The Inhuman Ways People Have Suffered For Beauty Since Ancient Times

Making ourselves miserable to become beautiful is, sadly, nothing new.

Looking beautiful has never been easy, and the concept of suffering for beauty is not a new one. Makeup and beautifying treatments have been around since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

The French even say "Il faut souffrir pour etre belle:" One must suffer to be beautiful.

Unfortunately, it is almost always women who have to go through extreme suffering, sometimes even disfigurement, to attain beauty ideals. Here’s a selection of what people do to reach the pinnacle of perfection and beauty:

Chinese Foot Binding

Chinese Foot Binding

chinese bound feet

Chinese foot binding began in the 10th century. Foot binding was practiced on young girls usually 6 years of age and younger. Feet were wrapped in tight bandages and broken so they couldn’t grow. Foot binding was thought to be practiced by wealthy families, but in reality women of all stations were maimed.

To bind feet, feet were first soaked in a warm bowl of herbs and animal blood, which caused the dead flesh to fall off. Toe nails were cut back as far as possible to prevent ingrown toenails and infection. Silk and cotton bandages were dipped in the solution and were wrapped tightly around the feet after the toes were broken. Four toes on each foot were broken and folded under. The big toe was left intact. Feet were often bound so tightly that even short distances were unable to be walked. The bandages became tighter after drying. The ideal foot was three inches in length.



corset dress

A hundred years ago, Western physicians fought to eliminate a particular risk to women’s health: the corset, an undergarment once worn by most women (and some men).  Artfully designed clothing alters how the body looks, but the corset dramatically changes basic body shape. Corset wearing has continued into the modern day. Waist training, also known as tight-lacing, is advertised as a way to shape the body; to flatten the stomach while maintaining desirable curves elsewhere. Spanx are a type of modern-day corset, and they compress the body enough to cause nerve problems, stomach pain, and other bodily issues affected women who wore whalebone corsets not so long ago.

Lead Foundation

Lead Foundation

The word ''cosmetic'' comes from the Greek word ''kosmetikos,'' meaning a sense of harmony, order and tranquility. Not surprisingly, most beauty products in ancient Greece were made from ingredients found in their natural environment.

However, ancient Greeks also used harsh substances like lead foundation to achieve a pale complexion, which was then fashionable. The history of lead foundation dates back to the Greek and Roman empires.

Lead is absorbed through the skin. Poisoning may cause hair loss, weight loss, pain, brain damage, organ damage, paralysis, and a variety of other symptoms. When used in foundation, lead causes skin to wrinkle and scar. Historically, this problem was remedied by applying more poisonous foundation to cover the damage.

Rat-Infested Wigs

Rat-Infested Wigs

Fashion Plates

In the 1800s the more elaborate a wig, the more impressive the wearer’s beauty. There came a point when lard was required to secure the wigs; they were simply too large to stand on their own. The lard would attract rats and often these wigs would become infested with them. The wig was attached to a woman's real hair, which they would leave on for weeks. Sleeping with cages over their wigs became popular to avoid a rat infestation.

Lead Based Kohl

Lead Based Kohl

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egyptians are known for their elaborated dark-rimmed eyes, they used lead-based makeup called kohl, which was basically dark lead. This makeup was used around their eyes and as mascara. The first non-toxic mascara wasn't created until 1920. Today, experts are well-aware of the dangers of such poisons in makeup.

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