You can say the world is shallow and vain these days, what with our fake tans and breast implants, but the truth is, we've always been that way.
In fact, when you see the lengths to which people used to go to make themselves look or smell a little better, it makes Botox look downright rational.
The Geisha facial is an ancient beauty secret so awesome, it's been brought back to the present so modern women can experience it. Experience what, you ask? Why, having the shit of a nightingale spackled on their face, of course.
Guanine is a chemical that does wonders for the complexion and poop is a wicked source of it (hence the word guano). How anyone discovered the value of a face smeared in bird poop is unclear, but apparently it's been around long enough that Japanese kabuki performers and Geisha used to swear by it. And now you too can pay about $180 to have a stranger put shit on your face on purpose. On purpose.
Naturally, bird shit isn't for everyone. So thank God for ingenuity, as some crafty lady named Diane Irons has assured everyone that kitty litter is pretty much the exact same stuff they'll put on your face at a regular spa. So really all you need to do to acquire the ingredients for the perfect complexion is train your pet bird to shit in the litter box.
Fresh breath is a valuable commodity. As any gum commercial will show you, it's the key to picking up women and not smelling like you just ate the ass out of a dead bear. These things are important. And not just to us, but to our ancestors.
While modern oral hygiene offers many wonderful things like toothpaste with stripes of other toothpaste in it and minty dental floss, back in the day they had to be a little more creative. Sure, fingers and twigs made great toothbrushes, but what was going to remove that colon smell from your food hole? Charcoal, of course.
Ancient Romans were some of the first to use charcoal while other cultures used burnt sticks to help reduce stank, and there is some precedent for that as it will filter odor. In the 1800s, when young ladies were looking to improve their own stink they borrowed this technique and adapted it to simply sucking or chewing lumps of charcoal, leaving them minty fresh and black-toothed.
Back in the day they didn't have Propecia which can have bizarre side effects of its own), so what were our forefathers to do? Something stupid as shit? You bet.
One old-school method for hair growth was to rub in a mix of various household ingredients along with nux vomica and cantharides. Not familiar with those last two? They're usually better known as the poison strychnine, a poison, and Spanish Fly (or cantharidin a less poisonous but still deadly poison that causes priaprism). While it may not have lead to hair growth, at least you'd have horrible spasms and paralysis, possibly with an erection. But if they wanted all that they could just go watch Pokemon.
For those not in the market for something quite so insane, there was also the paraffin wax treatment. Just grab some of this solid form of liquid methane and rub it into the roots and get ready to enjoy long, luxurious Lorenzo Lamas hair. Of course, since this tip was from the early 1900s when open flames were used a bit more liberally than they are today, it would be in your best interests to keep your remarkably flammable head away from everything until that sick mullet grew in.
These fancy and deadly methods were developed to replace the extremely old-school baldness cures, like the one proposed by Pliny back in ancient Rome, that was basically making a tasty salad dressing, then mixing in mouse shit and putting it on your head, which didn't work, but probably made the average bald man look like a poppy seed bagel from a distance.
Because clean and clear skin is pretty much the be all and end all of a shallow person's existence, there's really no excuse not to do whatever it takes to achieve that end, even if it means smearing a hallucinogen all over your face.
The Pokitonoff acne treatment recommends mixing some sweet Vaseline with Ergotine to cure those little blemishes, which has to work out for you no matter what happens, as either the pimples go away or you just start absorbing the lysergic acid that exists in Ergotine (ya know, the fun part of LSD) and in no time you're flashing back to when you did have clean skin, possibly while being chased across a desert by a giant, tooth-filled anus.
If all you're worried about is freckles, then fear not as you don't need to trouble yourself with anything dangerous like toxic hallucinogens. Instead, there was lavender freckle lotion, which sounds just lovely. Unfortunately, aside from lavender, it inexplicably included hydrochloric acid, apparently according to the theory that you won't worry about freckles once your face has melted off, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style.
While today's fake tan is all the rage for people who want to look like they're from the Jersey Shore without all the hard work and barbed wire tattooing that requires, back in the day it was the pasty, cave-born, C.H.U.D. look that everyone wanted (because back then, a tan meant you were a filthy, common laborer). The whiter and sicklier, the better. Cracked writers would have been living gods.
But those burdened with some manner of natural huehad to turn to science to help wash the color away. Science in turn tried to murder them by offering up the one-two punch of mercury and arsenic.
Both chemicals were used to make a variety of creams and lotions that could be applied to bleach your complexion, probably because both would be slowly sucking your very soul out through your pores.