How Far Would You Go For Beauty?

If you look at pictures of me as a child, you would refer to me as, well, a toehead – a little sassy blonde popping around town with luxurious locks. When I became a teenager, those locks turned darker – almost more dishwater blonde, if you will. I remember, in a state of panic, hearing the words “Sun-In”…. and that was when my addiction began. Sun-In not only was a DIY solution to the loss of your sun-kissed locks, but it was a toxic combination (which is now nearly extinct from the market) that caused my hair to fall out, rip, tear and not grow healthy again for years.

This want and need to stay beautiful because that is what is deemed acceptable dates back centuries, when techniques were makeshift and ultimately deadly. For now, I will reference the days of Jean Harlow, the ultimate “Platinum Blonde”. Harlow once commented that if it weren’t for her hair, “Hollywood wouldn’t know [she’s] alive.” What made Hollywood acknowledge her existence may have helped put her out of it.

Tragic, you must agree, that something that put her on the map may have been what took her off. Harlow died at 26. The reasoning is still unknown, but what is known is that a combination of bleach and ammonia was used on her head nearly every week to get that Hollywood effect. Harlow was forced to stop dyeing her hair a couple of years before she died — primarily because it all started to fall out — and began wearing wigs instead. Now, cut to today and you see starlets like Lady Gaga, Keisha and more prancing around with hair styles (much safer today, I’m sure) that could be considered toxic. But that’s not where the line is drawn. Let’s take a look at what twisted techniques were used through out history by women to look and feel “beautiful”, even if it could kill them:

  1. When Marlene Dietrich was 43, she had her make up artists twist tiny strands of her hair around hairpins which were then pulled fiercely tight and fixed further back onto her head – sometimes with such determination they would draw blood. (Draw blood? That is dedication.)
  2. It is said many stars had their molars removed to accentuate the hollows of her cheeks, thus enhancing her bone structure.(“Hi, I’d like to make an appointment with a super vain dentist, please!”)
  3. Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, who also suffered from the dreaded face fur – are reported to have removed it by wet shaving so the harsh studio lights would not pick it up – a method few women would resort to today. (I WILL be shaving my face this week. Who’s with me?)
  4. Marilyn Monroe, knowing as she did that a pert nipple was attractive to men, would sew buttons onto the cups of her bras to achieve the effect. (No comment)
  5. 1558-1603 concoctions of lead, quicklime, sulfur and water to dye their hair and wigs to mimic Queen Elizabeth’s red mane. This particular blend commonly caused nausea, headaches and regular nosebleeds.
  6. Using lard to maintain the sculpting of a wig in the Maria Antoinette days attracted lice and other vermin. A cage was worn on women’s hats at night to keep the mice at bay. (Oh, boy.)
  7. Need to disguise unhealthy complexions caused by diseases like smallpox? Back in the day, women used white lead to create a fashionably white complexion. The use of lead to powder the face poisoned and killed many, yet pale faces continued to be a huge trend. (Sexy pale face, party of one.)
  8. Metal Poisoning. (My personal favorite!) Both men and women wore Kohl (a mixture of soot and galena, a dark grey lead) and copper ore to color their eyes. The overall effect?  Seizures, coma and death. (PS Mac makeup has an eyeliner called “Kohl.” Just sayin’.)
  9. Today, the Brazilian blowout, if done poorly, can lead to permanent hairloss.
  10. Eyelash extensions can cause trauma to the eyelid, resulting in permanent loss of lashes and infection. (Opt for strip lashes with non-perm glue!)

Stay pretty. But most importantly, stay safe out there, ladies.

Featured Image via ShutterStock

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