If you think the modern trends of wearing tattoos and piercings are a bit over the top, think about life in ancient Greece and Rome, where an essential ingredient of face masks for women was fresh crocodile dung. Lovely!
We might complain about going to the dentist, but many African and Asian tribes used to have their teeth dyed black to preserve them into old age. It was also considered beautiful and still is in some parts of the world. Sharpening teeth to a point was popular as well.
In the 14th century, a ghostly-white complexion was considered the beauty standard and women achieved this with sheep fat and white lead powder, despite the latter being poisonous. Queen Elizabeth I herself used it, scarred as she was from smallpox. The lead poisoning probably led to her death.
A high forehead was also fashionable, and women would pluck the hair from their hairline. Removing eyelashes and eyebrows was quite popular too.
The poisonous plant deadly nightshade, also known as belladonna, is Italian for ‘beautiful lady’ because of its use by ladies as eyedrops, to dilate their pupils, considered to be attractive. However, it caused visual distortions, increased heart rate and sometimes blindness.
Another quandary was that bathing was considered bad for the health, so body odour was a big problem. Both men and women would use aromatic spices and perfumes to try to cover up the bad smell.
Having freckles, moles, or birthmarks were thought to be signs of witchcraft, and yet makeup was frowned upon by the church. One remedy was to use a face mask of bull’s blood, or boiled willow bark.
In the 18th century, smallpox was a leading cause of death. Those who survived were left, like Queen Elizabeth I, with facial scarring. To conceal the facial blemishes, a new fashion started, of wearing face patches made of silk, velvet or even mouse skin or fur. They came already sticky on one side, in shapes of stars, hearts or wands.
Today’s weird fashions don’t come anywhere near as crazy as they did in the past!