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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Things We Do For Beauty

I recently came across an old email from my Avon Representative who also happens to be an historical romance author. She used to send out fun historical tidbits about cosmetics in history, and I found one story to be particularly intriguing. It is the story of Signora Toffana.

It was the end of the 17th Century in Naples, and Signora Toffana had invented a special powder that she called Aqua Toffana. She encouraged her customers to never ingest the powder themselves, but to cover their faces, necks and breasts before being with their husbands.
What the wives didn't know was that the key ingredient in Signora Toffana's special powder was arsenic. 600 dead husbands later, Signora Toffana was executed.

But that's not the only thing women have done in the name of beauty! Makeup has played a huge role in history. The Ancient Egyptians believed beauty brought them closer to the Gods and eye makeup doubled as bug repellant! It was the original buy-one-get-one-free deal!

Contrary to today's beliefs that tan skin is beautiful, in days of yore,
it was pale skin that attracted attention. And while we have harmful tanning beds to darken our skin, they had their own harmful methods of lightening it. Lead-based skin lighteners were used through much of history and caused horrible deformities. Some women even went so far as to bleed themselves to get pale skin! And of course for centuries the geisha have been using white paint to achieve their pale skin. Today in Japan, whiteners are still very popular and even include such bizarre ingredients as bird droppings!

But it makes me wonder...in 200 years will our great, great, great grandchildren be writing blogs about how women in the 21st Century used to inject botulism into their faces to remove the wrinkles?

What about you? Have you ever gone to extremes in the name of beauty?

-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar


  1. I would love to get rid of some wrinkles. I am just too chicken to go the injection route. I will just keep buying the latest age-defying, wrinkle reducing, skin firming and pore reducer skin products out there.

  2. Oh no, not me. I can't say that I'm looking forward to aging but I've always believed it is the natural way of things. My mother is in her seventies and never used anything other than dove soap. She still looks like she's in her late fifties to early sixties. I hope to follow in her footsteps and if not, than that's okay with me too. The thing we need to teach our little girls is that yes, beauty fades and you must have something other than beauty to keep you warm at night. My husband has said many times before it was our conversations and easy comraderie that drew him the most. Beauty is wonderful while it lasts but we should be proud of who we are under the skin as well. Just my .02 cents anyway.

  3. Love the story about Italian arsenic lady. Ahh, Italians were the masters with poisons, long before the French nobility.

    I'm a bit like Melissa's mother - although I use a moisturiser under my make-up, and simple remover stuff, I wouldn't spend any money on expensive so-called 'anti-ageing' products. Well, at least not on my skin.

    Not going into detail about my regular hair colour changes, though, all intended to hide those evil grays... ~sigh~ ;-)

  4. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in, everyone!

    Amy, you're beautiful like you are!!

    Melissa, you're right - beauty may not last forever, so it's important to make the inside beautiful, too!

    Steph, while I love skin care and makeup, one thing I've never done is color my hair. Of course, I'm only 31, so who knows what I'll do when I start turning gray. Yeah, I'll color it. I'm still pretty vain despite what I said to Melissa above. LOL!

  5. Ahh well I do color my hair though simply because I like to shake things up a bit sometimes. Hubby says its like sleeping with another woman when I come home as a red-head or a blond. He never knows what he's going to get lol.

  6. Ah, Jerrica, thanks. Recently I've been paying more attention to facial care, as those wrinkles pop up. For years I simply washed my face and went, rarely wearing makeup. Now I am paying a lot more attention to those advertisements - LOL. Meanwhile I've only colored the "lighter colors" once and that was last summer. It is funny the stuff we want to fix and what we don't spend much time on - lol.

  7. LOL, Melissa. I have a wig that I wear from time to time - that's always fun for hubby, so I know what you mean!

    Amy, I think most people are like you. I just happened to be obsessed with skincare and makeup from a young age (read: I was the 6-year-old wearing mascara, blush and lipstick at the grocery store). It was only natural that one of my first jobs was in cosmetics, so I've been doing the anti-aging stuff since I was about 18. LOL!

  8. Jerrica,

    What a fun post. I only wear make-up about 1/2 the time. And when I do get all dolled up, my son is shocked. "Oh, you are a girl."

    With that said, I have colored my hair since I was a freshman in high school. I'd rather not think how long ago that was. ;)

  9. Really, Jolie??? I totally thought that was your natural color! What is your real color??

  10. In the name of beauty I have been plucked, waxed, tweezed, highlighted, and colored. None of it is fun, some of it is painful and one particular exercise in the name of beauty requires me to drink a glass of wine and take two Aleve before visiting the spa.

  11. Great blog, Jerrica.

    I think waxing is the most extreme beauty thing I've done. I started coloring my hair because my hubby likes it blond. Of course, if I hated it, I wouldn't do it, but I don't and there's nothing wrong with making him happy.

  12. Great blog post!

    I love the story about the arsenic woman -- incredible. I've never used beauty products. Well, okay, I'm guilty of using them twice. Once at my eighth grade graduation dance and then once more at my prom. Instead, I've taken to outrageous hairstyles (bright orange hair, Mohawks, spots, polka dots, neon green and black, even bald!) to beautify myself. Guess I've grown out of it some -- but, I still like crazy hair!

    The only extremes I have really gone to in the name of beauty is more like my mother's extremes to make me "beautiful". When I was about a year old I was diagnosed with Icthyosis Vulgaris, and so my skin was really bad. So, my mom decided giving me daily, hour-long baths in bathtubs full of lotion would get me all better! Tell you what, it doesn't work. But, now, for some reason, my skin disease gives me very nice olive skin! And I'm not afraid to brag -- I'm proud of it!

    Who would have ever guessed something so terrible could do something good for me, huh? Ha ha.

  13. Oh, Julie, you are a brave woman! I did that once and decided it was easier just to shave. LOL!

    Samantha, I totally thought that was your natural color! You seem like a blonde to me!

    Karra, way to make lemons out of lemonade! That is hilarious about the tubs of lotion. My mom put me through some crazy beauty treatments as a kid, too. At least they were harmless :)

    Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and commenting!

  14. Did Signora Toffana have something against husbands? Oops. Great post Jerrica!