Ancient Skincare Remedies (pt 2.)

By: Bre Harrigan

We covered all of the cool things our ancestors came up with for skin care, but I feel as if fewer people think about how gross and/or harmful some other remedies were. In this piece I’ll be introducing some crazy beauty routines people in past centuries believed would make them beautiful. I highly recommend not trying any of these things, unless you’re feelin’ a little dangerous. But please, do not try these at home.

Crocodile dung

In Ancient Greece and Rome, crocodile excrement was thought to have amazing medicinal purposes. People claimed these feces had anti-aging properties, so they took baths in the stuff. This was also one of the first known examples of face masks. Can we just take a moment to appreciate our avocado and oatmeal face masks?

Lead and Arsenic

Although lead is more of a makeup “secret” rather than skincare, it is still one of the most toxic products in all of beauty history. In the eighteenth century, women would mix lead with vinegar to help them achieve the pale skin everyone craved. Back in the day, if you were tan you would be looked down on because it meant you were always outside, working. The pale skin of royalty was a sign of status for years. Slowly, people who used lead started to poison themselves and faced deadly side effects.

Another product people would use was arsenic. After the side effects of lead were discovered, people thought it best to transfer over to an equally harmful product. Anybody who has heard “Cell Block Tango” or read Flowers in the Attic can concur that arsenic is nowhere near safe. Arsenic was also used to obtain that perfect porcelain complexion. A side effect of arsenic was that if you stopped taking it, your complexion would become even worse than it had in the beginning, prompting people to continue poisoning themselves.


Alright, I know we’ve all had our fair share of wonky pimple creams and irritating exfoliators, but some people used to put mercury on their face. On. Their. Face. It was believed to be a safe cure for blemishes, as a sort of exfoliant. It was even used to try and cure freckles. Eventually, the mercury began to absorb into the skin and into the bloodstream, causing a lot of damage that ultimately lead to death.


Honestly, this name alone interests me. Nightshade is almost as cool as it’s other name, belladonna. Women used to squeeze drops of the deadly product into their eyes for a wide-eyed look that they believed to attract more attention. However, some of the side effects included vertigo, migraines, and blindness.


Although researching and learning more about each of these ancient beauty secrets was incredibly interesting, it definitely makes me a little nervous. I?? want to start looking even deeper into each of the products I currently apply to my face each day and night. Although our ancestors left us with some dope tips, they definitely had hundreds of beauty flaws to go along with them.