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Unusual Beauty Practices Victorian Era

Updated: May 25, 2022

Disclaimer; This info is for historical references (education) and humor only. Do not try these practices at home. I hold no liability if you attempt ANY of these methods, furthermore any mention of names from here on out, are simple for reference purposes only not for monetary gain by anyone related.

Firstly, before we get into the beauty practices themselves, I would like to lay some of the foreground, as to what might have brought some of these beautification rituals of the Victorians about.

The Romans started the use of eyelash enhancement by using burnt cork and coal as eye makeup. They also believed long lashes were symbols of mortality and virginity.

The roman Pliny the Elder, was the first person to note that short lashes were a sign of aging circa 753 B.C.

But a report written in 1882 by Henry Labouchere of Truth stated that Parisian women have found out how to make false eyelashes by having hair sewn into the eyelids; this trend lasted till at least 1899.

In 1902 German hair specialist and inventor Charles Nessler patented a "new & improved" method of manufacturing artificial brows and lashes. By 1903 he was selling artificial lashes.

The first mascara was created in the mid 1800's by Eugene Rimmel (does that last name ring a bell ladies?) He used petroleum jelly as a base with coal dust for pigment.

It has been rumored that Lady Montague washed her face with sulfuric acid. Speaking of face washes/peels of the Victorian era HCI was thought to be a great option for a facial peel so was a 20% solution of carbolic acid (Phenol). Women of the Victorian era were obsessed with keeping the complexion pale, back then a tan was a sure sign you were part of the "working class".

Victorian women and even some men would use face creams and other various concoctions with white lead or the favorite of the time arsenic! Arsenic was a favorite because it was multi-functional you could apply it topically or eat it. Yes, I just said eat it even though they knew it was poisonous. Brings a whole new meaning to beauty is pain. To go even further for that "undead" look cobalt was sometimes employed to paint blue veins on the declotte (cobalt contains heavy metals)

They didn't stop there it was also considered beautiful to have that on the verge of crying or just stopped crying look to the eyes. Women back then would rub a little bit of lemon juice in their eyes but that effect was short lived, so for a much longer-lived effect they resorted to belladonna drops they not only gave them instant gratification but also longer lasting results. There is just one minor caveat: belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, leads to permanent blindness with continued use. This was also known back then just like the beloved arsenic wafers they would nibble on with their tea were addictive both physiological and physically.

Raw cuts of meat placed directly to the face had been a popular anti-aging treatment. Women of the time would place chilled cuts of raw fatty meat to the skin in hopes that it would reduce wrinkles and bring back that youthful plumbed look to the face. The original lipids and peptide treatments of the day!

To keep their lovely locks clean and shiny, a good old washing with ammonia was usually employed since it is highly corrosive. which meant it would remove days old dirt and grime from the hair like a charm.

Now, let’s move on to the body. Firstly, there was no deodorant and certainly no antiperspirants of the day. Women and men alike relied (HEAVILY) on fragrances to mask the aroma of body odors. Ambergris was the most popular of the time, which by the way is extracted from Sperm Whale intestinal tract (now that has been thankfully outlawed because of poaching).

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1 Comment

Rebecca Scribner
Rebecca Scribner
Mar 03, 2022

So they had the choice of either poison or whale bile by-product as a beauty treatment back then... yummy!

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