Beauty’s Dangerous History
If you’re dying to be more beautiful, be careful what you wish for. Although our modern-day cosmetics and beauty treatments are carefully tested and FDA approved, in the past people have not been quite so lucky. History shows that humans have been putting poisons in cosmetics for thousands of years.
Although we are now acutely aware of lead poisoning, in the past lead was a common ingredient in lipstick, eyeliner and even face powder. In ancient Greece the most fashionable women painted their faces with white lead and chalk mixed with vinegar. The lead would slowly poison them, causing prematurely gray hair, dry skin and abdominal cramps before finally killing them. No wonder their life expectancy was considerably shorter than today!
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In the 15th century, women went to great pains – literally – to enhance their natural beauty. As well as plucking their hairline to give the illusion of a higher forehead, they would redden their lips with mercuric sulphide. We now know that mercury can cause birth defects, depression, tremors, kidney and liver problems. However, even quite recently mercury was used to cure blemishes and was present in some cosmetics.
Killer Eye Drops
To make their eyes shine brightly, European women used belladonna (from deadly nightshade) as eye drops. It actually works by cutting off neuron function to dilate the pupils, but ultimately it lived up to its name and was deadly.
Arsenic Face Powder
At one time, taking arsenic was a popular way to achieve that enviable pale complexion. Women would soak arsenic out of fly papers which created a pale countenance by killing their red blood cells. Eventually the ensuing baldness and deadly side effects led to it being banned in the 1920s. Arsenic was replaced by quack doctors selling products such as “Dr. McKenzie’s Improved Harmless Arsenic Complexion Wafers”.
In Victorian times, women would be laced into rib-breaking corsets to create a tiny waistline. In China, tiny feet were considered dainty and infants had their feet bound to restrict growth in a painful procedure.
Modern Day Toxic Beauty
Although these historic tales seem ridiculous, in some ways we have not learned from the past. We still use known carcinogens to dye our hair, and inject botox (botulinum toxin) to paralyze signals from the nerves to the muscles to prevent wrinkles.
Coal tar is still found in some anti-dandruff shampoos and hair dyes. It is a human carcinogen that causes a susceptibility to sunburn and damages DNA.
Fortunately, beauty can be achieved without going to such dangerous extremes. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and organic cosmetics can provide a natural healthy glow that surely outshines other more extreme beauty treatments.