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The Strangest Beauty Secrets Of History’s Finest Bad Girls

The Strangest Beauty Secrets Of History’s Finest Bad Girls

Weird beauty rituals have always been a part of the industry. Every few years you find a ‘radically new’ treatment that claims to take your skin from normal to god-like. Off the top of my head, sperm facials, blood facials, and bee stings on your face to increase collagen are all weird treatments that have been lauded in an era where beauty is additional to your merit, personality, and hobbies.

But in latent history where beauty has often served as a tool of influence and power, these treatments were more about survival. To be royalty or an artist’s muse required the kind of primping and preening we could never have imagined. From royal baths in putrid liquids to disgusting potions that defy modern sensibilities, here’s a little rundown of the strange beauty secrets employed by history’s finest beauties.

Cleopatra: The Queen Of Innovation

Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, was not only a political powerhouse but also a pioneer of beauty. Her most legendary beauty regimen? Bathing in sour donkey milk. Rich in anti-ageing and skin-repairing properties, these baths were a part of her daily routine to maintain her celebrated skin; she always had to look her best in an era where ruling an empire was not something a woman was allowed to do.

Marie Antoinette: The Pigeon Potion Enthusiast

Marie Antoinette, rightly vilified, was also a trendsetter in the court of Versailles with her extravagant taste in fashion and art. Among her weird beauty secrets was the Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon; a facial cleanser crafted from stewed pigeons blended with the juice of lemons, cucumbers, and melons.


Post-cleanse, she revitalised her skin with a homemade face mask made of cognac, dry milk powder, lemon juice, and egg white, giving her a radiant complexion despite the harsh scrutiny she faced.

Helen Of Troy: The Vinegar Vixen

Helen of Troy’s beauty is said to have launched a thousand ships and started a war. You’ll be surprised to learn that the genteel beauty had some disgusting rituals to keep her at the centre of all this political conflict. Regular baths in apple cider vinegar were her go-to for maintaining her flawless skin. The vinegar’s benefits as a natural exfoliant and skin soother were legendary even in ancient times, helping Helen maintain a complexion almost worthy of all the lives lost in the war!

Empress Elizabeth Of Austria: Meat Masks & Vinegar Gowns

Empress Sisi of Austria, famed for her striking beauty and slender figure, preferred an all-natural approach to beauty. How natural, you may ask? Perhaps her most bizarre routine was sleeping with raw veal masks on her face and vinegar-soaked garments to maintain her youthful skin. Honestly, go off girl.

Nefertiti: The Kohl-Outlined Icon

Nefertiti, an ancient Egyptian queen renowned for her beauty, allegedly adhered to a strict beauty regimen that included maintaining a completely hairless body. In an era where razors were non-existent, she did so by using a mixture of sugar, lemon, and water. Imagine how painful it would be to do this to the hair on our heads!


Additionally, she also lined her eyes with kohl to accentuate them. This practice, which involved a mixture of soot and lead, highlighted her features, solidified her status as one of Egypt’s most enduring symbols of beauty (and probably caused her early death).

Mary Queen Of Scots: The Wine Bath Devotee

Mary Queen of Scots took the concept of vinotherapy to new heights by regularly bathing in white wine. Believed to enhance her complexion and possibly soothe her aches, if my life relied on my beauty I would also resort to this no matter how unappetising it sounds. What a waste of wine, though.

Queen Elizabeth I: The Ceruse Connoisseur

Following a nasty bout with smallpox that left a series of marks on her face, Queen Elizabeth I turned to Venetian Ceruse to cover them up. What is Venetian Ceruse, you may ask? Well, it’s a heavy concoction similar to white paint that royalty in that era used as essentially a foundation. Made of white lead and vinegar, it helped her maintain her ethereal fairness and eventually led to her death. Yikes!

Lucrezia Borgia: The Hair Lightener

Lucrezia Borgia, an infamous figure (for all the right reasons!) from the Italian Renaissance, is said to have lightened her long, blonde hair using a mixture of lye and lemon juice, a method requiring painstaking patience and care, especially given her hair’s impressive length. It has been said that she often postponed important meetings because she was air drying her long hair; hair that weighed her down to such an extent that she had a few maids carry it where she went. Honestly, me when?


In an era where your sexual appeal decided if you lived or died, a woman’s beauty was a strategically maintained weapon – even if it was at the cost of their health. These women were not just rebels of their times; they were architects of their own narratives, using every tool, no matter how strange, at their disposal to craft their stories and sway their destinies.

So, the next time you pick up that lipstick or skin cream, remember that you’re in the company of some of history’s most formidable women who knew the power of a good, if not strange, beauty routine.

Featured Images: DALL-E

16 May 2024

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