From as far back as history dictates, cosmetics, in its various forms, have played a key role in the lives of women around the world. From civilizations like the Greeks and Egyptians to modern day Hollywood, makeup has always played an important role in not only how people see women, but also how women see themselves. Today, the law requires manufacturers to disclose the ingredients used, the testing that was conducted, and any adverse reactions that may arise when using these products, but it wasn’t always so. Some of the products used long ago would have never made it past the first stage of testing today. Here’s a list of the gross things people used to make themselves feel beautiful.
1. Bug Lipstick
For many years, people considered having glossy red lips to be a desirable trait so much effort was spent trying to find the ingredients to create the perfect lipstick. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the right ingredient was found, but it was the cochineal bug found throughout South and Central America. The female insect fed on red cactus berries and when crushed the bugs produced carminic acid which is used to make the red dye carmine. At the beginning of the 20thcentury when rose lipstick became popular, the dye was also used by manufacturers. Today, carmine is still used in a few makeup products.
2. Animal Skin Eyebrows
Eyebrow styles, much like fashion trends, change with the seasons. During the medieval period, women sported barely their eyebrows but during the 1950s, women were seen wearing heavy dark brows. In ancient Egypt, cat owners would shave off part of their beloved pet’s hair, when they died and wore them as eyebrows. In ancient Greece, where it was believed that untouched eyebrows indicated purity, women used goatskin to create a unibrow. When the goatskin trend died out, another one emerged during the Georgian era. Women would pluck out all their eyebrows and replace them with fake ones made of mouse hair.
3. Cinnabar Rouge
If red lips were seen as desirable, then rosy cheeks were absolutely necessary and in some parts of the world they still are today. The difference between the products used today and back them is that today’s products have been tested and considered safe by many organizations, including the FDA. In the past however, women used cinnabar to achieve the natural blush appearance. If you didn’t know, cinnabar is a volcanic ore used to develop mercury, which is extremely toxic. It was ground up and applied to the cheeks and was probably responsible for mercury poisoning in many young women.
4. Tooth Dye
Regular visits to the dentist have become a part of our daily lives for quite a few decades but it hasn’t always been that way. During the Elizabethan era, having black teeth meant that you were someone of status. The trend is thought to have begun with Queen Elizabeth who had such a sweet tooth that her teeth began to decay, some of which went completely black. Her ladies at court followed her lead but used dye to blacken their teeth. The symbolism dates back to wealthy people being able to afford sugar to the point where it blackened their teeth. In Japan, a similar custom called Ohaguro, was used to darken people’s teeth, The process involved using a mixture of iron filings dissolved in vinegar.
5. Deadly Nightshade Eye Drops
Along with the red lips and rosy cheeks that were already mentioned, another desirable feature that we’ve not yet spoken about is having large dewy eyes. In Renaissance Italy, women started to use eye drops made from the belladonna plant to give them a wide-eyed appearance. The plant belladonna which means “beautiful lady” is also known as the deadly nightshade plant, which was commonly used to poison people. While it did give the ladies wider eyes, it also came with a long list of unpleasant side effects, from blurred vision and hallucinations to tachycardia and blindness. Oddly enough, it is still used today to dilate the pupils, but under medical supervision.
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