Investments in good hygiene practices have been ingrained in us since we were young. Growing up, we heard our parents or grandparents tell us countless times that we should be thankful the conveniences we have now because it was way more difficult in their time. The things that we consider “basic” today was a privilege back then. Each and every generation had its own hygiene norm—though we’re glad we have outgrown some of them. With the advancement of Science, our understanding about these things have also changed. Want to learn just how much? Check out these mind-blowing hygiene practices from the past.
Medieval Times Bathing
Personal hygiene is one of the most basic things that were taught to us when we were young. Although we know that how it is practiced in every culture is different, you won’t believe how different it was back then! Bathing is pretty basic, right? Even animals bathe, but in medieval times the whole family shared the bathing water. This is so, because manually heating the water is time consuming that they opted for used bathwater. Fuel-generated water heater and electric water heaters, like what plumbing services that our generation enjoys, were not invented until the late 18th to 19th century.
Online classes are part of the “new normal” that we have to live through these days. We sit in front of our computers, doing homework, having video conferences in the comfort of our homes. We can all agree that changing clothes every single day is not really practical. We tend to use yesterday’s clothes that are about to be tossed in the laundry hamper. Some may find it unhygienic but this concept goes back to pre-19th century. Families then only had four pairs of clothing, one for every season. Knowing this, using that day-old uniform isn’t so bad after all.
Pre-Toilet Paper Era
Toilets are one of the most used room in a house that’s why some people spend extra on making it presentable, may it be with all-white walls and hardwood flooring or just plain tidy. This is also why most people are not comfortable using public toilets due to the fact that some might not have functional water faucets, the flush doesn’t work, or they don’t even have toilet paper available. Toilet paper is a must, but before it was invented in the 1800’s people had to use different things to clean themselves. They utilized leaves, fruit peelings, grass, wool, and even their own hands.
People in the modern times, specially the younger generations are so particular in their looks. Beauty regimens are considered a necessity nowadays. Some, put their investments on self-care, which includes improvement of one’s physical appearance. One of the basic on looks is the haircut. Most people have their own preferences of barbershops and a favorite barber. Barbers either went to school to learn how to cut hair or was trained overtime. During the middle ages they had more responsibility than simply cutting hair, they were also trained like surgeons that performs operations and dentists who took care of your rotting teeth.
Portable Toilet Bowl
Most of us have experienced the inconvenience of waking up in the middle of the night just because we have to pee. As a kid, perhaps you were too scared to run to the toilet and wished there was a one in the room. Some may have an actual toilet in the room but back in the day, it was common to have a small pot that resembles ones used to catch the water leaks when the roof repair flops, underneath the bed for urination. The contents were discarded in the morning or used for watering plants because it was believed to be a good fertilizer.
A lot of people are scared of going to into a surgical operation. It is reassuring to know that the person handling you is well trained and the equipment used are of standard quality. Every operation that must be done in our body should be performed accurately and sterility must always be observed to ensure safety of the patient but this was not the case before the 1800’s. Anesthetics weren’t available and surgeons would quickly cut the skin of the patient to lessen the pain and wound exposure. If that is how it’s done today, I would definitely invest on a good health insurance.
Syphilis is one of the diseases that afflicted many people during the 1580s. In England, nearly half of the population succumbed to this disease. It had a lot of symptoms which is readily treatable with antibiotics in current times. One of the easily noticeable symptoms is hair loss which bothered people even back then. Hair loss at a young age would almost always be associated with syphilis. To avoid suspicion, wigs came to a trend. Louis XIV should be given credit for it. As he was going bald at the age of 17, he hired wig makers to make him toupees.
Today, there are a lot of birth controls to choose from, but this wasn’t the case for women until the 20th century. Contraceptives are essential for women that are not ready to have a baby. Having a child requires financial stability and insurance companies don’t cover all of the costs. So, women back then got resourceful to prevent unplanned pregnancy. One of the things they used was Lysol, the disinfectant. Although used for cleaning, it is harmful when sprayed on the sensitive parts of the body. There were countless reports of women being treated for inflammation and burns on their genital areas due to Lysol use.
Real False Teeth
When were younger, some of us encountered scary stories about skeleton models being made out of actual humans. Did you know that in 18th century, dentures or also known as “waterloo teeth” was made from real human teeth? George Washington’s false teeth were, in fact, a combination of a lot of materials including actual human teeth. It was considered the best of its kind. During the 1800’s, these were widely accepted. However, if this were the case now, these businesses should be filing for bankruptcy because aside from hygienic reasons, I think a lot would agree that this is just too creepy.
Beauty has been coveted by people since time immemorial. We try to so hard to make ourselves presentable and be satisfied with how we look. We often try different beauty routines, spend extra on beauty products maybe even a portion of our personal loans is spent on vanity. Some people would go to lengths just to live up to society’s beauty standards. In 16th – 17th century, women would consume Belladonna plant also known as nightshade. It’s quite poisonous if taken in large amounts. Despite knowing this, it didn’t stop women from consuming it for its effect of dilating the pupils which is considered attractive.
