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A Brief History

Today, beauty continues to be something that we, as humans, give value and importance to as we have since the beginning of civilization. So it is no surprise that beauty treatments have been around for a considerable amount of time as well. It is interesting to see how through the passage of time, different kinds of beauty treatments have been used for different purposes. 

In this day and age, we have become so advanced with beauty treatments and we have fully utilized technology to help us get the most out of our appearance in a number of ways. Most recently, more and more non-invasive aesthetic treatments are becoming even more popular. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to discover how people took care of themselves before any of these things were available. 

This is why we are going to let you in on a few of the most interesting beauty treatments that have been used throughout history.

Digging Deeper

Weight loss

The way people used to lose weight during the early 1900s were a bit extreme, but it worked! Women used to swallow a pill that contained a tapeworm. The tapeworm, once ingested, would grow and proceed to absorb the food inside the stomach. Once they would reach their desired weight, they would take a pill that would supposedly get the tapeworm out; however, this was not always the case because as the tapeworm would grow, it would become much harder to remove it using just a pill, and as a result many of these women would become extremely sick. 

Achieving paler skin

Through different eras in history, it has often been perceived that the ideal and true beauty was portrayed by light and pale skin. The paler the skin, the better. The way women would achieve this would be through a couple of treatments. The most common was through draining their blood either at the doctor or by using leeches. Another method that they would use is using creams and powders that contained mercury and arsenic, which we now identify as extremely poisonous chemicals. 

Big, beautiful eyes

There is nothing quite like having big, beautiful eyes. The way women used to achieve this long before there was surgery, was through ingesting the root of leaf of a plant that we know now as Belladonna. What it would do was it would make the pupils incredibly large, leaving the effect of beautiful, dough-eyed women, but at this price, they were soon to discover that by ingesting a certain amount of this plant, it could lead to death. 

Longer lashes

As women, we know that lashes make all the difference when it comes to beauty. While we have fake eyelashes readily available and mascara that piles on the weight to give the appearance of more luscious lashes, long before these ever came into play, people would go to ridiculous extremes to have longer lashes. Women would actually have the lashes sewn onto their eyelids! This is probably one of the procedures that brought on the saying ‘Beauty is pain’!

Dimple effect

Throughout history and still to this day, having dimples is considered to be a sign of true and natural beauty; however, in the past, women would actually use a device that was quite painful to wear to help them create dimples in their cheeks. 

Dainty feet

The daintier the feet, the more and elegant a woman would seem. In ancient China in particular,  this was something that was considered to be a necessity. If a woman was unfortunate enough to be born with larger feet, then the foot binding process would be put into play. This is where the girls, from as young as 6 years old, would be forced to have their feet bound and sometimes this would mean that their toes would have to be broken to ensure that they had smaller feet. 

It is clear that even though at the time, these methods seem credible and valid enough, they were mostly trying and painful to say the least. The perception along with the method of achieving beauty has morphed through the ages and luckily enough, we live in an age where we can achieve all kinds of beauty in different ways. Some are still painful, such as cosmetic surgery, but for the most part, most procedures are convenient enough either not involve pain or be a temporary thing. They did not have  it so easy in the past! They would have to come up with creative, and sometimes painful, dangerous or deadly ways to achieve their idea of being a beautiful woman. Many times they would end up damaging their bodies in extreme ways or poisoning themselves- there are even times where it would lead to death. So thank goodness for the times we live in! 

Question for students (and subscribers): What role has beauty had in influencing human history?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Eco, Umberto and Alastair McEwen.  History of Beauty.  Rizzoli, 2004.

The featured image in this article, a photgraph by silviarita, is licensed under the Pixabay License.


About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland