Toiling your whole life to be beautiful (and consequently powerful), but tired of lining your eyes with a pin dipped in lampblack after brightening them with a dropperful of perfume? Of course you are. We all are. There is a better way, free of the traditional harsh chemicals, using completely different harsh chemicals and ritualistic abrasions. In his 1889 Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information, Barkham Burroughs instructs the women of his day “How to Be Handsome” and so “to govern, control, manage, influence, and retain the adoration of husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers or even cousins.”
Step one: Cleanse and remove skin
“Keep clean–wash freely, bathe regularly,” three times a week, Burroughs tells us. He specifically recommends against plunging into ice-cold water; rather, a hot bath with ammonia (which “cleans out the pores of the skin as well as any bleach will do”) or a sponge bath with a “flesh-brush” and “coarse toilet gloves” will do the job. “The most important part of a bath is the drying,” he tells us. “Every part of the body should be rubbed to a glowing redness, using a coarse crash towel at the finish.”
Step two: Poison your eyeballs
Brighter eyes can be attained by “dashing soapsuds into them.” To properly highlight your eyelashes, which are “worthless if not long and drooping,” you’ll want to “anoint the roots with a balsam made of two drachms of nitric oxid of mercury mixed with one of leaf lard.” Trim slightly every other day with tiny, sharp, eye-gougey scissors.
Step three: Avoid water
To keep hands soft and white (always white; white is very important), avoid putting them in water. “There are dozens of women with soft, white hands who do not put them in water once a month,” Burroughs tells us. Hard, dry skin can be scrubbed with tar soap, soaked in glycerine, and covered with gloves at bedtime; red hands can be combatted by soaking the feet in hot water. Burroughs knows “of one beautiful lady who has not washed her face for three years, yet it is always clean, rosy, sweet and kissable.”
Step four: For the love of God, don’t tell anyone
It’s no news to us that while we’re expected to suffer for the sake of beauty, we’re not meant to ever let a man know that we’re anything but low-maintenance and naturally gorgeous. And vaguely hygienic. Burroughs’s sweet, kissable lady learned this the hard way when she spilled her beauty secrets to her beloved gentleman. “Unfortunately, it proved to be her last gift to that gentleman, who declared in a subsequent note that ‘I can not reconcile my heart and my manhood to a woman who can get along without washing her face.’”
Step five: Dance naked in the sun.
Your thrice-weekly baths should be supplemented by daily “vapor baths” in the following manner:
Two facilitate this very beneficial practice, a south or east apartment is desirable. The lady denudes herself, takes a seat near the window, and takes in the warm rays of the sun. The effect is both beneficial and delightful. If, however, she be of a restless disposition, she may dance, instead of basking, in the sunlight.
Well, okay. That one might work.
(h/t Mental Floss)