These Old School Beauty Hacks Could Have Killed You

Voting Rules
Vote up the most bizarre and lethal beauty practices you can't believe people tried.

They say that beauty is pain, and modern makeup lovers understand that. After all, is there anything worse than sticking yourself in the eye with your mascara wand, or accidentally burning your forehead with a curling iron?

Actually, yes, these historical beauty trends are way worse. Before scientific advancements and FDA approvals, ingredients like arsenic, lead, and Lysol were the norm in beauty products - which made for some literally killer makeup. Beauty hacks that could kill you included using radium for a brighter smile and even ingesting tapeworms to lose weight.

Forget, “Beauty is pain.” With these historical trends, beauty kills.

Photo: Paul Towsend / Flickr

  • 1
    1,725 VOTES

    Douching With Lysol

    Douching With Lysol
    Photo: Amara / Flickr

    The most popular douche on the market from 1940 to 1960 was actually Lysol, if you can believe it. Besides being advertised as an effective douche guaranteed to make husbands fall back in love with their wives (WTF?), it was also the go-to method of birth control before contraceptives were available. It sounds obvious now, but Lysol was not effective in either case - in fact, it's reported to have caused dozens of deaths. This report claims that 193 women died from Lysol douching.

    1,725 votes
  • 2
    1,406 VOTES

    Get Whiter Teeth Thanks To Radium

    Get Whiter Teeth Thanks To Radium
    Photo: clotho98 / Flickr

    Even today's top teeth whitening products can cause severe sensitivity - can you imagine the pain of whitening with radium? In the 1920s, women who worked in watch factories became known as "Radium Girls," since they worked in close proximity with the substance and even used it to brighten their nails, face, and teeth after-hours. After all, they had been told that radium was "harmless" by their employers. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and it wasn't until 1938 that the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act helped educate the public about the toxicity of radium.

    1,406 votes
  • 3
    1,245 VOTES

    Removing Scars With... A Buzz Saw?

    You can't make this stuff up. A German dermatologist invented a groundbreaking method for removing scars in the early 1900s: a buzz saw. After using chemicals to harden the skin, this doctor would run saw blades over the scarred area. This did remove the scar, but it also caused a lot of pain, infection, and sometimes even new scarring on the area. Um... obviously. 

    1,245 votes
  • 4
    1,354 VOTES

    Arsenic Was Used To Get Rid Of Body Hair

    Disdain for body hair on women isn't a modern thing at all. Women as far back as the 16th century have worried about body hair making them look "disagreeable and argumentative, muscular, and ugly" (that's a direct quote from a doctor of the time, by the way). Their solution? Arsenic. A mixture of the deadly poison was to be rubbed onto the offending area to remove body hair. One recipe even instructed, "When the skin feels hot, wash quickly with hot water so the flesh doesn’t come off." Ouch.

    1,354 votes
  • 5
    1,107 VOTES

    Lethal Lipstick Was The Norm In Ancient Egypt

    Lethal Lipstick Was The Norm In Ancient Egypt
    Photo: sea turtle / Flickr

    The Ancient Egyptians and their deadly beauty rituals strike again. Back then, they reddened their lips with a formula that contained bromine, a reddish liquid chemical. With prolonged use, bromine can cause "restlessness, irritability, ataxia, confusion, hallucinations, psychosis, weakness, stupor and, in severe cases, coma." Not to mention kidney failure and brain damage. Which pretty much sounds like the reason for the saying, "Beauty is pain." 

    1,107 votes
  • 6
    954 VOTES

    Poison As A Cure For Acne

    Poison As A Cure For Acne
    Photo: Dave WIlson / Flickr

    In the 19th century, a common cure for acne was a mixture of "compound extract of colocynth, sulphate of iron, and extract of nux vomica." In case you're not in the know, nux vomica contains strychnine, a deadly poison that should never be ingested. Other acne cures of the time boasted arsenic as the main ingredient. True, having acne sucks - but not enough to swallow arsenic.

    954 votes