Beauty Trends That Killed Millions

So, I was browsing the Internet and reading some stuff I will never need in my life (as always) when I came across some weird things of the past. Fashion trends to be specific. Some of them were so off and weird that they were dangerous for the women’s lives. Not that we don’t do some seriously weird fashion things today. 

And I found myself thinking “Wait..did they really do this? Was beauty so important then?”. Sadly, the answer is yes. Due to lack of knowledge or a desire for “perfection” in the past, there were millions of cases where people (mostly women) did some serious harm to themselves in order to achieve the beauty standards of that time.


Now, you don’t have to be a scientist today to know that Arsenic is a seriously dangerous toxin. Well, in the past, Arsenic was one of the most widely sold substances in the world. Why? You won’t even believe it. 

During the early 20th century, being pale was not only considered beautiful but also a symbol of status, as wealthy women rarely went out in the sun (to work) and this made their skin tone very fair. So, in order to get as pale as possible, women bathed in Arsenic, a powerful toxin that causes the skin to become white. They even went as far as eating pills that contained this toxin, believing it would make them paler. As a result of the poison entering their body, they quickly became ill and died.


During the Victorian era, the eyes were the most prominent part of the body and an asset to attract suitors. So, in an effort to emphasize the eyes, women used eyeliners and eyeshadow. Normal, right? Well, not so. 

These eyeliners and eyeshadows often contained poisonous chemicals such as Mercury, Lead, Radium, and Arsenic who are all deadly for a person’s body. Why? 

– Lead causes severe poisoning to the skin

– Radium is radioactive (DUH) 

– Mercury causes kidney damage and ultimately kidney failure as well as heart failure and 

– we explained about Arsenic above. 

Good thing we have makeup labels today with all the information on what our makeup contains.


This was a method most vaguely used in African countries. It’s a form of purposely distorting the normal growth of a baby’s skull by fastening the head with ropes, wood, or specially made devices. 

It’s guessed that the main purpose of this was to show a social status or a sense of belonging to a group or tribe. 


Now, this is one of the most famous and known trends of the past. Feet binding, or as most know it “lotus feet” was a long-standing practice in China where they purposely broke their toes and bind their feet since a young age to stop the feet from growing. Having feet longer than 4 inches was considered unattractive.

This often caused young girls severe pain and in some cases, they had to amputate their toes (even feet) due to lack of blood flow to the legs. 


Believe it or not, however innocent crinolines seem, they are the leading cause of the biggest and deadliest fire in history. More than 2500 lost their lives during a church fire when they couldn’t get out when a pile of dead bodies of people who couldn’t get out previously blocked the exit. 

This happened because crinolines were very uncomfortable to wear, allowed limited movement and were super inflammable. So, when the fire started, many women burned to death because they were unable to get their skirt off, which as I said previously, blocked the path towards the exit and caused many other to burn as well. 

So, beauty standards have changed drastically since these times, but something still remains the same. We all do some crazy BS to adjust to the beauty standards our society implies. Sadly. 

Skip to toolbar