Today’s woman has her choice of many costly of prepared concoctions to help her look younger and more attractive, but for thousands of years the person who wanted to change her appearance was on her own. Archeologists say Egyptians — both men and women — were known to paint and dye their bodies and hair as long as 12,000 years ago and the Old Testament refers to the use of eye shadow. One of the less appetizing lipsticks — the one used by Cleopatra — was the one made from crushed insects. It might make her lips darker, but would it make them more kissable? Thank goodness today’s lipstick is made from such things cochineal, according to a report by the University of California at Los Angeles. What is cochineal, you ask? It’s a dye made from bugs, according to that same report.
Arsenic has long been known to smooth the skin and hair and make the eyes brighter, but one of the drawbacks — aside from the fact that it can kill — is that it causes freckles. But those who find freckles annoying instead of cute can always use urine, cow manure or the blood of a bull to remove them, according to several ancient myths. Me? I’d rather have the freckles.
For centuries, a woman’s tan skin indicated she was a laborer and not a wealthy lady of leisure, therefore the paler the woman’s skin, the more fashionable she was. Women in the sixth century were known to make themselves bleed to achieve this look. The practice had been discontinued, but the desire to be pale was still evident 1200 years later when a mixture of lead oxide, hydroxide and carbonate was used to whiten the face. Long use of this mixture could paralyze or kill the wearer. American women of a few decades ago were careful to wear sun-blocking hats to hide their work in the sun. These days, only those with time on their hands can afford to lie in the sun, while the workers are most often kept indoors all day. Tans are in. But they’re not always safe. The same rays that give the skin a darker hue also cause wrinkles and cancer, according to the Society for Women’s Health Research.
Dying to have pretty eyes? For many centuries, kohl has been used to as eye shadow to make the eyes seem larger. Unfortunately one of the main ingredients of kohl is lead and it can poison the person who wears it, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is illegal to possess kohl in the United States. Modern women who don’t enjoy the morning ritual of “putting their face on” every morning can join those who have had makeup permanently tattooed onto their faces. This may be a time-saver, but the FDA is studying the problems that permanent makeup and other tattoos have caused. The most common problem seems to be the removal of a tattoo that has gone out of fashion (or the tattooed has changed his or her “special friend”).