Fatal attraction: The most terrifying beauty practices ever!

Normally, I love vintage beauty tips. After all, anything that’s stood the test of time for hundreds of years has to be pretty effective. And I like how most of them are all about natural and wholesome ingredients, most of which can be found right within my kitchen. However, sometimes, the really old beauty stuff can be quite… out there. I wouldn’t recommend trying any of these out (no, seriously. DO. NOT. TRY. THESE. OUT.) but they do make for a pretty interesting read.

Eat some… arsenic

In the 19th century, arsenic was a staple beauty food to “produce a blooming complexion, a brilliant eye, and an appearance of embonpoint (sexy stoutness)”. But wait, there was a downside: It also caused goiters. And death. Too high a price to pay for that blooming complexion?

arsenic skincareNever, ever wash your face

According to the 19th century Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information a “beautiful lady” is one who had “not washed her face for three years, yet it is always clean, rosy, sweet and kissable”. Simply rub the skin with “an ointment of glycerine” and “dry with a chamois or cotton flannel”. Kissable? Yuck.

Bathe in ammonia

Talking about the yuck factor, if you were particularly finicky about cleanliness, ammonia was the answer. All you had to do was pour a hefty amount into your bath and soak for an hour. Perfect, apparently, for cleansing the pores “as well as a bleach will do”. According to popular beauty tomes of the time, “Any lady who has once learned its value will never be without it.”

Hang out naked by the window

Or there’s always the vapour soak. Which can get pretty interesting, especially if you have exhibitionist tendencies. To do this, “the lady denudes herself, takes a seat near the window, and takes in the warm rays of the sun.” If you’re feeling particularly active, you can dance instead of just sitting still. Because if you’re going to give the neighbours a show, why not make it the best you can?

Radioactive cosmetics

In the 1930s, the French cosmetic line Flo-radia was the hottest thing in beauty circles. Laced with thorium chloride and radium bromide elements it would, “stimulate cellular vitality, activate circulation, firm skin, eliminate fats, stop enlarged pores forming, stop and cure boils, pimples, redness, pigmentation, protect from the elements, stop ageing and get rid of wrinkles, conserve the freshness and brightness of the complexion”. As a major selling point, it was created by Dr. Curie – not Marie or Pierre, who pioneered and then died from radioactive research – but Dr. Alfred Curie. No relationship. Let’s just call it the birth of modern (mis)advertising.

Wash your eyes… with whisky

While you are having that once-in-three-year bath, it also makes sense to give your eyes a seeing-to. How? By “dashing soapsuds into them”. Another alternative: perfume dropped into the eyes. Still not convinced? “Half a dozen drops of whisky and the same quantity of Eau de Cologne, eaten on a lump of sugar, is quite as effective.”

Lead face powder

The 1700s were rough on your complexion, what with all the filth and pox diseases (and not washing the face!) that beset even the richest of people. All these left spots and scars, which were best covered with lead face powder. And why not? Lead powder is inexpensive and easy to make, coats well, and has a silky finish. The fact that it also makes your brain swell, brought on paralysis and shut down pretty much every organ in the body is just an irksome side effect.

terrifying-beauty-practisesTrim those lashes

“Unruly” lashes? They were best “slightly trimmed every other day” with sharp, tiny scissors. Not dangerous at all, right? And we think society imposes strict beauty standards in the 21st century!

Heavy-metal eyes

To rock a cool cat’s eye, all that our great grandmas had to do was line their lids with “two drachms of nitric oxid of mercury mixed with one of leaf lard”. Too complicated? Try “a hairpin steeped in lampblack”.

Suction!

Vintage Kylie Jenners would plump up their lips with some heavy duty suction, which “draws the blood to the surfaces” and over time provides a “permanent inflation.” Going in the opposite direction? Thick lips “may be reduced by compression.” Yup.

Tempted by any of these vintage beauty secrets? What’s the most scary or dangerous beauty advice you have ever received?

WTF of the week: Beauty spells. As in spells to make you more beautiful. Yes, really!

Want to look prettier? Want to banish acne? Or maybe chase away those fine lines that are slowly creeping up under your eyes? Or turn your tresses blonde? Try a beauty spell, the coolest or craziest (depends on your perspective!) beauty trend to hit our shores this season. Beauty spells? As in one of those Double, double toil and trouble things? To make you look prettier in some form or manner? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

beauty-spellA beauty spell? That would be $900. Only.

Apparently, yes. Seems that beauty spells are not just amusing quirks but big business. Some go for as much as $900, like this Cleopatra spell “…based on ancient Egyptian lore that was used by sorcerers and priests to the great Pharaohs thousands of years ago.”

It involves 113 batches of rare ingredients and materials, a hex eradicator and  a 14 layer spiritual shield. Much? Don’t worry, everything is arranged by the spell caster and managed online (eMagic? iMagic?). You only need to send in 3 pubic hairs (!!), 14 hairs from your head or eyebrows, 7 tears dropped on a paper napkin and one small piece of toe nail from your right foot.

Oh! And the $900.

We accept credit card and PayPal.

beauty-spell-3Save money, go DIY

If $900 seems a little steep, you can go the budget route and pay under $10 to buy a beauty spell “to become more attractive, more beautiful or to cause someone else to become more attractive and beautiful”.

Stingy, much? Just opt for DIY, as there is no dearth of information on beauty spells that can be done at home. No fairies or witches required.

