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Beauty Solutions From The Past

Updated on July 31, 2013

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

an ancient remedy in hair coloring.
an ancient remedy in hair coloring. | Source

Stepping Back in Time ~

Beauty solutions are not a new phenomenon as history proves.

Some ideas from the past are truly bizarre and indeed were often the cause of life threatening conditions.

Is there nothing women won’t do in the name of beauty?

Making homemade beauty products today easily crosses paths with the past of ancient customs and rituals from around the world as let’s face it, plants for example, have been around considerably longer than we have and were used regularly for different cosmetics, health remedies and medicinal treatments.

With so many useful ingredients that have been around for centuries that we may be familiar with, let’s take a look at some unusual solutions from across the globe from a bygone era.

Queen Elizabeth 1

red lips, white complexion and red hair, she was definitely into her beauty treatments!
red lips, white complexion and red hair, she was definitely into her beauty treatments! | Source

Royal Secrets ~

In England during Queen Elizabeth 1 reign, lush ruby red lips were achieved by squashing the remains of insects and applying the rich ruby color directly to the lips. Today lipstick, lip stain, lip balm and lip gloss are all easily made but without the need of squashed bugs!

Another tradition during Elizabethan times in England was ladies favouring the white pale face. For this they used white lead powder which unfortunately was the cause of many premature deaths of women in the 16th century just wanting to be “fashionable”. A popular powder today is bronzing powder which may be rustled up in the kitchen using cocoa powder, nutmeg and even cinnamon (sparingly).

Using a mix of sulphur and safflower petals to dye hair the “in vogue” and trendy red was commonly done by the women of England during the Elizabethan era. The English ladies would die their hair and wigs with this lethal concoction and beauty came with a price of regular nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Hair dye and hiding grey naturally may be still done at home using fresh ingredients in less harmful ways.

Singing Nightingale

who would have thought nightingale poop would be a great make-up remover?
who would have thought nightingale poop would be a great make-up remover? | Source

Beauty is International ~

Women the world over have been dying their hair, not just the English ladies.

Iranian women would make a hair dye of henna, tadpoles and blood from black cows.

It was thought the blood gave the cows their ebony coloring and would do the same for human hair. Tadpoles? The mind boggles as to their benefit!

Ladies of ancient Rome were known to rub brown seaweed on their face for rouge or blush.

Back in the early days of Japan, the Japanese Geisha and Kabuki actors were frequently known to swear by nightingale droppings as an effective form of cleanser for removing their thick white make-up.

Cleansers today are easily made in the kitchen without the need of bird droppings, thankfully. Still with nod to the past, carrot and mango butter may be successfully used as the base of a facial cleansing cream.

Egyptian Make-Up Spoon

Wooden spoon used for holding make-up by the Egyptians
Wooden spoon used for holding make-up by the Egyptians | Source

A blast from the past - Egyptian Secrets

The Legends of The Beauty World ~

The Greeks have a long history of being homemade beauty gurus of their time. One popular beauty treatment among the wealthy and those seeking to turn back the hands of father time was to bathe in crocodile dung.

The excrement was said to have restorative and beautifying benefits for all who wallowed in it. Mixed into natural mud holes or added to a warm mud bath, Grecian women would immerse themselves in this for lengthy periods of time.

The Egyptians were another race of beauty specialists. Beauty at a price comes to mind with their poisonous concoctions.

One of their favourite applications was for men and women to daily paint their eyelids with a mixture called mesdemet which included a dark grey lead.

They also used a green eye paint which included a copper ore.

These eye shadows of the era were said to be a natural insect repellent and help fight off any infections thanks to the antimicrobial benefits of copper ore.

King of The Jungle

you too can have my sun bleached highlights in your hair!
you too can have my sun bleached highlights in your hair! | Source

Eureka for Urea ~

Oral hygiene is another aspect not to escape from the past. The Romans were said to be just as keen to have fresh breath and white teeth as we are today. Their idea of mouthwash however was a bit more bizarre.

They would import Portuguese urine as they believed it to be stronger than their own and held amazing whitening and fresh breath qualities when used as a mouthwash. Urine does contain urea and ammonia which help kill germs and treat the gum disease gingivitis so maybe not so insane?

