10 Bizarre Beauty Standards Through the Ages
Throughout human history, the world has witnessed several unusual and downright bizarre traditions when it comes to upholding standards of beauty. Through the ages, standards of beauty, and the means to achieve them, have tested our limits for gross and gag-inducing phantom pains.
From the long list of strange beauty practices, here is our rundown of the most bizarre rituals from across the world. Beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, or the tribe or community that conditions you to buy in to a painful oppressive notion of beauty. Here's proof.
Ohaguro (black teeth) - 200 AD onwards, Japan
While today's world is all about teeth that look disturbingly white, Japan was all about darkening them to a pitch black. Introduced around 200 AD, Ohaguro was the method of dyeing teeth black, mostly with a solution made of iron filings and vinegar. It was believed that blackening prevented tooth decay and looked attractive in ancient Japan. The ritual continued till about the 17th Century, after which it became something limited to men belonging to the Japanese aristocracy. The common folk only blackened their teeth for special occasions and the tradition slowly started waning out.
Elongated skulls - Ancient Mayan Civilisation
The ancient Mayans believed that the size of their skull was a direct indication of their status in society. In order to artificially elongate their otherwise human-sized skull, the Mayans would first place the head of their young ones, as young as five-days-old, in between two boards. The head was to be tightly tied onto the boards, which were then pressed together for days with ample pressure to achieve a long skull. Though waning out, this bizarre method is still being practised among tribes in Congo and Peru.
Pale skin and visible veins - 16th century, Europe
In Elizabethan Europe, pale skin was revered and seen as desirable as it was seen as the opposite of tanned skin and was reflective of a home-bound woman who rarely saw the light of day. To achieve the pale hue, women tried all sorts of bizarre methods such as using leeches to bleed out for a naturally pale look, using lead makeup, and consuming arsenic for the coveted white glow.
Some aristocratic women who frequently practised leeching would bleed to such an extent that their veins would begin to show. Visible veins were so much in vogue that women often drew the outline of their veins on their neck and breasts to accentuate the look. The term 'blue blooded' is derived from those veins that royal women went to great lengths to achieve.
Sparse hairline - 14th century, England
In 14th century England, the forehead was considered the most beautiful part of a woman's face, and women went to great lengths to expose their forehead. From plucking their eyebrows to gradually pulling out and reducing their hairline, women tried it all to get the perfect oval face.
Long necks - Thailand (Currently practised)
Starting from an early age of around four, Kayan women in northern Thailand wrap a brass coil around their neck, adding more rings over the years, to gradually elongate it by the time they reach adulthood. Known as 'giraffe women,' the Kayan folk consider long-necked women highly attractive, and apart from stretching the neck to an abnormal size, the rings also give the illusion of a longer than usual neck which is revered in the region. Though the practice is highly uncommon now, older giraffe women are still aplenty in Thailand.
Lotus feet (bound feet) - 11th century onwards, China
One of the most barbaric beauty practices, Chinese foot binding involved crushing the arch of the foot at a young age and painfully binding it tightly for years, to achieve a small 'desirable' foot size. Bound or lotus feet were seen as a sign of beauty and opulence, and was somewhat of a status symbol for women from wealthy families as it meant women could afford to bind their feet as they did not need to work. After multiple protests over the years, foot binding finally got banned in the 20th century owing to the recognition of the health risks and barbarism.
Long ear lobes - Kenya (currently practised)
Considered a beauty standard among the Maasai tribe in Kenya, men and women elongate their earlobes using thorns, stones, twigs, elephant tusks, and more. The older the tribe member, the longer their earlobe. Though the method is becoming uncommon, it is still practised in some Kenyan villages, mostly among women.
Stretched lips - Ethiopia (currently practised)
Practised for centuries in several African communities, women elongate and widen their lower lip with the help of a disk or plate placed within the lower lip over a period of time. The process is done when a girl from the community is around 13-years-old and starts with a piercing and gradually involves the use of a wooden peg and, eventually, disks of various sizes over time when the hole under the lip is wide enough.
Facial scars - Sudan (currently practised)
Men and women belonging to the Dinka tribe in South Sudan get their faces scarred when they hit adolescence, as a mark of courage for men and beauty for women. The process involves making patterns with several deep cuts on the face, with the help of a hot knife. The scars are then treated with plant juices and dark pigments to raise the skin when the wounds heal.
Wooden nose plugs - India (currently practised)
Considered the most beautiful tribal women, the Apatani women from Arunachal Pradesh would intentionally make themselves look unattractive by wearing huge wooden plugs called yaping hullo on their nose. The process involved piercing both sides of the nose with bamboo strips and inserting a cane plug in each hole when it gets wide enough. While the practice started as something to make women look unattractive, it soon became a standard of beauty among tribes.