Revisited Myth # 60: Women ate arsenic to lighten their complexions.

History Myths Debunked


This isn’t a myth, but it is probably exaggerated.

Unlike today when everyone wants a tan, women in previous centuries thought pale was prettier. Pale skin was a status symbol, since it showed that the woman did not have to labor outside in the fields like the peasants. There is some evidence that women ate arsenic to lighten their skin, or at least to minimize blemishes. But according to 18th-century apothecary specialist Robin Kipps, arsenic actually darkens the skin, so anyone trying this should have noticed that and abandoned the effort.

Evidence comes in the form of the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue that offered arsenic wafers for men and women. It was more for clearing up skin than for whitening, but I mention it nonetheless.  arsenic_wafers

Every lady a possible buyer of this celebrated complexion preparation and beautifier. Regular size, also large size boxes, can be sold constantly at a very…

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4 thoughts on “Revisited Myth # 60: Women ate arsenic to lighten their complexions.

  1. I knew about the white lead, but not about ‘arsenic biscuits.’ Vanity knows no bounds, it would seem.
    I am content with Digestives and Rich Tea myself. Perhaps not good for the skin, but very tasty, when dipped in hot tea!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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