9 Phenomenally Stupid (And Fatal) Beauty Trends From Around The World During Victorian Era

The Victorian Era lasted throughout most of the 1800s. This period of time was known for its technological advancements and for its increased social mobility. And with that came new beauty trends that spread from Britain to the United States by word of mouth and publications aimed at women - some beauty trends that would never happen in today's world.

Not all of these trends were good - many of them had deadly consequences. Some deadly Victorian beauty trends included the use of what we now know are poisonous compounds that women placed on their eyes and skin. These deadly Victorian beauty fads did not stop at makeup, even clothing created hazardous conditions. One beauty trend has even been referred to as 'Consumptive Chic' because it romanticized tuberculosis. Until the Victorian era ended and new trends took over, women subjected themselves to these dangers every day - all to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. 

  • Tuberculosis Beauty Was The Newest Fad
    Photo: Jules David / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Tuberculosis Beauty Was The Newest Fad

    Tuberculosis, a fatal disease during the Victorian Era, causes nodules to grow in the lungs. Eventually, these nodules affected breathing to the point that the patient died. However, during the Victorian age, women appreciated the beauty that tuberculosis caused - the pale skin, thin waist, and red lips and cheeks of those infected. This quickly became a trend that led to women purposely contracting the disease in order to look beautiful. 

  • Women Bathed In Arsenic

    Arsenic, which we now know is a dangerous poison, caused a woman's skin to become very pale. This was the beauty ideal, as upper class women didn't need to go outside and work in the garden - they had servants to do that for them. In order to make all of their skin extremely pale, women would go (under a parasol to prevent the sun's rays from hitting them, of course) to special spas that had arsenic spring baths

  • Facial Makeup Contained Lead And Radium
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Facial Makeup Contained Lead And Radium

    The ideal upper class Victorian woman had facial skin that was unblemished and as white as possible. If their skin was imperfect, they applying lotions, face paints, and even powders. The only problem was this makeup contained things like lead and radium. Of course, they didn't realize lead could cause severe poisoning when leached into the skin, or that radium was radioactive. 

  • Lip Paints Were Made Of A Carmine And Ammonia Blend
    Photo: Bazar of Fashions / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Lip Paints Were Made Of A Carmine And Ammonia Blend

    Red lips were a hugely popular beauty trend during the Victorian Era. Before commercialized lipstick became common, women had to either make the lipstick compound themselves, or purchase lip paint from their local pharmacy or general store. The main dye used to make red lip paint was composed of carmine from the crushed bodies of cochineal insects. The pigments weren't deadly on their own, although some did cause allergic reactions. What really made lip paints poisonous was the ammonia mixed into them when the insects were boiled and crushed. 

  • Corsets Impaired Breathing And Moved Around Vital Organs
    Photo: Madame Roxey Ann Caplin / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Corsets Impaired Breathing And Moved Around Vital Organs

    The ideal Victorian woman had a curvy, hourglass figure. Of course, most women aren't built that way, so corsets were created to give the illusion of a very thin waist. When combined with the large hoop skirts of the era, an hourglass figure was created. The only problem was wearing a very tight corset for hours on end every single day could cause permanent deformities, shortness of breath, and even suffocation if the lungs couldn't get enough oxygen. 

  • They Ate Arsenic Complexion Wafers

    Purposely eating a wafer containing arsenic is unheard of in this day and age. No such thing would make it onto store shelves unless it was sold as rat poison. But, in the Victorian Era, before people realized such things were dangerous and prior to the Food and Drug Administration, things like arsenic wafers were sold and consumed by women who wanted pale, translucent skin.