11 Bafflingly Bizarre Beauty Practices Used Throughout History

tapewormWe've all done some crazy things to ourselves in the name of beauty, and there's no question that questionable cosmetic practices absolutely exist today (vampire face lift, anyone?). But even the most eyebrow-raising modern beauty methods pale in comparison to some of the truly insane methods women have used throughout history to look their best -- or at least what they thought was their best!

Seriously, if you think the concept of Botox injections is nuts, that's just because you don't know what the ancient Romans used for mouthwash. (Hint: You don't REALLY want to know. Except you do!)


Image via Adam/Flickr

  • Crocodile Dung Baths


    Image via Ramy Alaa/Flickr

    Thousands of years before candy-scented bath bombs and body wash came into fashion, Greeks and Romans were adding something far less fragrant into their mud baths: Crocodile dung, praised for its supposed anti-aging properties. (But how many baths did they need after the dung-filled ones?!)

  • Tapeworm Diet


    Image via Adam/Flickr

    We all laughed when comedian Margaret Cho joked about the miraculous weight-shedding properties of the "malaria diet," but it turns out women in the early 1900s really did turn to creepy crawlies to lose pounds fast; namely, pills containing tapeworm larvae, which would then grow into full-sized tapeworms to consume all of their hosts' pesky calories! (And make them really, really sick.)

  • Foot Binding


    Image via John C Bullas/Flickr

    And you thought high heels were painful: Common practice in China until it was first banned in 1912, foot binding involved breaking the bones of little girls' feet repeatedly and binding them to stunt growth. Ouch, ouch, OUCH.

    More from The Stir: 7 Weird Beauty Treatments Too Creepy for Most Women 

  • Portuguese Urine Mouthwash


    Image via Ajay Tallam/Flickr

    We can't decide which part of this crazy beauty practice is the weirdest: Not only did the ancient Romans apparently believe that urine made great mouthwash, they also believed that Portuguese urine in particular was the most effective -- so they imported jars of it for their own personal dental hygiene purposes. Kinda makes you want to reach for a bottle of Scope, right?

  • White Lead Makeup


    Image via Thomas Hawk/Flickr

    Spray tans were definitely NOT a thing during the Age of Enlightenment, when a fair complexion was so coveted that women would apply a powder of white lead, calcium carbonate, and hydroxide to all of their exposed skin. Unfortunately, the price for this ghostly pallor sometimes included side effects such as baldness and, you know, death.

  • Gladiator Sweat Beauty Serum


    Image via Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

    Gladiators were HOT stuff back in Ancient Rome. How hot? Gladiator sweat was collected and sold in jars at arenas (mixed with fat from the animals they killed) as a tonic for the complexion. Sure, you laugh, but we're betting a jar of Bieber sweat would sell on eBay today!

  • Bleeding


    Image via Kate Lewis/Flickr

    Once again, in pursuit of that vanilla-milkshake-colored skin (which presumably brought all the boys to the yard), aristocratic women of the 6th century actually drained themselves of blood. Also in style: Passing out from blood loss (we're guessing).

  • Black Teeth


    Image via Cerebralzero/Flickr

    We might spend an estimated kajillion dollars a year on attaining a gleaming white smile now, but if you were a married woman in Japan during the Meiji era and you didn't use a lacquer dye to make your teeth black, well, you had nothing to smile about. Never mind that the dye was really gross and had to be reapplied every three days or so.

  • Perm Machine


    Image via Memphis CVB/Flickr

    Okay, some people still get perms today (even if flat irons reign supreme at the moment). But nobody uses a medieval torture-esque "perm machine," which women in the 1930s willingly hooked themselves up to in the name of curl couture. (Just looking at it makes our hair curl!)

    More from The Stir: 10 Totally Bizarre Beauty Treatment Ingredients (PHOTOS)

  • Wig Lard


    Image via I Believe I Can Fry/Flickr

    And you thought you used a lot of product: Victorian wigs were made by gluing hair on wooden frames using paste made out of bear grease and beef lard. Whatever you put in your hair no doubt smells a LOT better, though it might not be as appealing to rats, who apparently couldn't resist snacking on unattended lard-ridden hairpieces.

  • Dimple Machine


    Image via Amanda/Flickr

    We always thought dimples were something you were born with, like, say, a predisposition to believing that bizarro beauty treatments actually work. But Isabelle Gilbert's Dimple Machine (like the Perm Machine, this contraption dates back to the 30s) promised to give the genetically un-blessed with real dimples by pushing spring-loaded knobs into their cheeks. Um, how cute?


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