People living during the Victorian era were known for many things that we find peculiar today. One of these practices was their odd hygiene and beauty practices. Looks were extremely important to the Victorians, and they often took to very extreme practices to achieve their standard of beauty. The cosmetics that the people of the Victorian era used could often be dangerous to their health. They might have taken the well-known, age-old saying that "beauty is pain" to the extreme.

Poison Powders

In the Victorian era, women preferred to keep their complexions as light as possible. This was due to an associated between paleness and being part of the upper class because upper-class women hardly ever had to see the sunlight. In other words, Victorians thought the paler you were, the more money you had. Caucasian women sought out for the palest skin possible, to try to show the world that they had never had to work in the sun like women in agricultural families had to. Women would do anything they could to get the palest skin in town including painting their faces with white powders which often included the dangerous chemical lead. This lead-based makeup could cause people's skin to change its texture, their eyes to swell, and baldness. Using the powder in abundance could lead to death. Talk about your "deadly beauty".

Frightening Face Washes

Keep the face youthful was more important than makeup because the Victorians preferred the "natural look." They preferred to look as though they weren't wearing any makeup at all, they were just naturally that beautiful. It's this reason that keeping the skin youthful and beautiful was just as, if not more, important than makeup. One recommended skin care regiment was to spread opium on the face before bed and leave it overnight. Then in the morning, one would wash their face with ammonia. This would whiten the face and leave it softer. Arsenic was sometimes put in soaps for the face and body, known as toilet soaps, for similar effects. Putting dangerous chemicals on your face sounds perfectly safe, right?

Egregious Eye Drops

Every woman coveted doe eyes in the Victorian era. Women would often go to uncomfortable extremes to achieve this look, which was inspired by the consumptive look, otherwise known as women who were suffering from the deadly disease tuberculosis. Women would put citrus fruit juice such as lemons into their eyes. They might put perfume instead (because doe eyes that smell great are a win-win). Sometimes, women would opt for belladonna drops because they lasted longer. However, they also caused blindness. Meanwhile, I can barely handle putting Visine in my eyes.

Vulgar Vitamins

Women sometimes took beauty supplements, so to speak, to improve their looks. These supplements contained arsenic. You read that right, arsenic. Today, we know that eating the toxic chemical arsenic isn't good for you. However, at the time, Victorians believed it had beauty benefits. It was generally accepted that arsenic was good for the complexion, and the eyes, like many of the other products listed above. Over time, these people would build up a tolerance to the arsenic and have to take larger doses to have the same effect. Not only could arsenic kill you over time, you could overdose on it, and if you were to decide to quit taking it, you could die from withdrawal. Although arsenic could be digested in many forms, arsenic wafers were an incredibly popular one. Luckily, now we have healthier hair, skin, and nails vitamins.


Although today's beauty standards are still high, we should be thankful that this is not mainstream anymore. Some people were literally dying for beauty. I think I'll stick with beauty products without toxic chemicals in them, thanks.