Not to be outdone on the benefits of urine, the Arabian ladies who loved their black as ebony hair to be glossy, sleek and shiny swore by using camel urine and would dip their lovely locks in it regularly.

Another vote up for urine use came from the Venetian ladies who favouring blonde highlighted hair would pour lion urine over their hair before they went into the sun.

Today bleaching hair naturally can come from simple lemon juice as a final rinse on the hair. DIY hair treatments can cover shampoo, conditioner, rinses, intensive treatments, hot oil treatments, hair gel and hair masks so something for everyone without the need for urine.

Lavender & Lavender Oil

used by many cultures through the centuries it remains one of the most widely used herbs still to this today.
used by many cultures through the centuries it remains one of the most widely used herbs still to this today. | Source

Modern Day but Still Steeped in History ~

Many of our oils, fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs , spices, plants and foods have a place in the present day for beauty benefits when applied.

It is so rewarding putting together recipes using basic ingredients such as sugar, olive oil and lemon juice to make a face scrub that actually WORKS without the need of a chemical or toxic ingredient in sight.

Knowing that you are using ingredients that were used thousands of years ago adds a nostalgic element which I for one love.

Even though many remedies and beauty regimes of the past were dangerous it was the start of the billion dollar cosmetics industry we know today.

Learning from what cultures did that were beneficial and applying in our own kitchens seems a good idea to me, how about you?

"Creating health awareness through homemade beauty solutions"

Which area of homemade solutions interests you most to try?

See results

Author Info ~

Information on the author, her bio and full body of works available @ Suzie HQ

Credit to sharkye11 ~

Beauty Solutions From The Past Comments

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    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Suzi, all I can say is "ewwww"! How did we ever evolve to today when yesteryear's so called beauty treatments were so deadly! Poop and urine????? Ugh!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I love this! Yuck to squashed insects, tadpoles, dung, urine and the whole bit. You know, it would be a neat add for your collection of hubs to write one on what is in some modern commercial cosmetics, since you offer so many wonderful natural alternatives with your face masks, etc. (Message being ... do you know what you're putting on your skin?) Look at mascara, for example. Voted up and much more!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Sha,

      LOL, just something a little different, thankfully none of those remedies will be featuring in future recipes! Cheers for popping in!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi FlourishAway,

      I actually had in my plan to do an article on nasties lurking in commercial products, absolutely. Glad you feel it would be beneficial. Cheers for the suggestion and being on the same page! Appreciate your votes and interest!

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 3 years ago from United States

      Wow and I thought we had it bad with the high heels and pantyhose a couple of decades ago! lol Of course, I do think going to extremes for beauty is still alive and well. I was horrified a couple of years ago to discover just how toxic the (expensive) makeup was that I had been wearing for more than two decades. I found the ratings on the ewg page in their database. Voted up!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great topic for an article! So informative. I love how you covered such a wide range of eras.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Gail.

      There are so many examples through the centuries you could do a few books and not cover them all. Thought it would be interesting to take a look at some but could have gone on and on! Interesting you mentioned ingredients as it IS FRIGHTENING what goes into some products and something I will be addressing in an article soon.

      Cheers for the interest and support in commenting and voting, much appreciated!!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Rose,

      Glad you enjoyed the subject as I find looking at the different customs, cultures of the world fascinating. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub by you Suzie.

      Voting up and sharing.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Eddy,

      Good to hear you enjoyed and cheers for your votes and share!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      Unbelievable what people used to enhance their beauty. So many harmful and disgusting ingredients. It was very interesting to read. A little bit different from your other hubs.

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 3 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Yes I must get a crocodile dung bath - preferably without the crocodile! Great hub, voted up, shared and pinned.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Janet,

      I know, thankfully some much nicer recipes stemming from olden days can be used with all the wonderful plants around long before us. i am always fascinated to learn what treatments were used in ancient times so i am glad you found it interesting!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Sue,

