When it was first discovered, radium was considered to be a "wonder drug" of sorts. People were hawking radium water, radium-filled cold cream, and other radioactive cosmetics as a way of getting a healthy new glow. (Well, to be fair, they may have actually been glowing after wearing that makeup.) After people started to die, they decided radium might not be the beauty perk they thought it was.
One of the first recorded remedies for hair growth in balding men included strychnine, which is now more commonly known as rat poison, and Spanish Fly, which is known for being a heavy irritant. The two ingredients would be put on top of the victim's - erm, patient's - scalp. Considering that Spanish Fly is a huge irritant, it probably felt like the person's hair was on fire. Other side effects included spasms and death.
Seriously, this was the device that they used to straighten out people's spines back in the 1900s. It was pioneered by Lewis Sayre, a well known doctor of the 19th century. Truthfully, it may have worked for all we know, but that doesn't keep it from looking terrifying!
People suffering from tuberculosis, as well as infants, were the first people to get tanning treatments in medical facilities. With TB patients, it was a way to "beautify"corpses before they were sent back to their relatives for burial, or to try to cure tuberculosis. With kids...well, I guess babies probably needed to step up their Gym, Tan, Laundry game back in the day.
Mercury, lead and occasionally arsenic were used to give people the pale look you see in those 1700s paintings. Obviously, there were toxic side effects that came with this murderous makeup, such as lead poisoning, mercury poisoningand sores on the skin.
A famous old Thai beauty treatment included repeated slaps to the face to "revitalize" a person's appearance. It's safe to say that Larry, Moeand Curly definitely were fans of this *ahem* treatment. What's more horrifying is that it's apparently still available for a mere $350 per treatment...
Back in the day, women really loved their arsenic. It was touted as a "miracle complexion maker" in the 19th century, which lead to many women drinking cocktails made out of it in an attempt to get better skin. One quack actually offered "harmless" wafers made out of arsenic for ladies who wanted to have the sickly, deathly pallor that drinking toxic garbage can give you. (Seriously, do not drink arsenic.)
Belladonna, also known as Deadly Nightshade, is so toxic it even has its deadliness in its nickname. In the 19th century, women would use eyedrops made with this poisonous plant as a way to dilate their pupils, since big pupils were apparently sexy back then. Side effects included visual distortion, and with regular usage, death.
This is not just a rumor, this actually was a well-known "diet trick" that was used back in the day and it's still being illegally used today. People who did the tapeworm diet would swallow a pill with a parasite's eggs, and then watch themselves waste away as the newly hatched tapeworms would eat the food they ingested. The problem with this diet is that tapeworms can migrate to the brain and kill you pretty easily. And, de-worming had to be done manually in many cases. Yuck...
If you're tired of shaving, then why not get the earliest form of laser hair removal in history? Back when people began to notice that heavy exposure to X-rays would cause hair loss, X-ray hair removal was actually used by the rich and glamorous to get rid of hair semi-permanently. This isn't very awesome, though, since X-rays can cause cancer.
Ancient Egyptians used bromine to redden their lips by mixing it into a creamy lipstick. This is all well and good, except for the fact that bromine causes scabbing, kidney failure and death with repeated use.
The 80s weren't the only time period known for massive hair! In the 1700s, hair was propped up with wire frames, and molded with a substance known as "pomatum." This mixture of lard, ash and other disgusting items would keep hair as high as possible. As a final touch on the favorite hairstyles of 18th century nobility, the entire mixture was covered in lead powder. Needless to say, modern hair stylists would likely be horrified to smell or see a typical 1700s coif ”” even if it was "lavender scented."
In the 19th and 18th centuries, women wanted to be pale. In the typical bizarre way people had of thinking back then, they decided to go with a nice, good ol' fashioned life-threatening beauty treatment in the form of bloodletting. Nothing quite brings you to a level of near-death paleness like being close to dying of blood loss, right?
Urine was regularly used by people as a mouthwash, and as a facial cleanser back in the day. In some parts of the world, it's still considered to be good for cosmetic uses, despite it being totally panned by anyone with a background in medicine.
In 19th century China, tiny feet were a must-have if you wanted to get married in high society. The Perfect Lotus, which was an ideal for women, was only 3 inches in length. To achieve this, women would break their own feet and bind them in bandages as they were growing up. Many women died due to foot binding-related infections, and many were permanently unable to walk as a result of the procedure.