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lip top 10: ancient beauty products

When it comes to makeup and hair products, we have a lot to thank our ancient counterparts for, such as discovering coconut oil and henna, but they also had a few methods I’d be reluctant to use. Here are the top 10 ye olde beauty products that you shouldn’t try at home.

1. Lead as eye makeup
You know that kohl eyeliner that you have? The core ingredient in it is galena, AKA lead sulphide. This was used all over the ancient world; Egypt, the Middle East and even Elizabethan England, to name a few places. Even today it is still used in parts of Africa and Asia. Don’t stress, the kohl eyeliner we use in stores is kohl in name only, but it is worth checking the ingredients because the health standards of the country of manufacture determine whether they use real kohl or a substitute.

2. Tapeworms to stay slim
Gross, I know, but it happened in Edwardian England (I’ve decide that the beginning of the last century is ancient now). You can probably guess how it works – the lady swallows the tapeworm, the tapeworm consumes what she consumes and the carbs stay away from her thighs. You know, I think I’d rather try Jenny Craig first.

3. Arsenic to make skin glow
You know that lovely glow that pregnant women have? Well, in Elizabethan England some ladies wanted to have that glow all the time and achieved it by eating arsenic laced foods. They also rubbed it on their faces in a mixture with chalk and vinegar as a way to turn the skin whiter and prevent aging.

4. Lion urine for highlights
Rather than pop into the hairdresser and spend $100 having highlights put through your hair, here’s an idea for you – just dip it in lion urine and sit out in the sun for a while, like the Venetians did. As far as my research has led me to believe, the urine itself won’t do any damage, although the acquisition of it may.

5. Nightingale droppings as makeup remover
Get home from a night out to find you’re out of makeup remover? No worries, take a leaf out of the book of Geishas and early Kabuki performers. Just pop out the back, find some nightingale droppings and hey presto! Rumour has it that Tom Cruise uses this in an anti-aging mixture too. Really.

6. Camel urine for sleek and shiny hair
Like the Venetians, the Arabians also liked to use urine in their hair. Turns out, they were onto something. It’s the high levels of potassium in camel urine that makes it great for hair, hence why you see it in a lot of our hair products.

7. Squished bugs as lipstick
Lipstick you can make at home! Cleopatra did it, ladies in Elizabethan England did it and now, you can do it too! No, really, you can, because some lipsticks still contain carmine, which is a red pigment obtained from some scaled insects.

8. Dung as a face mask
Speaking of Cleopatra, know what she used as a facemask? Crocodile dung mixed with donkey milk. Once I used a face mask and was a little careless, so some got in my eye. Thankfully it stayed out of my mouth. I’m just concerned for her because accidents do happen.

9. Snail ash as an anti-pimple cream
I can only imagine that the theory behind this Roman one was that the ash would dry the skin out, but why snail? Well, we’re not sure. Surely caterpillar, or spider, or you know, wood, would have been just as (in)effective.

10. Bone as false teeth
The Romans did this. It actually makes sense to me, you know, ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that jazz. In way it makes the process of receiving something false more organic. Unless it’s Uncle Robert that you’re chomping away with.

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2 thoughts on “lip top 10: ancient beauty products

  1. It’s said that Cleopatra used to bathe every evening in asses milk. These days they actually market raw (unpasteurised) milk as a beauty product, which I find horribly wasteful. (Look out for products like ‘goat milk soap’ and ‘body cream’ and ‘bath milk’ if you like the idea of a natural beauty treatment… or you want to make cheese with unpasteurised milk).

    Some beauty treatments can be born out of economic hardship… somewhere in Slavenka Draculic’s book ‘How we survived communism and even laughed’ she tells how Yugoslavians were so cash-strapped under the old communist rule that they would recommend treatments like egg yolk on the face (or something like that – I can’t remember the details.) The Baron (my wife) has a good anecdote about reading over a Russian phrasebook at school; one of the phrases for ‘at the hairdresser’ was

    ‘Please do not put beer in my hair’.

    Now, I am imagining how lion’s pee. I wonder if it’s like cats do – kicking the soil round after to cover what they have done? Maybe it’s on youtube… hmmm and double hmmmm…

    Great post!

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