16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History
16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History

16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History

Trista - October 8, 2018

16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History
A French illustration of the locations of beauty patches and their meaning. Beautiful with Brains.

15. Silk Moles

When one considers of supreme beauty, one surely thinks of large shapes cut out of silk glued to the face in patterns. No? Well, to the French aristocracy in the 16th century, not only were such patches the height of beauty but they also communicated a variety of moods and stats based on their placement on the face. Expensive fabrics like silk and velvet were most prized and were often cut into fanciful shapes like hearts or stars.

Despite the association with beauty, the French named the patches in as gross of a manner as possible, calling them mouches for “flies” since the patches appeared as though a fly had settled on the face. The placement of the “flies” carried significant meanings, with illustrations being created to decode the secret language of facial patches among the aristocracy.

While the marks were fanciful ways of amplifying makeup looks, they also served a much more functional and sad purpose. Smallpox was still widespread in the 16th century, and even among the nobility, many people’s faces were ravaged by smallpox scars. Large fabric cutouts allowed people to hide the worst of their injuries under the opaque fabric, giving the appearance of brighter and healthier skin. The fixation on covering smallpox scars contributed to the ravages of lead makeup use two centuries later, also in France.

16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History
Jar of Solid Gold Animal Skin Cream. Amazon.com.

16. Animal Fat Skin Cream

Nothing says healthy skin like slathering the soon-to-be-rancid fat of dead animals all over your face. Animal fats were, for many centuries, far easier to process and obtain than plant-based oils. Blubber and lard were both prized for salves and creams for the hands and face. A pot of ancient skin cream created by the Romans and dated to the 2nd century B.C. was found during an archaeological excavation and dubbed the “Londinium cream.”

Upon testing, the Londinium cream was found to be mostly animal fat, likely cattle, held together with starches that were likely created by boiling starchy roots in water. Tin dioxide was also observed. A team re-engineered the cream and found that it was greasy at first, due to the cattle fat, but the starches gave it a nice finish. It seems the Romans had remarkably good taste in the creation of skin cream, especially given the limited tools and products they had to work with during that time.

Thankfully, especially for vegans and vegetarians, skin creams today are primarily comprised of a wide array of plant-based oils including grapeseed, avocado, coconut, maracuja, argan, jojoba, and more. While animal-based fats can be useful, their tendency towards rancidity does not make them as effective as the more stable plant-based products.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“10 Gross Cosmetic Products Of The Past” Marie Swan, Listverse. August 2018.

“9 Beauty Trends From History: The Weird, The Gross, And The Dangerous” Olivia Harrison, Bust. n.d.

“6 Practical Ways Romans Used Human Urine and Feces in Daily Life” Kristina Kilgrove, Mental Floss. March 2016.

“Ancient Roman cosmetics: Skin cream from the 2nd century A.D.” Sarah Everts, Chemical & Engineering News. January 2013.

“Suffering for beauty has ancient roots” Diane Mapes, MSNBC. January 2008.

“ON EGNATIUS OF THE WHITE TEETH” Catullus. Tufts University archives.