1. Mona was a Trendsetter
Have you ever wondered why the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows? Da Vinci didn’t run out of paint; he simply portrayed the hairlessness (plucked-out eyelashes and eyebrows, shaved foreheads) that was all the rage at the time.
2. Pay for Poop
Upscale spa-goers can now pay for the privilege of getting bird poop smeared on their faces. The nightingale droppings in pricey “geisha” or “nightingale” facials are believed to soften, brighten, and nourish the complexion. (Read about some other weird and wacky things people do in the name of beauty.)
3. Ballpoint Against B.O.
In 1952, deodorant with an applicator based on the same principal as the newly invented ballpoint pen was first marketed in the U.S. The groundbreaking product? Ban Roll-On.
4. Pale & Dangerous
For hundreds of years, European women used ceruse to lighten their complexions. Unfortunately, the vinegar and lead that made up the paste was known to cause hair loss and potentially lethal lead poisoning.
5. A Snip Solution
Acne and burn patients in the U.K. may be treated with vavelta, a clear liquid that contains skin cells that rejuvenate and revitalize damaged skin from the inside out. These skin cells, called fibroblasts, are isolated from foreskins donated by mothers of circumcised baby boys.
6. Eye on Poison
During the 17th and 18th centuries, women used drops made from the poisonous plant belladonna to dilate their pupils, which was considered attractive. Occasional use damaged vision; prolonged use led to permanent blindness.
7. A Fishy Smile
It’s true: the shimmer and shine in your lipstick and nail polish comes from fish scales. The FDA-approved color additive, guanine (often called pearl essence), is also found in fragrances and hair and skin care products.
8. Early Cosmetologists
In ancient Rome, “cosmetae” were female servants who applied cosmetics to wealthy Roman women and bathed them in perfume. It is also said that cosmetae dissolved various cosmetic ingredients in their own saliva.
9. Raising Awareness of Razor
When a sleeveless-evening-gown-clad model on the cover of the May 1915 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine was pictured with hairless underarms, the Wilkinson Sword razor company began marketing women’s underarm hair as unhygienic and unfeminine. And so it began…
10. Hooker Makeup?
In the Victorian era, makeup became associated with actresses, women of questionable morals, and prostitutes. Upper-class women wore hardly any makeup, boasting a pale complexion.
11. Scent Bombs
French fragrance house Cire Trudon recently introduced a range of Perfumed Stink Bombs. The glass vials are designed to be smashed on the ground, releasing the fragrance within and instantly scenting a room. Consider it “guerrilla perfume.”
12. Leech Locks
Dying your hair black in ancient Rome involved feeding leeches, putting them in vinegar, leaving the substance to ferment for two months and thicken into a paste, then applying the mixture to the hair and allowing it to dry for a day.
13. A “Smart” Ingredient
If your favorite skin care product purports to increase moisture retention and promote smoother skin, cerebrosides might just be a key ingredient in the concoction. Did you know that the raw material for cerebrosides in cosmetics comes from cattle, oxen, or swine brain cells or other nervous system tissues?
14. Name Game
In 1915, T.L. Williams created a cosmetics company and named it Maybelline in honor of his sister, Maybel, and Vaseline brand petroleum jelly, which was the base ingredient of his new mascara product.
15. Prescription Beauty
New research suggests there’s more to alluring Ancient Egyptian eyeliner than meets the eye. According to the American Chemical Society, the lead-based eye makeup boosted production of nitric oxide, which in turn boosted the immune system to prevent and treat the eye infections common in that time and place.
16. “Down-there” Dye
What will they think of next? Whether you want to match your hair above, cover gray, or just have fun, you can now purchase specially formulated color dye for the hair “down there.” betty™ products are available in auburn, black, blond, brown, hot pink, aqua blue, lilac, and ruby red.
17. Turpentine, Turpentine…
When waterproof mascara entered the beauty industry in 1938, it was made of 50 percent turpentine. In 1958, Revlon introduced its “Roll-On Mascara” – the first waterproof mascara without turpentine.
18. Stylish Snail Slime
You may think of them as common garden snails, but Helix aspersa are moving up in the world – specifically in the manufacturing of beauty and skin care products. As it turns out, snail slime does an excellent job of preventing and treating skin conditions such as acne, scars, and burns.
19. “Smells Like You…”
Cleopatra is famous for – among other things – soaking her ship’s sails in perfume so the fragrance would reach Rome (and Marc Antony) before she did. In “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare writes that Cleopatra’s sails “were so perfumed that/The winds were love-sick with them.”
20. Pee Rinse?
White teeth were coveted in ancient Rome just as they are in many parts of the world today, but the Romans used a more controversial method of tooth whitening – they brushed and gargled with urine. (What they didn’t know was that it was the ammonia in the urine that was responsible for the bleaching.)
21. The Anti-Pearly Whites
Black teeth are not always the result of poor dental hygiene – in Vietnam and other parts of Asia, women and men take part in the ritual of teeth blackening to enhance sex appeal, maintain healthy teeth, and not be mistaken for an evil spirit.
22. Cockroach Red?
When you see “cochineal extract,” “carmine,” “crimson lake,” “natural red 4,” “C.I. 75470,” or “E120” on a product label, you might not know that these terms refer to the red dye in your cosmetics – which is derived from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects.
23. Bleeding for Beauty
In order to achieve the pale complexion that was once so desirable, medieval women would bleed themselves using leeches or by slashing one of their veins and draining the blood into a cup or bowl.
24. Spot On
Beauty marks were held in high regard long before Cindy Crawford and her iconic mole. Renaissance women went so far as to make their own “beauty spots” from small circles of black velvet, which also proved useful for hiding pimples, warts, and scars.