History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments

Written by celina abud | 13/05/2017
History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Some say that beauty hurts. And in some regard, they are correct: women are capable of going through a long list of painful treatments just to look prettier. In the course of history, a great number of women have gone on record about the excruciating treatments they put themselves through. Some of those are unthinkable today, but some practices bordering on the inhumane were once a common sight in female personal care. So here's a list of the 10 most painful beauty treatments you wouldn't dare to try!


History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Corseting is constantly on the verge of returning as a fashion, as there are surprisingly many supporters of this kind of torture. Though it's not practised to the extent it was during the 16th and 17th centuries, corsets have been proven to have harmful effects. A piece of research conducted by the University of Bradley showed that corsets modify the body permanently by exerting pressure on the ribs and internal organs. Experts hold that wearing corsets for long periods of time can rupture the skin and viscera, in addition to restricting pulmonary capacity and causing considerable pain.


History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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During the 19th century, people would take arsenic to acquire a paler complexion and make their eyes glow. This kind of ritual was carried out during the full moon, and participants would only take a grain of the stuff to avoid overdosing. Even so, the practice had unwanted side-effects, like bloating of the thyroid glans and sometimes even death.

Hair removal

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Hair removal is probably the most widespread kind of torture in modern times, claiming many women and some men as victims with an almost monthly frequency. And it's not a modern occurrence either, this practice has a long and rich history. The first uses of hair removal methods were recorded by the ancient Egyptians around 3,000 b.C. And as much as time may heal all wounds, it hasn't done a lot about the pain of hair removal. In spite of the advancements in technology, pulling hot wax off the skin remains the most effective (and least painful) method out there.


History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Women have done things that are not only painful, but also dangerous, to lose weight, and ingesting tapeworm eggs is only the most disgusting of them. These parasites, once born, attach themselves to the interior of the intestines and consume most of the nutrients that pass through the digestive tract. Even if this practice sounds like something nobody on their right mind would want to try ... there's at least one documented case of an Iowa woman who willingly ingested tapeworm eggs in order to lose weight. A BBC journalist did it too, with the purpose of filming the worm with a miniature camera that he also ingested.

Hair discolouration

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Acquiring the Marilyn Monroe tint of platinum blonde hair is considerably more painful than you'd imagine. The chemicals involved in stripping the hair from its natural colour can make the scalp burn, according to some of its users, enough to turn their heads into their own personal hell. This practice has withstood the test of time in spite of the pain it causes. Archaeologists have even found some Neanderthal specimens that evidently died their hairs, and hydrogen peroxide was only discovered during the 19th century.

Foot binding

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Many folk-tale historians believe that the story known as "Cinderella" is based on an Chinese tale. That's because of the ancient tradition of foot binding, dating from as early as the 10th century, where girl's feet were wrapped tightly in bandages that constrained their growth. Their feet would end up looking really small and would have unique shapes. A woman's shoe would hardly fit another, and that's where "Cinderella's" plot twist seems to stem from. This extremely painful practice frequently left its victims unable to walk and was not eradicated until 1949, while some of its survivors are still alive today.


History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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Going to the dentist to have work done on your teeth is never fun and frequently painful. And getting braces, in most cases, means signing up for a weekly instalment of that for a few months, at the very least. They hurt your gums and the insides of your mouth, you can't eat anything too hot or cold AND everything, absolutely everything ends up stuck in them, forcing you to brush your teeth several times a day. The first orthodontics treatises date from around 1850, and mark the date when straight teeth started being regarded as one of the requirements of beauty.

Radioactive make up

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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The make up brand "Tho-radia" was created in France in 1930 and, as the name suggests, was produced with radioactive materials. The makers would not only add Thorium and Radium as ingredients for their powders and creams, but they would also attribute their formula to a certain Dr. Alfred Curie on their boxes (Hint: he is not related to either of the Curies who got the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903). If this Dr. Curie ever existed remains a matter of debate, though it is more likely that his name on the packaging was only part of a marketing hoax. The product was advertised for its affirming properties, as a stimulant for cellular vitality and increased blood-flow, and even as a cure for pimples. It's not only that it didn't do any of the advertised: Just imagine the kind of damage a radioactive substance like that could cause on a person's face over an extended period of time.

Lead powder compact

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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The seventeen hundreds were a hard time to have a clear complexion, mostly due to smallpox and the deep scars it left on anybody who survived it. And there weren't nearly as many different kinds of relatively affordable make up as there are today, as you may imagine. The smallpox survivors who were concerned about their looks turned to lead-based make up powders, which where easy to make and covered the skin's imperfections, leaving them white and silky-smooth to the touch. Until they found out that lead was highly toxic to living beings before dying of lead poisoning.

Padaung or "copper necked women"

History's 10 most shockingly dangerous beauty treatments
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This painful practice is still common to the Kayan people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority in Burma. The women of the tribe start wearing these coils at five years of age, which get expanded and sections added as they age. The coils push the collar bone down and compresses the ribcage, creating the illusion that their necks are longer. Though the theories about this tradition's origin vary, it's turned the Kayan women's look into one of the most easily recognisable in the world.

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