Ancient Beauty Standards That Would Be Downright Unacceptable Today

There is no denying that an arbitrary beauty standard exists worldwide. We may subscribe to these ideals knowing how harmful they are or subconsciously live our lives based on these unrealistic notions. 

Yet and still, most beauty ideals are unfortunately accepted even though in actuality no one fits this perceived 'perfect' standard of beauty. Nonetheless, how we view and perform "beauty" today had to come from somewhere.

The following is a list of beauty standards that were accepted back then, that would be completely ludicrous today. 


Nowadays choosing to rock a unibrow might be setting yourself up for public scrutiny, even though in the age of social media thick, eyebrows that are close together have made a comeback. In Ancient Greece uni-brows were the way to go.

Greek women usually left their eyebrows untouched as Greek culture was big on purity. As a result, eyebrows remained untouched and women would lightly darken them with black powder. 

In ancient Rome, eyebrows were a part of extravagant beauty rituals and women would darkened the middle of their brows to appear as one. 

Ancient Greek and Roman poets and writers have been documented discussing popular eyebrow rituals. Women would apply dyed goat hair and attach the hair with tree resin to create fuller brows and the desired unibrow look. 

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If not, at least foreheads that seemed larger than life were a thing.

If you've ever looked at a painting of a renaissance woman and wondered why their heads looked so strange, know that you weren't seeing things.

Renaissance women would make it a point to pluck or even shave the their hairline to increase the size of their forehead...on purpose. 

Large, curved forehands were an indicator of beauty which is the complete opposite of today. Women literally go out of their way to hide their foreheads with bangs or even contour their hairline with make-up. 

In other words, Rihanna would have been as hot back then (sometime between the middle ages and the modern era as she is today). No surprise there. 


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Ancient Mayans use to shape the skulls of their infants. 

In 1000 B.C the heads of children were strapped to boards leaving the skull with no choice but to conform to a new shape.     

This practice was performed to both male and female babies and served no purpose but sheer vanity. Although, in areas like the Tomman Islands and  elongated heads were believed to be more intelligent and thus of higher social or spiritual status. 

Tribes all over the world engaged in skull shaping from Germanic tribes like Incas and Hawaiians to Chinook tribes in North American. 

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A few women still subscribe to the extremely long finger nail trend today but back in ancient China was a different story. 

Both men and women of the Qing Dynasty grew there nails between anywhere from 8 to 10 inches long. 

It's almost impossible to think someone could grow their nails longer than an inch without them becoming brittle and eventually breaking off, but the Chinese found a solution. 

In order to keep their nails from breaking they covered them in gold nail guards. 

Long nails were viewed as beautiful but also indicated that one was wealthy enough to not have to engage in any manual labor whatsoever. Instead of doing the work themselves they'd have servants do everything for them. 

What a life.

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Doesn't it seem like women have desired small feet since the beginning of time? Why is this?

Apparently, 'foot binding' was the way women achieved this standard of beauty. It's perhaps one of the world's most well known forms of body modification. The origin of foot binding began in China but was very common throughout parts of Europe in the 13th century. 

When a girl was 5 to 7 years of age, the practice was to tightly bandage her feet while they were still growing. Feet were tied up so rigidly that the bones in one's feet would break. A young girl's toes would be bent towards the sole of her foot and the heels bent in the direction of her toes. 

All for what, you ask? For nothing more than the aesthetic appeal and sexual desire of smaller feet. 

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I don't know about you but I've never heard of black teeth as a representation of beauty. 

In fact, black teeth are a sign of tooth decay and nowadays would be taken seriously as a health concern. Although, that was not the case for 19th century Japanese women.

For years, women in Japan would permanently blacken their teeth with dye and the practice was known as Ohaguro. Blackened teeth were as a sign of beauty and martial commitment. 

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Let's preface this point by saying cleavage is and will always be a thing, but have you heard of the desire of a veiny cleavage. 

In 17th century England bosom cleavage was making it's way to the forefront of women fashion. Necklines got longer and women began to show their lovely assets. 

Extreme paleness was also in style and was a clear indication of wealth because it meant that one was able to refrain from manual labor outside in the sun (sorta like the super long nails). 

To increase the "pale" look on their skin women would use powder and draw blue veins on their chest to appear as real veins and mimic translucent skin. 

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Since, we are on the topic of breasts it wouldn't hurt to add another boob post now would it. 

Have you ever heard of a "divorced corset"? Neither did I prior to writing this article. These corsets are the most famous ones of them all and are usually the topic of conversation wen it comes to body modification. 

Corsets have been worn since the 16th century, however in the 19th century they evolved to have breast look separated. 

Instead of the tight corsets that created the high breasts and visible cleavage, women desired to have a distinct space between their breasts. 

Who says breasts have to touch anyway? I wonder if this beauty trend will ever come back in style.

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Eyebrows are one facial feature that consistently change with the times. I can recall a number of recent eyebrow threads like super thin eyebrows in the 90s to the thick, heavily filled in eyebrows of today.

Ancient Chinese women kept up with their own creative eyebrow trends. They would paint their eyebrows with blue, black or green grease according to the trend at the moment.

The Han Dynasty were known to have sharp, pointed eyebrows while in other times women were expected to have short, high eyebrows. 

The "sorrow brow" also had it's reign in eyebrow history. These eyebrows were arched upwards to create the expression of sadness. 

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Here's another Renaissance women beauty standard that most definitely did not stand the test of time. 

In the middle ages women did not desire long eyelashes. Not only did women pluck their hairlines but they also pulled out their eyelashes. 

Unlike other beauty ideals that promote desirably and sexual arousal, the plucking of eyelashes was to create a look that was the exact opposite. Eyelashes were viewed as an excessive form of sexuality while the 'fresh face' was the look of the moment. 

So, women would endure an excruciating amount of pain to completely remove their eyelashes, and not just the eyelash glue that is left behind when one applies falsies.

In fact, hair on and around the face wasn't sought after at all. Eyebrows were completely removed as well in order to give others an ever clearer view of the large foreheads.

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The majority of this article has been focused on beauty standards that have pertained to women across decades, but let's not leave men completely out of the equation. 

From time to time, men are also known to subscribe to a few aesthetic beauty standards of their own. 

Back in the middle ages male calves were essentially as desirable as male abs are today. Men wore stockings that showed off their muscular lower legs and some even wore padding to enhance the appearance of their calves.

This 'beauty' trend might actually still be a thing amongst men but i'm not too sure if stockings are worn to show them off, or padding for that matter.

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Ancient Egyptian men were known to wear eyeliner - Kohl eyeliner to be precise. The black colouring and wax-like substance was believed to protect their eyes from the sun. 

Although, Egyptian men in 13th century B.C also extended eyeliner beyond the eye which seems to me like an entirely aesthetically pleasing custom.

A number of men have continued this beauty trend over the years from Charlie Chapin to punk rock boy bands to even Pharrell Williams at the the 2013 Met Gala. 

But, eyeliner is by no means as culturally used or accepted amongst men as it was in ancient Egypt.

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