Looks that Kill: 11 Impossible Beauty Standards from History
Looks that Kill: 11 Impossible Beauty Standards from History

Looks that Kill: 11 Impossible Beauty Standards from History

Natasha sheldon - November 12, 2017

Looks that Kill: 11 Impossible Beauty Standards from History
The gelled hair of an Egyptian mummy. Google Images

Hair Gel Egyptian Style

If you think that hair gel is a modern invention, you are wrong. A Recent investigation of mummies by a team from the KNH Centre of Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester in the UK has proven that ancient Egyptians were using a fat-based hair gel over two thousand years ago.

The mummies in question come from a Greco Roman cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis of the western Egyptian desert and are between 3500-2300 years old. A sample group of eighteen male and female individuals aged between 4-58 were selected. Some of the sample groups had been deliberately mummified in traditional Egyptian style while others were natural mummies. These mummies were people from a lower social stratum of Egyptian society who could not afford to be artificially preserved after death but were naturally preserved by desiccation in the arid desert conditions.

Of the eighteen, nine were found to have their hair coated in a fatty substance. These include natural as well as embalmed mummies. Based on this, the team concluded that the material on their hair was not part of the embalming process. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry showed that the substance contained palmitic and stearic acid. Although these compounds are also found in plants, the Manchester team believes they came from animals.

The hairstyles of the mummies were well preserved and very elaborate. Both natural and artificial female mummies sported carefully curled hair that held its style remarkably well. Curls were either long coils or short curls plastered onto the scalp. In both instances, the fatty substance seems to have stuck them in place. Likewise, the male mummies sported short, slicked-back hair- again held in place by the ‘hair gel.’ Whether plant or animal-based, this ancient hair gel was not just an elite fashion aid; Egyptians of all social classes used it.

Looks that Kill: 11 Impossible Beauty Standards from History
Vincent Czerny: The Surgeon who carried out the first Breast Argumentation. Google Images

Early Breast Enhancements

Breasts have always been a significant part of fashion, and every age has tried to make the most of them. At various times, small or large breasts have been in vogue, their shape either concealed or enhanced by garments. However, until the late nineteenth century, no one could increase the actual size of the breasts themselves- despite the best efforts of women and doctors.

Initial attempts to increase breast size were mild enough. Women were recommended to rub unguents and oils into the chests several times a day to promote growth. These rubs could be special ‘growth serums’ or else just plain coconut or olive oil. The results were not a spectacular success.

Then, 120 years ago, the first successful surgical breast enhancement was carried out. A Bohemian/German surgeon called Vincenz Czerny. Czerny was called upon to rebuild the breast of a 41-year-old singer who had lost part of her breast to a tumor. Czerny was lucky as the woman provided the implant material from her own body. She had a benign, fatty tumor on the right half of her lower back. Czerny was able to remove this and use it to rebuild the breast.

The success of Czerny’s surgery started a spate of attempted breast enhancements. The problem was, not everyone had handy spare tissue that surgeons could use as fillers. So, experiments began with many weird and wonderful alternatives. Not all were surgical. In the 1890s attempts were made to inject breasts with paraffin, a fad that quickly died out when doctors realized the paraffin leaked into the rest of the body.

In France in the early 1900s, women desperate to increase their breast size but not so keen on an operation or dubious injection began to experiment with large suction cups, which they fixed to the breasts to firm them up. The theory was, the cups ‘showered ‘ the breasts with cold water, causing the fibers of the mammary glands to contract, firming and lifting the breasts.

The suction cup was no great success either. So surgeons continued valiantly searching for a satisfactory artificial filler they could implant during surgery that would not be rejected by the body. Between the turn of the twentieth century and the 1960s, scientists experimented with some weird and wonderful implants such as glass and ivory balls, sponges and even ox cartilage. Finally, in 1961, a solution was found when the first successful silicon breast implant took place.

Some Sources For Further Reading:

Greek Reporter – Would You Be Considered Beautiful in Ancient Greece?

Bustle – The Ideal Eyebrows In Ancient History

CNN – Work, not sex? The real reason Chinese women bound their feet