Blackened teeth, cinched waists, no eyebrows? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but over the ages some beauty trends may have been slightly stranger to “behold” than others.
Meanwhile, others have been downright dangerous and further still seem to defy simple common sense.
Here are five crazy beauty trends across the ages…
Long before anyone realised just how toxic lead could be, women across the Renaissance world were slathering it on their faces.
Known more romantically as Venetian ceruse, the facial cosmetic comprised vinegar, water and lead in a recipe designed to offer a stunning fair complexion while masking any scars or pigmentation.
As a slightly less desirable side effect, it also resulted in skin discolouration, hair loss, rotten teeth and, in some cases, lead poisoning that proved fatal.
These days false eyelashes might be widely available, but in ancient Greek times false eyebrows were way more in vogue.
It all started with a belief that full, natural eyebrows indicated purity, while the ultimate eyebrow achievement – the unibrow – was a sign of wisdom and beauty.
Those who were less endowed with full eyebrows used black powder to create the desired effect. Some even stuck false eyebrows to their forehead to really embrace the look. Made of goat’s hair and adhered with resin, it was the ultimate alluring falsie.
We can “wax” as lyrical as we please about the lack of ancient interest in eyebrow shaping, but if you were a woman in the middle ages, chances were you didn’t have any at all.
During that era and into the Elizabethan age there was a major trend towards both eyebrow and eyelash removal, along with a receded hairline.
Some believe it was because a prominent forehead was considered attractive, but there’s also a school of thought that the toxic chemicals in makeup and hair dye played a role.
Teeth whitening might be today’s trend, but in some ancient cultures, black was the dental ideal.
Practised in places like Japan, Southeast Asia, China and parts of South America, teeth blackening was achieved by painting the teeth with a compound of iron, sulfur and plant tannins.
Contrary to some other beauty trends, this one actually offered a health benefit, with the lacquer assisting to prevent decay and preserve the teeth into old age.
From Rubenesque to androgynous, the ideal female form has changed radically over the ages. But few beauty trends have been quite so universal as the fashion tour de force that was corsets.
Made from stiff fabric and bone or metal, corsets were often laced so tight around a woman’s ribs and waist they caused them to become breathless and even faint. In the long term, corsets resulted in digestive issues, rib cage deformity and weakness in the back muscles.
Good to know we only wore them for 300 years before common sense finally prevailed around the time of WWI.
There’s no doubt the lengths society has gone to in order to embrace beauty have been somewhat extreme over the years. And a flick through the pages of history reveals a wealth of other unbelievable practices that have trended over time.
These days, however, beauty is all about putting your more natural best foot forward, with trends focused on highlighting the true beauty within.
If you’re looking to embrace a career in the modern beauty industry, you can learn more here.
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