Chemotherapy has a lot of effects on cancer patients. This includes fatigue, bruising, bleeding, nausea and vomiting, and weight loss. Hair loss is also one of the most common symptoms. This is due to prolonged exposure to radiation. There are a lot of risks with radiation exposure, some are manageable and some are life-threatening. Hair loss is quite alarming if it happens in large quantities, but it was quite a trend for some people in the 1900’s. They would go to such a degree as to irradiate themselves and would willingly spend hours under x-rays just to lose some of their hair for the love of beauty.
Urine As A Bleaching Agent
Bleach is used for lightening the hair so people can change their hair color. These beautification expenses are often reflected in a person’s credit card bills. Hair grooming goes way back to the time of Queen Elizabeth who is considered a style icon during her term. Women would copy her looks and her red, curly hair is often the most imitated one. Bleaching hair products were not yet available at the time so people resorted to the closest thing they could find: urine. This contained ammonia, a chemical found in bleaching products. It’s always baffling the lengths people would go for in the name of beauty.
Pain-Relieving Eagle Dung
Bird droppings are so frustrating when you find them on your windshield, or on your newly done roofing in the house. It may be a hassle today, but people in the middle ages found a useful way to utilize it. Childbirth is really unimaginably painful as mothers would describe it. Nowadays, doctors use epidural, a numbing agent, to block labor pains but women back then were smeared with eagle dung and rosewater on the thighs because it was believed to help relieve the pains of labor. Its effectiveness was not backed up by any evidence, but it probably helped ease the mind of laboring mothers.
Combing our hair is part of the first things we do when we wake up before going out. Some would say that combing the hair 100 times each day would help hair grow healthy and beautiful. There are different materials used for making it. Ivory was widely used, but due to its expensiveness, people resorted to cheaper materials such as celluloid. It is a synthetic plastic material composed of nitrocellulose and camphor. It’s a cheaper alternative, but because of its high flammability, exposure to fire and gas can make it burst into flames, so its uses were eventually discontinued.
People in ancient Egypt were known for a lot of things, like building the pyramids, but there is also another interesting fact that Egyptians should be given credit for. Servants were so loyal and obedient to the Pharaohs that they would do everything to please them even if it means serving themselves as a fly attraction. The servants would pour honey all over their bodies to attract the flies away from the pharaoh. This practice was popularized by Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare. Honey is still popular for application on the skin because of its benefits, but not for the purpose of attracting bugs anymore.
Mousebrows On Fleek
Self-grooming investments are common to our generation. People are willing to spend money on beauty enhancements, may it be surgical or otherwise. They say that having perfectly shaped eyebrows make a lot of difference in one’s look. Eyebrow growing products and even eyebrow tattoos are quite popular. Women in the 17th century would go as far as shaving off their brows and replacing it with eyebrows made from dead mouse’s skin. Although it’s not yet proven if it’s a fact or not, the thought of having a dead animal’s skin on your face is unnerving. It would probably be wiser to bear the pain of eyebrow tattooing.
Up until now, baldness is a common problem in older men. A lot of different hair products and food supplements have been advertised in the market for growing hair. Among those products used back then was a mixture of chicken poop and potassium. It was thought to stimulate hair growth and was really popular that it was even published in a medical guide in 1654. As disgusting as it may seem, some people opted for this instead of getting themselves a wig. The degree of the absurdness of things people could think of just to solve problems is impressive and concerning at the same time.
We can all agree that part of society’s beauty standard, as shallow as it may sound, is having fair skin complexion. A lot of people, women and men alike, would invest money on skin whitening products. In the 17th up to the 19th century, to achieve that snow white-like look, women would use chalk as a whitening agent. They would smear it on their faces and even go as far as ingesting it to make themselves sick so they would look pale. Wanting to look good is not wrong but if most of your money is invested in these kinds of things then you might need a financial advisor.
A lot of contraceptives have been studied and put to the test to prove their effectiveness. However, due to limited access to information and proper education, Canadian women in the 15th century thought that consuming genital parts of a male beaver would help prevent unwanted pregnancy. Now, this may sound completely crazy but it was theorized that it causes hormonal imbalance in women, which is the same mode of action of some birth control products today. For those curious hearts who want to try this practice out, you might want to prepare your health insurance because we’ll never know how beaver genitals will affect your body.
Brushing our teeth is part of basic hygiene practices when it comes to oral health. It is even advised to brush our teeth every after a meal, but when you’re out and about, it is always wise to have mouthwash on you. Mouthwash instantly cleans and freshens up your mouth but a minty breath wasn’t always the result of it. People back in the day would use urine as a mouthwash and also for whitening teeth. Urine, as it is a body fluid, is naturally sterile. Romans even had imports of Portuguese urine that were then taxed by Emperor Nero. Talking about bad investments.
