5) Maybe It’s Lead?
Makeup trends come and go, and some of them are more regrettable than others. The trend for heavy, pale foundation makeup in Elizabethan times was one of the most unfortunate. In those days, blending your own makeup was common and the makeup of choice, ceruse, was made by mixing a white lead compound with vinegar. Predictably, this resulted in a slow poisoning. Queen Elizabeth, who helped popularize the trend, may have taken ill and eventually died because of it.
6) Glowing Hair
Starting in 1917, the U.S. Radium Corporation began employing several young women in a factory to paint the faces of watches with a radium-based paint. Factory protocol called for the women to moisten their radium-laden paintbrushes with their lips to bring them to a point. At the time, radium was not considered dangerous, and the women would also use the paint on their nails to make them glow and even run some of it through their hair. Within a few years, several had died and the surviving ones had such acute poisoning that one woman’s hair even glowed in the dark.
7) Combustible Combs
Tortoiseshell-patterns have been coming in and out of fashion for so long that they’re now something of a classic. The methods used to make them, though, have varied wildly. At one point, tortoiseshell hair accessories were made from actual tortoiseshells. But then, in the late 1800s, a new celluloid compound was invented. Originally intended as a substitute for the elephant ivory used in making billiards sets, manufacturers quickly found other uses for it as well, including as part of women’s hair combs.
The new combs were cheaper and more easily made and quickly became popular. They were also, however, notoriously unstable and easily combustible. Critically, these celluloid combs didn’t even need to be directly exposed to a flame in order to combust. Simply being exposed to a heat source was enough to cause them to light up, and they were blamed for causing a number of fires, both in the factories where they were made and in the hands of consumers.
The combustion problem wasn’t just limited to combs, though. A number of other fashion products made out of the material — ranging from buttons to collars, even the occasional pair of dentures — experienced similar issues.