I stumbled across one that promises to change the colour of your hair. This is how it goes: On a Friday during the waxing moon, go to a place where you can be alone for at least 15 minutes. Light 3 orange or red candles and place them in a triangle on a flat surface. Visualize the color of your hair fading and becoming white as the color drains from it. ‘Hold’ the color within your hands. Slowly lower your hands above the candles and focus on the flames. Raise your hands above your head and imagine the colour you desire pouring into your hair and turning into that colour. After all of this say the following:

Fire warm and fire red
Charm the hair upon my head
Fire dance and fire shine
From [the current colour of your hair] to [the colour you want it to be] this wish is mine.
As I will, it now shall be
By fire, water, wind and tree.

While I haven’t personally tested it out, sure seems to be a neat way to save salon fees! But what would one do if you also wanted highlights? Or maybe an ombre effect? Sigh… the Egyptians were obviously content with much less.

There is another one for acne. It goes hence: Get an apple and cut it in half horizontally across the middle. Once you cut it you will see a 5-pointed star. Rub one half of the apple over your face while saying: “Apple, sacred fruit of the Goddess; with this gift, I do caress; The pimple that brought me shame; I banish this zit in your name.” Get another apple and cut it vertically from top to bottom. Rub one half over your face as well. Say this: “I love and accept myself as I am today; clear skin I summon to come my way; By my will so mote it be three times three times three.” Bury the first apple by a tree, bush or flower that is outside. Bury the second apple by water. If you can’t find a place like this, just bury it anywhere and pour water over it.

Well, doesn’t sound much more bizarre than the claims of some skincare companies nowadays.

And like all witchy matters, you can curse someone else into losing their beauty prowess. There is one for hair loss and another for premature ageing that would be perfect for at least 17 people in my life right now.

beauty-spells-2History? Magic? Science? Balderdash?

Kidding aside, my digging throws up another interesting fact: Beauty spells are historically some of the oldest charms known to mankind. They are scattered through scores of papyri and clay fragments dating to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Incantations and charms for looking more beautiful are also found throughout literature, going back to the Middle Ages. And every major world religion has prayers and rituals for increasing one’s attractiveness.

Not surprising actually, considering how the human desire to look prettier, glossier and thinner is all-encompassing. After all, that’s how we developed eye makeup and body butters and nail colour – all those ancient Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Arab and American women experimenting with pots and potions of indigenous ingredients.

So, do I believe in beauty spells? No. Not because I don’t believe in ancient rituals and recipes. This blog is inspired by gypsy wanderings, after all. And natural ingredients are often more powerful than anything that Lancome or La Mer could bottle into $500 glossiness.

It’s just that I like my rituals and recipes underlined by reasoning and rationale. Witch hazel tightens pores because of its tannin content. Apples clear out acne because they have high levels of immunity-boosting pectin. Turmeric tackles premature ageing because it is a strong antioxidant. Basically, show me the underpinnings and I will follow you to the cauldron. Till then, let’s just have some fun.

What’s your take? Do you believe in beauty spells? In witchcraft? In magic? Will you be trying any of these charms and incantations?

How to banish bacteria and germ-proof your makeup bag (you need to do this NOW!)

Even if your makeup bag looks spick-and-span – no crumbly foundation or decade-old lipsticks – it could still be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. That’s because every time you pull out your lip gloss or mascara, bacteria descend, ready to spread nasty infections such as sties, cold sores and the flu. And surprisingly, a survey from the folks at Q-tips has found that only 34% women clean their makeup bags at least once a year. Ewww!

makeup-bag-germsPress the reset button

First of all, dump everything and clean the bag thoroughly (inside and out) using anti-bacterial wipes or baby shampoo. Allow to dry completely before replacing the contents. Next, wash all makeup brushes, whether or not they seem dirty. This is also the perfect time to take stock of what you are actually using right now and store away the rest in a cool, dry place.

Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise!

No makeup artist would be caught dead without a mammoth supply of 99% alcohol, hand sanitiser and antibacterial brush cleansers. Once a month (or after you’ve had any infection), gently swab all makeup surfaces – blush, compact powder or foundation, lipstick etc – with the 99% alcohol to de-germify. And keep a pencil sharpener handy – it’s the best way to keep your brow, eye and lip pencils sanitised.

Switch to plastic

Powders, dyes and germs latch on to cloth or canvas surfaces, making them difficult to clean. A makeup bag made from plastic, on the other hand, can be easily cleaned with a wet cloth.

Sharing is not caring

DO NOT SHARE YOUR MAKEUP. EVER! This is not being selfish – merely smart. Sharing lipsticks and mascara wands is the easiest way to spread germs. And that’s not all: do not double-task your tools. Lip brushes should only be used on the lips, and the same goes for eyes. This is not a place to mix-and-match.

How often do you clean your makeup bag? Tell me in the comments section – I promise not to judge!

OMG, OMG, OMG! This has to be the coolest ever use of a lipstick EVER

Paul & Joe sculpted them into awwwww-inducing cat’s faces and YSL fashioned them into a 330 pound cube but Chinese artist May Sum wins the cool stakes by hand sculpting individual lipsticks into mini-likenesses of famous people!

lipstick carving 2 lipstick carvingAnd while her focus is usually on celebrities, May will do a custom commission for you from photographs. It works like this: you mail her a photograph, choose from between 5 lipstick brands, pick your color and then wait 2 weeks. The former beauty reporter, make up maven and multimedia artist will do the sculpting, then pack and ship it to you anywhere in the world via Speedpost or DHL. Each piece costs between US$450-650, depending on the intricacy of carving required.

lipstick anna wintour lipstick carving chanel lipstick lady gaga

Interested? What is the most bizarre way in which you have ever seen a lipstick being used?