10 Embarrassing Personal Care Examples of the Past

WeGoRo decided to look into a very personal, but curious, subject: personal care from the past. Let’s have a look at the personal hygiene and different beauty procedures of the past. How do you think we would survive in the Middle Ages?

10. Bathrooms

  • In ancient times, bathrooms were nothing more than ditches and holes in the outskirts of the settlement.
  • Early civilizations brought the first bathrooms in the form of stone holes filled with sand. In ancient Rome, the first public toilets with a water sewer system were built. People even had meetings and long conversations there.

  • In the Middle Ages, the personal care culture degraded significantly. People just used copper pots and poured their contents onto the street. The aristocracy, however, used porcelain pots called Bourdalou. It is worth mentioning that sometimes bourdalous are sold as sauceboats in some antique shops. Beware!

  • Luckily, during the Renaissance era, the Europeans developed the sewer system. And the first water closet was invented in 1590.

9. Contraception

In 1494, the American expedition of Columbus brought an unexpected “present“ to Europe: syphilis. After a few years, all European countries were affected by this disease. There were many attempts to invent protection, but the official date of the invention of the condom refers to the 17th century. And though condoms had a long history, their invention and naming were attributed to an associate of England’s King Charles II: ”Dr. Condom" or “The Earl of Condom.” However, the story proved to be a myth.

8. Abortion

When trying to carry out an abortion, women from the past used any sharp object at hand, such as a knitting needle, a wire hanger, or a spindle. There were also poisonous drinking potions. Some substances, such as iodine, glycerin, or even quicksilver (in China), were injected into the womb. Of course, the result was quite regretful to both the fetus and the woman.

7. Shaving

The tradition of shaving comes from ancient times. The main reason for it was parasites, and shaving was the only way to get rid of them. Men used different instruments, such as shells, knives, mud, wax (for epilation), fire, burning potions, and even daggers, axes, and sabers. The process was usually entrusted to a barber — it was safer this way.

6. Feminine hygiene

In ancient Egypt, women used tampons made of a wooden stem covered with papyrus. In ancient Rome, it was cotton pads. In medieval Europe, women used fabric bandages pinned to their skirt belt. Until the 20th century, the problem was solved only with fabric that had to be constantly washed and reused. The situation changed during the First World War when nurses started using absorbent medical paper. That was the first step to modern sanitary items.

5. Toothcare items

The ancient toothbrush was a wooden stick with a broomed end on one side (for brushing) and a sharpened end on the other side (for picking). The other options were fabric with broken limestone inside or a charcoal stick. In Europe, people didn’t brush their teeth for a long time because they thought the process was indecent. But a book about dental care was written in the 17th century, where caries were described as "tooth worms," and the situation changed. In 1780, the mass production of toothbrushes began. In the 20th century, a toothbrush with synthetic hairs was invented, where bacteria could not accumulate.

4. Deodorant

The first substances against sweat were invented in ancient times (in the Middle East and Egypt), and they were special aromatic oils. Salt was used in Asia. In Europe, the first perfume was invented in the 16th century. However, the first deodorant was invented in 1880 in the United States. In 1930, the first roll-on deodorant was created by ARPID, and the first antiperspirant appeared 5 years later.

3. Hair straightener

Nothing to add here. They used a regular iron to make their hair straight.

2. Diapers

In the ancient world, dry grass, moss, straw, or ashes were put inside a cloth or an animal skin to serve as diapers. The first prototype of the modern disposable diaper was invented by Marion Donovan, a Vogue magazine editor. She was always late to work because she had to change her daughter’s cloth diapers. In the beginning, her idea was taken as crazy. However, she soon sold her patents for $1 million, and the first disposable Pampers appeared on the market in 1961.

1. And the last one. Nothing special, just an ice cube face mask.

Preview photo credit François Boucher, wikipedia