No pain, no gain: Terrifying beauty rituals from ancient times
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucius
While the standards of beauty have changed and evolved over the course of time, since ancient ages, our cultures have had a beauty obsession. Beauty standards for women have almost always included hallmarks of youth, health, fertility and fragility. The ideal idiom for beauty can be found in a tree with many branches i.e. cultural variations in taste , tradition etcbut one vital central trunk which is the human appetite for beauty and all things considered beautiful.
Our modern beauty culture with chemicals in cosmetics, acid peels, laser treatments, rhinoplasty and botox injections may seem extremely agonizing but one look at some of the beauty rituals the women of yore practiced is enough to make one repulse at the very thought. Get ready to learn some jaw dropping and terrifying beauty rituals, which were practiced in ancient era.
Crocodile Dung Baths
It is believed that animal byproducts are good for the skin. In early periods, the Greeks and Romans were known to use crocodile dung for body toning and anti ageing mud bath. People used to dive into the bathtub full of fresh crocodile excrete.
Other than this, some beauty rules also included taking baths in asses milk for the skin which Queen Cleopatra in Egypt is rumored to have often used, swans fat and bean meal which were used to handle wrinkles, and the ashes of snails as antidote to patches.
Isabelle Gilbert’s dimple machine that was introduced in the year 1936 was one such beauty device. Isabella Gilbert was leading her life upset as she was devoid of dimples. Hence she conceived the idea of a spring-loaded device.
This machine was used to create dimples on cheeks. The machine had spring-loaded buttons that were hard-pressedon the cheeks. The experience of the women who went through the excruciating pain was highly uncomfortable.
Dr. Lecter’s Mask
Lillian Bender invented this machine in 1912 to treat “facial defects”. The device was used to treat wrinkles and sagging flesh. The machine had a flexible rubber mask that had an opening for the mouth, and the elastic collar was knotted round the throat. Wearing a rubber mask and collar across your face for long periods can definitely not be anyone’s idea of comfort.
Women in England were very particular about maintaining their figure during the 1800s. They resorted to an insane and strange tapeworm diet. The diet included gulping the medicines comprising of sanitized tapeworm larvae. When the larvae reached the stomach, the worms would eat up the excess calories giving a perfect shape.
The larvae were surgically removed later as they would create millions of eggs in intestine and grow up to 20 feet long.
Foot binding was the tradition of applying uncomfortably tight binding to the feet of young girls aged between 4 to 7 to avert further growth. The practice started in upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China. The Chinese culture adopted this as a symbol of beauty.
Some women were bound to remain like this all through their lives, but some were only temporarily bound, and some were bound until their marriage to increase their matrimonial value.
Toxic white lead was a prevalent element in Victorian era and was used to whiten the skin and provide the absurd paleness that was craved at the time. Queen Elizabeth I of England was a well-known lead user. In this era any color in the skin was a sign of spending time outside, which usually meant backbreaking labor.
The aristocratic class showcased wealth through whiteness of skin and thus the prevalent fashion was to apply a powder made of white lead, calcium carbonate and hydroxide to every inch of exposed flesh. There were many occurrences of lead-poisoning in the 18th century because of this fashion. The lead make-up they used triggered the eyes to swell and reddened and led to baldness too.
This practice was much followed in Indonesia, Russia, Israel, and Thailand. The snakes were allowed to crawl all over the naked backs as a form of massage. This procedure was inspired by the faith that once people get over any preliminary hesitations, they find physical connection with the creatures to be relaxing.
The “Fire Therapy”, was used to provide toning and tightening and also cured stress, indigestion, infertility and cancer. During Fire Therapy, a herbal paste was applied then a towel was soaked into alcohol and was then set alight. This trend was prevalent in China called as “Huǒliáo”. This painful therapy was also used to reduce wrinkles and sagging flesh.
The wicked belladonna
During the Renaissance era in Italy many women used belladonna to appear more attractive. Belladonna (Italian for beautiful lady) is a very deadly plant also called deadly nightshade. Italian women used an extract from the berries of this plant as eye drops to dilate pupils and give a resemblance of larger eyes. Prolonged use of belladonna caused permanent blindness.
The leech therapy
Leech therapy was a popular treatment used in ancient times and was considered to come with great health and beauty benefits reaching the pinnacle of its popularity in the late nineteenth century. Leeches were used to treat scores of diseases through the method of bloodletting where the insects were left on the body of the person so they could suck out ‘impure blood’.
The leech therapy as a beauty treatment yet again caught the attention of the upwardly mobile class recently. The gorgeous Demi Moore herself hit the headlines when she admitted to have resorted to this therapy for detoxification. Recently ‘leech facelift’ has also gained acclaim. In this treatment leech enzymes and blood are applied onto the face and is supposed to give amazing results.
For many people the idea of putting weird insects and reptiles on their face and body or facing pain for the sake of beauty may not seem palatable but then to each his own, isn’t it?