Long have women and men sought after an ethereal glow and eternally young skin. Many have professed a willingness to die for it and many actually ‘have’ in the search for a miracle cosmetic. Throughout the ages we have unknowingly slathered our complexions in a nefarious barrage of deadly chemicals and taken lethal doses of beauty medications. Here are some of the most shocking and scandalous cosmetic disasters through the centuries. Check out the 10 poisonous beauty products once used and still used.
10. Lead Based Eye Paint
In the Egyptian Era, women and men alike longed for a dramatic accentuated eye. They achieved this sought-after-look by meticulously tracing a thick line of lead based eye paint around the entire eye. Over time the poisonous concoction would most certainly cause severe eye irritation.
Yet, this eye paint also had the potential to bring on mental degeneration and even death if one were so vain to use it every day. Its one of the most poisonous beauty products ever.
9. Lead Laced Face Cream
In the Roman Era lead laced face creams were all the rage for fixing any and every complexion ailment. One of the most poisonous beauty products of all time, lead cream masks also became wildly popular in this era. Unfortunately, the ingredients in the cream couldn’t have been good for the skin. It was the crushed lead they had used to create the white color in the creams that caused it to be poisonous.
The ingredients in the face cream without the lead powder were basic. The elements the creams contained, such as animal fats (similar to modern day lanolin) and starches, where actually healthy for the skin. Yet over time the lead laced cream would take its toll on the user causing unsightly facial sores and lead poisoning.
8. White Lead Face Powder
In the 1700’s both women and men superfluously fluffed white lead powder on their faces to achieve a youthful and very pallid complexion. To achieve a more porcelain-like complexion women also applied lead based creams under the powder. These creams, unlike the Roman white creams, were comprised only of white lead cakes that were crushed and mixed with a liquid.
This doubly high dose of lead put many in an early grave including the infamous Lady Coventry. In the mid 1700’s Lady Coventry was well-known for her beauty. She would vainly slather the white lead cream and powder onto her skin every day, never being seen without it.
Unfortunately, this makeup made the wearers face form sores and blemishes which in turn caused them to layer it on heavier and more often. This deadly mixture quickly ended her life at the young age of 27.
7. Arsenic Wafers
Throughout the 1800’s arsenic was marketed as a safe and effective way to clear skin of blemishes. It also claimed to give you that youthful pale complexion everyone longed for. This seemed like a miracle drug at first as it certainly did all that the marketing team claimed.
It did produce a very pallid complexion, yet it was due to the arsenic killing off the consumers’ red blood cells! As for clearing the skin of blemishes, it could accomplish that as well. If the user stopped taking the arsenic wafers, the acne and other skin issues resurface even more so than before, causing the user to become dependent on the arsenic.
Obviously there were many instances when poor unknowing individuals overdosed on these deadly wafers. Even after many deaths the same arsenic wafers were just re-marketed to the public as safer or new and improved. For example “Dr. Mackenzie’s Improved Harmless Arsenic Complexion Wafers” which were on the market until the 1920s, if you can believe. Arsenic Wafers is definitely one of the most poisonous beauty products ever.
6. Radium Cream
After the discovery of Radium in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie, radium became known as the cure all for any and every ailment. From Arthritis to Insomnia radium was the cure. By the 1920’s, the radium fad had spread like a wildfire.
Everyone wanted to capitalize on this new discovery. It was used in almost every way imaginable from cleaning products, to medicines, to children’s toys. It’s not surprising that radium face treatments were soon to follow. Radium cream was heavily marketed to the public as a miracle anti-aging breakthrough. It was said to be the answer to all your skin troubles and woes.
It claimed to rejuvenate the skin with its radioactive qualities by diminishing wrinkles and giving that sought after glow. But little did people know that it was one of the most poisonous beauty products in human history.
If radium cream wasn’t enough, one could also purchase radium infused plates to place on the face while sleeping to ensure the skin got a healthy dosage of radioactivity. Another even more frightening way of ensuring oneself a healthy radium dose was to go to a radium spa. One could be slathered in a radium body mask and then showered off in radium laced water.
This being one of the most poisonous beauty products was also popular during this time to trek to radium mines to relax and rejuvenate.
5. Radium Cosmetics
Soon after radium face treatments and radium spas became popular, along came radium cosmetics, another lethal beauty product. One popular brand to surface during this radioactive 1920’s era was Tho-Radia. This was a Parisian based company that marketed its full line radium laden cosmetics to the public.
