Strange Beauty Standards From History That Would Be Disgusting Today

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It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, the beholder’s standards have changed through the years as what is considered beautiful has evolved (sometimes quite dramatically). For instance, nowadays, it’s pretty safe to say that the whiter your teeth are, the better. That wasn’t the case a few centuries ago, as women blackened their teeth in order to look foxy.


And while the beauty trends may seem a bit outlandish, the methods used to get there are even more interesting. Women didn’t reach for their night creams in order to make wrinkles disappear. Instead, they relied on crocodile dung to keep their skin smooth and taut. And believe it or not, that’s hardly the strangest thing women of the past did to adhere to ever-changing cultural standards of beauty.

Here, we’ve rounded up a few more odd trends and treatments that may make you feel thankful for your current beauty regime.

Beauty Styles

Think your beauty is timeless? If so, you may want to think again. Considering that what was “on trend” back in the day is vastly different than what is seen as stylish today, your look probably wouldn’t work long ago.

Beautiful Black Teeth

The custom of dying one’s teeth black, known as ohaguro, began in Japan around 200 AD. Not only was having black teeth all the rage back then, but it actually also prevented tooth decay. The dying solution was originally made by dissolving iron fillings in vinegar and was applied to the teeth daily or every few days.

CVLT Nation

In the Sengoku period of Japan, between 1467 and 1603, daughters of military commanders would dye their teeth as a coming of age tradition. The look didn’t last, though; the Japanese government went on to ban the practice in 1870.

Unbelievable Unibrows

When unsightly hairs pop up in between eyebrows, women today typically make a beeline to the salon to get those strays taken care of in a hurry. It was a different story back in the day, however, as women in ancient Greece rocked their unibrows with pride.

Fonseca Bust

In fact, having a unibrow was seen as a sign of beauty and intelligence long ago. Kohl or dark powder was used to create the bold look, along with a mixture of goat hair and tree resin.

Receding Hairline Hotties

Women in medieval England believed that less was more when it came to hair. A high, round forehead was all the rage in the 1300s. To achieve this look, ladies back then would pluck their hairlines in order to make their faces look longer and take on an oval shape.

Jan van Eyck

Fashion-forward women would also pluck their eyebrows until they were barely there. Unfortunately, this method was looked down upon by the church, as removing facial hair was considered a mortal sin. However, hair removal was accepted if the woman did it to fix severe disfigurement or to prevent her husband from looking down on her.

Pale Skin Was In

Today, women pay big bucks to have flawless, gorgeous tans all year long. Back in the “Golden Age of Spain,” however, it was a much different story.

Universal Pictures

According to Cosmopolitan magazine, women would eat clay to achieve porcelain-toned skin. The drawback? They were likely to become anemic or contract chlorosis.

In pre-Revolutionary France, women inspired by Marie Antoinette’s fantastical styles piled on white powder to get the pale complexion they craved. The powder was made from ingredients like pulverized bone, talc, and white lead and was combined with whale blubber, wax, or vegetable oil to create a greasy mixture that would stick to the skin.

Show Me Those Veins

Vampires and phlebotomists aren’t the only ones who like good veins. In Elizabethan Europe, women strived to make their veins appear as visible as possible.


Along with using leeches to make their veins more prominent, fashion-forward ladies also drew the outlines of the veins on their chests to make them stand out. This technique was used often on the neck and chest and coined the phrase “blue-blooded.”

Beauty Treatments

Waxing your body hair and wearing color-changing contacts is nothing compared to what women long ago did to look gorgeous. Not only were a majority potentially dangerous, some were just downright gross.

Anti-Aging Crocodile Dung

You’re likely to pay big bucks today to get a mud facial or bath at some swanky salon. After all, mud has an assortment of detoxifying and anti-aging benefits. If you really want five-star treatment, however, you’ll need to mix that mud with crocodile dung.


At least, that’s what the ancient Greeks and Romans did in order to achieve spa-quality skin, says Business Insider. They believed that the crocodile waste had beautifying and restorative properties.

Eye-Brightening Orange Juice

It seems that having bright, white eyes is a trend that has been around for a while. The methods by which to achieve this look are a bit different, however.

Instead of reaching for Visine, women in the Victorian era used orange juice to make their eyes as bright as possible.


Squeezing orange juice directly into the eyes was a go-to for ladies looking to remove redness and make their eyes clear and bright. As you may imagine, however, the treatment was quite painful.

Acne-Busting Curdled Milk

Think that going in the kitchen and using food to get your skin looking good is a new thing? If so, think again. This concept has been around since the Middle Ages when women would look in their cabinets to find items that would fix their beauty ailments, says Cosmopolitan magazine.


“Kitchen beauticians” back in the day would rely on curdled milk to banish acne from their skin. Other food fixes included using boiled nettles to achieve glowing skin and cucumber juice to make freckles a thing of the past.

Sweat Facials

Forget expensive spa treatments to get your face looking luxurious. Instead, try rubbing some “man sweat” on your skin for that sought-after glow. Excuse us while we retch


According to BuzzFeed, folks in ancient Rome used gladiator sweat, which was sold at markets, to get their desired look.  

LardSculpted Wigs

Before hair spray and gel was used to tame stray wig hairs, women in the 18th century reached for lard to get their coifs smooth and slick.

French fashion plates, c. 1778 / Collection Maciet

If you think your hair sometimes turns into a “rats’ nest,” rest assured you probably don’t even come close to what these women experienced. The drawback of this beauty method is that rats were attracted to the fat-covered wigs and would often create nests inside of them. The wigs were typically attached to the women’s real hair and they would don them for weeks. 

Perhaps the worst part, however, was that they would sleep with cages around their wigs to keep the rats away. Nightmares, anyone?

Arsenic Skin Treatments

Looking to even out your complexion and get skin that glows? If you were around in the early 1900s, you would reach for arsenic to get the job done.


Ingesting the poison was the go-to for getting clear or lightened skin. Unfortunately, as you may imagine, the potential side effects of eating arsenic weren’t all that positive. There was a chance you could go bald for using the remedy, and if you stopped abruptly, it could wreak havoc on your skin.  

Burning Off Your Hair

Think using shaving cream and a razor to remove unwanted body hair is bad? If so, you didn’t stand a chance of being on trend in Elizabethan times.


According to Business Insider, these brave women would use homemade depilatory creams made from a combination of arsenic and quicklime to burn the hair off of their bodies.

The hair-removal process became a little safer in the 1940s when wartime scarcity had women reaching for sandpaper to get rid of the fuzz. We’ll stick with the razors, though, thanks.

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