      LOL,So many thought dung was beneficial, maybe there is some truth to it all eh?? LOL Don't worry you will not find one here in my recipes to try out! Cheers for taking time to read this one, I enjoyed the research on it! Appreciate the thumbs up, share and pinning!!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, I didn't realize we were going to go so far back in time! The Iranian hair dye made me laugh out loud...and what's the deal with all the use of excrement? Although bird droppings are probably the least objectionable of all excrement, I wouldn't want to put it in my hair. : ) After using many of your DYI beauty treatments, though, I can testify to the benefits of natural, homemade products. Thanks again, Suzanne! I found out from alocsin that you're among the top 100 Hubbers. You deserve such an honor!! I was so pleased....congratulations. : )

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Vespa,

      All the different types of excrement makes you wonder if their really was something to it!! Having said that, I wouldn't want it either on my hair or face. You have been wonderful at trying recipes and I never fail to love hearing your feedback. As such a prolific cook and recipe connoisseur you have so many ingredients. Thanks for the alocsin mention, he always does amazing research for hubs and I was gobsmacked at reading it. Many other more deserving names I expected so while it is lovely to see, I just keep doing what I love doing and hope it works for everyone too!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      Hi Suzanne,

      I've heard of Peruvian women who use the urine hair treatment...it does kinda make you wonder! You have such a positive and balanced outlook on life. I wish you continued success!!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Vespa,

      Thanks for your lovely comment, i certainly try to be in amongst the mad crazy notions! LOL

    • shauni007 profile image

      Shauni Siu 3 years ago from Global

      Thank you!! Very good information.

    • shauni007 profile image

      Shauni Siu 3 years ago from Global

      Go on my hubpage.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Shaunii,

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thanks, Welcome to HP!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 3 years ago from Chennai, India

      An informative & knowledgeable hub! I enjoyed reading your engaging hub from the start till the end. I am quite familiar with some of these so-called gross beauty treatments from the past thanks to the book titled "1001 Horrible Facts". Once again, a wonderfully-written hub! Way to go!

      Thanks for SHARING. Awesome & Interesting. Voted up

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi ishwaryaa,

      Many thanks for your lovely comment good to hear you found it informative. The olden customs are always so interesting across the globe so it was really fascinating researching new ones or quite unusual ones. Appreciate your votes and continued interest in my work, hope you are having a great week in Chennai!

    • shauni007 profile image

      Shauni Siu 3 years ago from Global

      np go left you some fanmail?

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Shauni,

      Thanks, appreciate that!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Wow! This was interesting and entertaining! I never knew that women used squished bugs for lipstick or urine for lighter hair. They must have really smelled. That's another interesting thought because I believe they were big on body oils back then.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi CraftytotheCore,

      Glad you found this one interesting, I find the history and earlier beauty remedies used fascinating and would love to know the reasons they were used as in get into the brains of the "inventors" ! While there were ideas that still work today, there were definitely some that were so dangerous they had severe consequences. Appreciate your support and interest!

    • shauni007 profile image

      Shauni Siu 3 years ago from Global

      I always see the ingredient Urea in many health and beauty products. Never thought for mouthwash. Great article.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi shauni,

      many thanks for checking these old ideas out! Definitely interesting what they used in times gone by! Appreciate your interest!

    • shauni007 profile image

      Shauni Siu 3 years ago from Global

      I really read the ingredients in my beauty products and yes I do see Urea (Urine) many times.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi shaunni,

      Many thanks for your support and comment. Urea does feature in cosmetics and is one ingredient that is controversial today as it does have possible side effects.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK

      Suzie; First of all - for the sake of my reputation - let me say that I am not myself overly interested in feminine beauty secrets! :-)

      Having said that, I am interested in historic cultural practice and in this beautifully laid out hub, you have gathered together some of the weirdest (to our eyes). It is difficult perhaps to comprehend how such practices came into being, why women used these products, and why men presumably wanted them to.

      Certainly on the whole I think I would be more attracted to an 'unmade up' girl, than one with crushed bugs on her lips, nightingale droppings on her skin, or camel urine in her hair :-) (Speaking of urine, what a claim to fame for the Portuguese - a reputation for the strongest urine in the known world!)

      Nice to see that you have given brief mention to the modern day equivelants of these beauty secrets, and it is, I think interesting to note that although the detaiils of techniques and behaviours may change, in this area as in all others, people remain essentially the same today in their aspirations and desires (in this case to look good) as they were 2000 years ago.

      Voted up in all categories and shared Suzie. Alun.

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