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The 5 Most Lethal Grooming Tips From History

Sometimes, looking good can be murder. Well…suicide, actually.

There’s a lot of pressure on guys to look good these days. With millions of dollars to be made in male grooming products, we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s no longer acceptable to brush your teeth with Scotch and shave with a butter knife (booo, society. Booo). But no matter how much of a pain in the ass you think your grooming routine is, you can always be thankful you live in slightly more civilized times, where the act of grooming won’t lead to disfigurement, madness, or death…

 

The Acid Gargle


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The men of Elizabethan-era London were hot on appearances, sporting dandy clothing and dashing facial hair that’d make a pirate-themed stripper blush. But what’s the point of dressing like a sex-pirate if your roguish grin is stained a suspicious brown color? Keeping your teeth clean is hard without first inventing the toothbrush, so Elizabethans would do their best with toothpicks and rags, and to keep their choppers shiny white they’d gargle with a mouthful of Oil of Vitriol - or, to use its modern name, sulfuric acid. You know, the same thing an ambitious drug lord might use to dissolve the bodies of his rivals with. It’s very possible that sulfuric acid was effective in stripping away plaque, but the more pressing concern would be its ability to also strip away most of your skull.

 

The Flammable Pee


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Urine has a handful of redeeming qualities (it’s like a built-in fire extinguisher for minor office fires!), but “pleasant smell” in not one of them. In fact, unless you work in fringe pornography, the fact that your pee smells like, well, pee, needn’t be a problem for anybody but you. Not so in Ancient Rome, where your pee had to smell like roses for some reason. Literally. To achieve this effect, people would drink turpentine – you know, that flammable stuff you use to dissolve paint. While it was apparently quite effective at making urine smell like rose petals, its side effects included renal failure, severe abdominal pain, and death. So, you know, totally worth it.

 

The Insanity-Foundation


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Back when having a tan was a sign that you spent your days laboring in the fields as a peasant, being as pale as a Weezer concert in a snowstorm was very much in vogue. To achieve the “Twilight Cosplay Effect," people would apply whitening agents to their faces. If you’ve read this far, it will probably not surprise you in the least to know that these whitening agents were not exactly FDA-approved, and were often packed with lead, mercury, or arsenic, all of which slowly corroded the skin and led to terrible scarring. Naturally, to cover this scarring, even more makeup was applied, resulting in a viscous cycle that presumably ended only when the user had no face left. Face melting wasn’t the only thing that makeup wearers of the time had to worry about, though - toxic metals frequently applied to the skin have a way of seeping into the bloodstream and sending the wearer slowly insane. Could this explain why people are naturally uneasy around mime artists? Probably.

 

The Poison Eye Bath


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The eyes are the window to the soul, so if you’re planning on using that soul to seduce somebody, then you’d best make sure your eyes are sparkly clean and free of streaks. These days we have specially formulated, laboratory tested eye drops to help return the sparkle to your eye, but if you lived in 18th century Europe, all you had was Bella Donna, which fans of murder mysteries will no doubt recognize as a fancy-named poison herb. Despite being one of the most toxic plants in the eastern hemisphere, women would apply Bella Donna solutions directly to their eyes in order to make the pupils dilate, which seems like a pretty weak payoff when you consider that the side effect of prolonged use was – surprise! – blindness.

 

The Bird-Poop Scrub


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In ancient Greece, male-pattern baldness was as much of a concern as it is today. However, denied the option of continuously soaking their heads in overpriced caffeinated shampoo, the Greeks instead opted to lather up some opium and pigeon shit. There doesn’t seem to be any sensible explanation for this, although it could explain why the spaced out homeless guy at the end of your street has such a healthy head of hair. The only alternative for the Greeks was offered was when they noticed that eunuchs tended not to succumb to baldness. However, even a people willing to cover themselves in bird feces had to admit that castration was a little too extreme a remedy for a receding hairline.

 

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