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The Awakening of Pysche by Guillaume Seignac, 1904

Early this month, I went to my dermatologist for a check up. A new gal was assigned to me. She asked if I was a sun worshipper like she was growing up. I replied incredulously, “Are you kidding me? I was practically transparent as a child! This is the darkest I’ve ever been in my life.”–That elicited a few giggles from the doctor. All kidding aside, I am rather fair and I am quite pleased with my porcelain skin. However, because I’ m so pale and live in Arizona, I am in constant danger of skin cancer. Hence, the check-ups.

While my main reason for visiting the dermatologist is medical, I am not above vanity and have used a cream or two in the past to enhance the appearance of my skin. Just about every woman has throughout history.

Which leads me to . . . .

19TH CENTURY BEAUTY CURES! These are typically topical ointments that have been used prior and during the 19th century. It should go without saying, but just to be on the safe side: Do NOT attempt these at home!!! We know better now. . . .(or do we???)

  • Topical arsenic to kill cancer
  • Animal oils, salt, alabaster, and sour milk mixtures to improve the appearance of skin
  • Combinations of pumice, frankincense, myrrh, and tree resins to lighten the skin, remove freckles, and smooth wrinkles.
  • Fire (FIRE!) to lightly singe the skin for exfoliation.–That’s hardcore! . . .
  • A mixture of urine and pumice applied to their faces for soft smooth skin.–She may look pretty, but she’d probably smells like pee.
  • Phenol peels began to be used to treat acne scarring in the early 1900s.
  • “Using sandpaper to smooth scars. By the 1900s, dermatologists began using sandpaper as well as motorized dermabrasion for skin rejuvenation.”
  • Cryosurgery to remove skin lesions.
  •  Electrosurgery
  • “Sunlight was also used by many European physicians in the 18th and 19th centuries to treat psoriasis and eczema.”–Still prescribed for jaundiced babies.
  • Lead-based creams.
  • Chalk and slate creams.
  • Tea grounds.
  • Rosehips/Rose water.–Still recommended!
  • Steaming faces with sulfur. –Can you imagine the smell?! *Gags!*
  • Face mask of oatmeal, honey, and egg-whites.

Surely there are more remedies out there. Many of the ingredients listed above are STILL used in beauty products all over the world. Why? Because they work. . . . Or maybe because we have been ‘sold’ of their claims from the cradle. When we shudder to think of the things our ancestors attempted in the past in the name of vanity, just know there is a very popular Korean beauty cream made with guano. –That’s bat dung. Just sayin’.