9 Ancient Beauty Rituals That We Are Glad Don’t Exist Anymore

Written by Niharika Nayak

We’ve come a long way from the olden days of using soot, shoe polish, and coal as mascara. You may not believe it, but in many parts of the world, achieving conventional beauty standards was not just weird, but straight-up deadly. While some of the rituals mentioned in our list just left the people practicing them with a foul odor, others were more fatal. Keeping up with trends was a lot tougher in olden times as many of the makeup products we have now did not exist. From using crushed beetles to bird poop, here are nine ancient beauty traditions that we are glad to see gone:

1. Crocodile Dung For Anti-Ageing

Crocodile Dung For Anti-Ageing


Many of the ancient Greek and Roman elite were fans of using various animal byproducts to benefit their skin and hair. One of these products included crocodile dung. They believed that the dung acted as a purifying agent and that it would help their skin look youthful and radiant. As a result, many women would spend hours sitting in bathtubs filled with excrement, hoping that the dung would help them look more beautiful. We’re not sure about what is more beautiful, but we bet the crocodile dung baths did make heads turn… But not for the right reasons.

2. Camel Pee To Get Shiny Hair

Camel Pee To Get Shiny Hair


Move over olive oil; camel pee is here to steal your shine! In all seriousness, many women did use camel pee to achieve shiny and healthy locks in the ancient middle east. According to historians, camels were seen as essential animals, and now we totally understand why. But hey, who’s to say it didn’t work, right?

3. The “Tapeworm” Weight Loss Diet



Now, this beauty ritual sounds both unpleasant and painful. In the early 1900s, many women would go to great lengths to lose weight and stay slim. While we now know not to trust pills that advertise miraculous weight loss, women back then weren’t as aware of these tricks. In fact, many fad dieters got in on a trend called tapeworm dieting. With this diet, women would swallow a few tapeworms encased in a pill and wait till they reached maturity and settled in the intestine. Once there, they would absorb the food. This whole process would trigger weight loss in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. After they had reached their desired weight, the dieters would have to take another pill to kill off the tapeworms inside them and excrete it out of their system. Needless to say, this ‘diet’ caused more problems than a few. Some of which included eye problems, meningitis, abdominal dysfunction, and more. We’ll just stick to exercising and eating healthy, thanks.

4. Crushes Beetles As Blush

Crushes Beetles As Blush


During the time of pharaohs and queens, ancient Egyptians often opted for odd beauty practices. One of which was using crushed beetles mixed with clay as blush. Queen Nefertiti started this trend and many young Egyptian women at the time began following suit. While there aren’t many dangers associated with this beauty trend, we can imagine having a dead insect smeared all over your face isn’t fun.

5. Bird Poop To Remove Makeup

Bird Poop To Remove Makeup


Bird poop contains an ingredient called guanine that is said to be a great makeup cleanser. In ancient Japan, many women (mainly geisha’s) used bird poop to get rid of their heavy makeup and swore by it. The poop most commonly used was produced by the Nightingale bird, and they would sometimes even use it as a facemask to purify their skin.

6. Beef Lard To Keep Your Wigs Together

Beef Lard To Keep Your Wigs Together


Many women couldn’t quite grow their hair out long enough to fit conventional beauty standards during the middle ages. Hence they would often opt for wearing a fancy-looking wig instead. Wigs in that era used to be held together by wood-like structures and artificial hair, and women would use beef lard to keep it all together. The terrible odor emanating from these wigs would often attract mice and rats, so you can imagine how unpleasant being around the wigs would be.

7. Radium Laced Products For “Glowing Skin”

Radium Laced Products For Glowing Skin


You’ve probably heard of radium more often than not. Discovered by the late Marie Curie, it took people many years to find out about the terrible and painful effects caused by exposure to the compound. However, even after knowledge of this came to light, many makeup brands still made products out of the compound and would often market it as “get the glowing skin of your dreams”. Sadly for the women buying these products, they were slowly poisoning their systems.

8. Lead Carbonate To Brighten Skin

Lead Carbonate To Brighten Skin


It’s actually quite crazy how women went to such great lengths to achieve glowing and fair skin. In the 16th century, women in England relied on a product called “Venetian Cerise” to achieve the deathly pale skin we often see in their paintings. From royals to noblewomen to ordinary peasants, everyone wanted to get their hands on this coveted product. That was until women started dying after multiple years of using them.

9. Foot Binding To Achieve “Lotus-Like” Feet

Foot Binding To Achieve


This ancient tradition was a significant part of Chinese culture until merely a century ago. Not only would it disfigure a woman for life, but it would also lead to women suffering from excruciating pain and recurring infections. In olden times, foot binding was a regular part of Chinese culture, and the whole idea behind it was that women would have “small, lotus-like” feet. Unfortunately, this tradition caused plenty of problems in the woman’s life and massively impacted her mobility. This is definitely one tradition that needs to stay in the past.

We certainly are glad that we live in more modern times and don’t have to worry about putting our lives at risk to achieve beauty. Although there may still be specific people or communities that continue to practice these beauty rituals, we’re glad that they are not commonplace. So, which of these beauty rituals seem the most unpleasant to you? Please tell us all of your thoughts in the comments below!

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Niharika has a passion for all things art, music and travel. During her spare time she likes experimenting in the kitchen, painting pop culture icons and chasing after random street cats. Her dream is to one day own an amusement park so she can ride roller coasters for free.