Strange & Sometimes Dangerous Beauty Trends From The Past

Jul 20, 2020
01:59 A.M.
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Beauty standards over the years have seen many women take risks to achieve perfection. History is renown for its sexist and body negative approach to beauty.


From Japanese Meiji Era black lacquer teeth to plucking out every last eyelash, history has gifted us some weird and often dangerous trends. Here is a look at some of the strangest beauty trends from the past.

Accentuated Veins Like Marie Antoinette

Getty Images

Getty Images

During the pre-revolution era in France, pale skin was the ultimate beauty achievement. The trend was particularly favored by Marie Antoinette.

Since pale skin often caused more noticeable veins many people viewed dark veins as beautiful. As a result, many people would color in their veins with blue pencil to draw attention to them.

Foot Binding


Foot binding was a tradition that started around the late 10th century in China. The idea was that by breaking and binding the foot with the toes tucked inward would force it to stay only 3-inch-long and create the coveted “golden lotuses” shape.

Children would be forced to go through the extremely painful practice from as young as 3 to 4 years old until adulthood. This resulted in wobbly walk and doll-like feet that were considered attractive and vital to a woman’s marriage prospects. The practice was only outlawed during China’s Communist Revolution in 1949 and many women who endured the practice are still alive today.

Removing Eyelashes In The Middle Ages

 Photo by Hayley Kim Design on Unsplash

Photo by Hayley Kim Design on Unsplash


This practice is not only painful but extremely strange considering many of us yearn for thicker, longer and more volumized lashes. From mascara to lash extensions modern trends are the antithesis of the trends of the middle ages.

During the Middle Ages, the forehead was considered the sexiest part of a woman's face. In a Marie Claire article, it was revealed that women would often remove most or all of their eyelashes and eyebrows to allow all the attention to be drawn to their forehead.

Black Teeth


Another trend that is directly opposite to modern-day trends is the blackening of teeth. Everywhere you look in today's times you will see an ad for a teeth whitening toothpaste.

However, in the Meiji era of Japan, the beauty trend Ohaguro saw people use black lacquer to stain their teeth. They would be required to drink "an iron-based black dye tempered with cinnamon and other aromatic spices."

The practice was banned in the 1870s when the empress of Japan decided she wanted to show off her pearly whites. However, it is interesting to note that blackened teeth appeared healthier than untreated ones but the darkened teeth also represented womens submission to men.

Nightshade Drops For Wide Doll-Like Eyes

 Photo by Marc Schulte on Unsplash

Photo by Marc Schulte on Unsplash


Finally, a truly dangerous and frankly weird beauty trend from the past was the use of deadly nightshade as eye drops. The plant that is also called belladonna, or “beautiful woman,” rose to popularity in Renaissance Italy.

Italian women and then Victorian English women would squeeze drops of nightshade into their eyes. This caused their pupils to dilate giving them a striking, wide-eyed look. Unfortunately, their doll-like appearance came with the hefty price of blurry vision, vertigo, and headaches as well as blindness from extended use.

The active ingredient in deadly nightshade, atropine, is still used in eye exams today to dilate the eyes. However, the modern-day version won't leave you blind.

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