Have you ever wondered how people back then achieved elaborate hairdos? Back then hair sprays and hair waxes weren’t invented yet, people used animal fat to hold their tall hairdos in place. Since doing this hairstyle is quite difficult and time consuming, they would only wash their hair few times in a month. Ever noticed when your hair gets greasy, it tends to be itchy? This was also the case then but women were so committed to this hairstyle that they would go to such degree as to letting a few insects nest on their head just to keep up with the current fashion trend.
It is known to us that people from different places and from different walks of life have different practices. If urine mouthwash wasn’t mind blowing enough, maybe ancient people’s toothpaste content would do the trick. Ancient Egyptians’ own brand of toothpaste was made of crushed ox hooves and eggshells. A mixture of crushed up bones, oyster shells, bark, charcoal, and mouse brains were incorporated in Greek and Romans’ toothpaste. It was not until 1000 A.D. that the Persians discovered those mixtures would do more harm than good on the teeth. Those toothpaste mixtures would probably be better off as paste for roof repairs.
At the time before birth control products were discovered people tried all sorts of things to prevent pregnancy. Among these ancient contraceptive methods included the consumption of the plant silphium by Ancient Romans. Eventually the supply couldn’t keep up with the demands that the plant was driven to extinction and was never got tested for its effectivity. Aside from being a contraceptive, Silphium also has a number of uses like treatment for psychosis, ointment and even as seasoning for food. It has a lot of uses that the Romans valued it as gold. Maybe that’s the reason they put a lot of investment on it.
So far, we’ve learned a lot of weird practices in different parts of the world. Some maybe manageable are just too disturbing. Centuries ago, people in East Asia, mainly Japan practices “ohaguro” or the art of blackening the teeth. This is because during that period, the appearance of shiny pitch-black teeth were actually considered symbol of beauty and maturity. Another purpose of this is to protect the teeth from decay. The person’s teeth were so black that the mixture used could pass as sealant for roof repair. This practice continued on for centuries until it was banned during the 19th century.
Tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups—these are essential for every woman in the world. It might even be one of the most commonly found item purchased in the credit card bill of women. Have you ever wondered what life was like for women before the sanitary pads were invented? In England, women had to use moss as pads. It is a type of moss that is so absorbent that it was initially used for the wounds of soldiers. Sanitary pads are quite uncomfortable but knowing what those women used back in the day, you’d be really grateful to be born in this era.
Nowadays, there are a lot of ways to show off wealth. I mean, it’s not bad to be proud of the things that you worked hard for but going to an extreme degree of showing is a whole different story. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, around 15th-16th century, sugar was one of the high costing products in the market. Only rich people can afford sugar so that would mean only the rich people are at risk for tooth decay. People were so caught up with the idea of being wealthy or to look like one that rotting teeth became a status symbol!
Humans are so resourceful and efficient that we often find ways to solve our problems or make our life easier. Long before laundry detergents and bleach were invented, Americans found something to wash their clothes with. As you might have guessed, it’s the all-purpose urine. Urine was used in ancient times for a number of weird things such as a bleaching agent and mouthwash. They used to soak their clothes in urine overnight, similar to how we soak our clothes in bleach to remove stubborn stains. If urine was still used up to this day for this purpose, detergent companies would definitely go into bankruptcy.
When we were kids, we often got scrapes and would wash the wound while letting it bleed a bit to remove the dirt that might have gotten in it. Physicians used to think that the cause of every sickness in human body is contained in the blood. As such, when a patient comes in with an ailment the doctors would let leeches suck the blood on that part of the body. This went on until late 19th century, before doctors found out that this method was life-threatening. If you’re insurance company would only cover this type of medical expense, would you still take it?
Every household must have at least one septic tank installed. This is where all the waste goes. However, plumbing services weren’t as advanced in ancient times as it is today that all sorts of wastes were dumped in the nearest places they could find. Moats are deep ditches that surround the castles as primary line of defense and it served also as a dumpsite back then. People back then used to think that crocodiles inhabit these ditches so people kept their distance. Well, we couldn’t blame them, crocs or no crocs, no one in their sound mind would take a dip in that filthy ditch.
Queen Elizabeth I was really quiet the trendsetter. Women in those days admired her so much that the degree of the things they would do just to look like her is mind boggling. Aside from eating chalk and bleaching their hair with urine, they also used lead on their faces to get the skin complexion that they wanted. Of course, as with other complications from their hazardous beauty routines, many of them experienced the harmful effects consistently using this lead treatment. Lead poisoning is not uncommon even in modern times but not for the same reasons as with Queen Elizabeth’s fanatics.
Floors made up of grasses, herbs, and compacted earth were the norm during the Dark Ages up until 16th century. It is commonly called Rush Floor and people would often prefer this type of flooring because of the insulation it provides, along with the sweet smell that comes with it. However, given its composition this type of flooring is would certainly harbor disease and breed bacteria. Although the top layer gets replaced from time to time but the bottom part would stay for years. If leaving the carpet on the floor for a week would harbor dusts then you know how filthy this can get.