Wacky Beauty Through History: The Road to Pale Skin

Today, women (and men) spend hundreds of dollars and risk the prevalent threat of cancer in order to achieve one thing; the perfect, golden tan. As MTV star Pauly D says, "I got a f---ing tanning bed in my place, that's how serious I am.” It might be hard to believe that, for many centuries, Caucasian women thought paleness was the pinnacle of beauty. In much of Europe, skin that was untouched by the sun was treated as an indicator of affluence and wealth, as it was the low class workers who toiled outside and had their skin scorched. While individuals have used various versions of foundation since the time of Ancient Egypt, they have also historically engaged in less conventional methods to lighten their color. Starting in the sixth century, European women truly proved that “beauty is pain” by bleeding themselves to achieve paler skin. While, the process was carried out through a variety of different techniques, one popular trick was to apply leeches to the ears. Surprisingly, this enduring practice could be considered one of the healthier ways women achieved milky appearances.

In the times of the Renaissance, women like Queen Elizabeth coated their faces with white paint that contained ingredients like lead and arsenic. Not only did this ruin the skin they wanted to protect, but it led to many scenarios of digestive problems, shaking and death. Because of the horrid effects of the makeup, women would increasingly apply thicker coats to hide the scarring, and consequently start a vicious cycle. Similarly, women used harmful substances to also lighten their locks; one particularly outrageous example is application of lye (used in soap making and biodiesel production), which would lead to the hair falling out. Not coincidentally, wigs grew in popularity during this time period.   After piecing together the deadly results of their own makeup, European women began to shy away from the predecessors’ cosmetics in favor of more natural ingredients to achieve a clean, white face; in the 1800s, women commonly used ingredients like egg whites, oatmeal, lemon juice and honey to alter their appearance. Also, the sun was avoided all together as skin remained consistently covered and parasols became all the rage. To use manufactured beauty products was seen as being crude and deceptive. Today, there are a variety of different products that help women of all races to easily achieve the look of flawless skin without, you know, the risk of death or attracting bugs. To protect your complexion and battle the sun’s aging effects, we recommend finding a creamy foundation that incorporates SPF protection, as found in TIGI and Dermalogica cosmetic lines. 

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