Now instead of merely using a radium cream, one could achieve that youthful glow even faster by using the full line of deadly radium cosmetics! Thank goodness today we turn to a good illuminating shimmer powder to achieve that ever illusive “glow”.
4. Belladonna Leaves
Belladonna leaves are in all reality the leaves plucked from the highly toxic and deadly nightshade plant. These leaves were at one time all the rage in sixteenth century Italy. Women began referring to the nightshade plant as Belladonna, meaning beautiful woman, an innocent name for a deadly drug. Women would crush the leaves from the belladonna plant and convert them into an eye drop form to dilate their pupils.
It was believed that enlarged pupils made one much more attractive, giving the user an innocent and feminine look. The infrequent user of Belladonna could look forward to severely blurred vision, fever and dehydration. The daily user had could expect permanent blindness and possible death. The Belladonna leaves come at number four in the list of 10 poisonous beauty products that was once used.
3. Sew-In Lash Extensions
Long voluminous lashes have been something women pined for since the late 1800’s. An ad was found from 1899 praising a revolutionary procedure to permanently enhance ones lashes. Described as a quick and painless procedure, the ad goes on to delineate more details of this oh so pleasant experience.
As it turns out the trained lash expert simply threaded a single strand of long hair through an ordinary needle and skilfully sewed the hair into the consumers’ eyelid. No deaths were recorded with this procedure, yet we are quiet certain that more often than not, this experience caused infection, severe disfiguring, or even death.
One of the largest makeup scandals to date, Lash-lure graced the cosmetic market during the 1930’s. Lash-Lure was advertised everywhere claiming the product could permanently dye ones lashes and that the consumer would “Radiate Personality!” if she chose Lash Lure. Unfortunately, unknown to the public, Lash Lure was created with aniline dye.
Though aniline dyes were a popular hair coloring agent in the 1930’s, Lash Lure chose to up the dose of aniline dye to 30 times more and placed in a product directly applied onto the most sensitive area of one’s face. Needless to say many injuries and one death were recorded from the use of this lash dye.
The most publicized story was that of Mrs. Brown, a wealthy socialite during the 1930’s. In 1933 she chose to try Lash Lure at her beauty parlor of choice in anticipation of a social event. Mrs. Brown was unfortunately recorded leaving the event early due to excessive swelling and burning of the eyes.
Three months later Mrs. Brown was later seen in newspaper ads and flyers, and not for the reasons she was used to. Mrs. Brown’s photo showed her face with nothing but a mass of scar tissue where her eyes had been. The atrociously high dose of aniline dye had completely dissolved her ocular orbs, leaving her permanently blind.
The newspapers urged consumers to learn what was in the cosmetics they were currently using and to use all cosmetics with caution. Sadly, despite being one of the most poisonous beauty products in the market, Lash Lure stayed on the market and yet another woman’s misfortunes were broadcast to the public in an attempt to warn them about the dangers of Lash Lure. In 1934 an unnamed woman had also tried Lash Lure, which caused her eyes to swell shut immediately after the product was applied.
She died within ten days of applying Lash Lure due to blood poisoning from the severe ulceration on her eyes. Lash dyes were banned only in a few states after these occurrences yet one of the most poisonous beauty products in human history was not fully off of the market until 1938 when the FDA was granted control regulating cosmetics.
1. Red Lipstick or Lead Lipstick?
This is the one that hits closest to home. Believe it or not many red lipsticks today still have a deadly secret. It’s one of the most poisonous beauty products that was used and is still used today. In 2007 hundreds of our favorite red hues were pulled off of the market for containing high levels of lead. The lead in the lip hues are measured by parts per million, which may make this seem like a mute fact.
But in actuality the consumption of the minuscule amounts of lead overtime builds up in the human body creating a plethora of health issues. Hopefully, after the find in 2007 the FDA has stepped up and is heavily regulating and testing to ensure our safety.
10 Poisonous Beauty Products Once Used
- Red Lipstick or Lead Lipstick?
- Sew-In Lash Extensions
- Belladonna Leaves
- Radium Cosmetics
- Radium Cream
- Arsenic Wafers
- White Lead Face Powder
- Lead Laced Face Cream
- Lead Based Eye Paint
So the question is how far will you go to look beautiful?
Author bio: My name is Anastasia Bednarofsky. I have always had a love for writing and a passion for all things off of the beaten path. I live a wonderfully crazy and nonstop life as a full time manager, a mom of two, and a wife.