There’s a pretty good chance that you brush your teeth, wash your hands, bathe, and apply some type of scent and deodorant every day. These practices tend to be a pretty effective way to maintain your personal hygiene and not offend those around you as you go about your daily life.
Not only is personal hygiene crucial to keep you smelling your best, but cleanliness also has extensive health benefits. Studies show that with proper and regular hand-washing alone, over a million deaths could be prevented each year.
It makes sense that those who came thousands of years before you would have different standards and practices for making sure they stay fresh and clean. While it’s easy to imagine just how different personal hygiene standards were before the invention of toilet paper, there are many personal hygiene practices and facts from around the world that will still surprise you.
Next time you’re loading your toothbrush up with toothpaste, or shampooing your hair, consider your life without those products and practices. A look back in history and around the world is a quick way to remind you to stop and smell the roses, or, in this case, the armpit. If you’ve ever taken your routine hygiene practices for granted, you definitely won’t once you read about how other people stay clean. While many of these methods may seem bizarre compared to the hygienic habits you’re used to, these practices used to be, and in some cases still are sworn by those who use them.
10. Using Lysol as a Feminine Hygiene Product
While Lysol’s website conveniently excludes this fact from its history, it was once used as a feminine hygiene spray. Beginning at its conception in 1889, until the 1940s, Lysol was not just known as a disinfecting agent the way it is today. This can’t have been healthy or effective for women, but the lack of alternatives and Lysol’s marketing efforts may have been what allowed it to be used for so long. This method of using Lysol is pretty alarming, especially considering the very prominent warnings all over bottles of it these days that advise users to keep Lysol off of their skin. Particular Lysol warnings even state that it is harmful to get Lysol on mucous membranes, so it’s painful just to imagine using it on the most intimate areas of your body.
9. The Human Bidet
Have you ever imagined life with servants who cook for you, clean for you, and maybe even wipe you? For King Henry VIII, this was a reality. Among his staff was a man who was bestowed the honor (Really! It was considered an honor!) of being Henry’s “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” The Groom’s sole responsibility was to wipe the King’s bottom. Must be pretty nice to know your staff is so devoted to you they’re happily willing to assist you with cleaning up after one of the body’s most foul practices. Although King Henry VIII died in 1509, a “Groom of the Stool” was employed until 1901 when King Edward VII nixed it.
8. Placenta Facial
If you want to take your personal hygiene to the next level and you have $500 to spare, why not try a human placenta facial? While making pills out of your placenta to nourish your body after baby is a growing trend that’s even used by celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, this placenta facial is a relatively new phenomenon. The shocking factor mostly stems from the fact that these placentas come from someone entirely other than the person getting the facial, most often from animals. In fact, a spa in Beverly Hills offers a placenta facial using placentas obtained from Russian maternity wards while a spa in Japan offers the same service with placentas also from Japan. While there haven’t been substantial studies into the benefits of placenta consumption or skin application, it’s been a staple for many women throughout the world as a way to battle post-partum blues, among other things.
7. Growing One Loooong Pinky Nail
If you’re traveling to places like India, China, and Indonesia, it is not uncommon to see men who have grown their pinky nails as long as they can. While this long nail can be used as a pretty handy digging tool (in places like your ears and nose), it is said to have found its roots in ancient China when long nails signified wealth. It was assumed that one couldn’t have long nails if they were doing manual labor all day, which is why men strove to grow theirs. Some say that men who grow this extra-long pinky nail today use it primarily for separating, scooping, and snorting cocaine. Whatever its true purpose, it’s a far cry from the short nails maintained by most men.
6. Whitening Teeth with Urine
Along with brushing and flossing, a lot of people rely on whitening strips or liquids to keep their pearly whites, well, white. These products have become a staple in some people’s regular personal hygiene habits, but would white teeth be as important to you if it took human urine to achieve them? They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” but this might be one instance it’s okay to break that rule. Ancient Romans used a mixture of goat’s milk and human urine to whiten their teeth. One of the key components in urine is ammonia, and ammonia has some pretty crazy brightening abilities, and the Romans had this figured out. Luckily, today there are plenty of other ways to whiten your teeth that don’t involve bodily fluids.
5. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique that has been around for ages in some countries, but with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Shailene Woodley and Gwyneth Paltrow, it is quickly gaining popularity in North America. Swirling oil (generally coconut, sunflower, olive, or sesame seed) in the mouth for anywhere from 5-20 minutes is said to draw toxins out of out the mouth and saliva, freshening breath in the process. Unlike some other trends in personal hygiene, oil pulling seems to have a significant amount of research and proven efficacy behind it. A 2011 study even concluded that it was just as effective as chemical-ridden mouthwashes at battling bad breath and mouth germs, which makes it a pretty good option for those seeking more natural oral hygiene practices.
4. Lobster Cologne
It’s no secret that people love the taste of fresh, buttery lobster. Some people love it so much they want to smell like it, which is why Demeter Fragrances, an NYC-based company, has come out with a lobster-scented cologne spray. It’s described on Demeter’s website as, “Not for the faint of heart. Probably our most obtuse fragrance, but it is “dead on” so to speak. Demeter’s Lobster is a combination of the sea, sweet meat, and a hint of drawn butter.” If lobster-scent is too much for you, Demeter also offers several other unusual scents like funeral home, dirt, clean windows, riding crop, sushi, pizza, and even Play-Doh.
3. Beer Shampoo
While it might be hard to imagine using beer for anything other than consuming, many people use it as shampoo and insist it adds impeccable shine, softness, and bounce to their hair. Even celebrities like Catherine Zeta-Jones use beer in their hair to make it look its best. While the alcohol in beer may be too drying for some hair, fans claim it works to cleanse and shine the hair. If that’s not enough, the barley in beer is full of nutrients that will nourish your strands. Companies like LUSH, and Broo, have picked up on this trend and sell hair products containing beer if the idea of pouring a can of beer over your head seems too extreme.
2. Ghee Eyewash
How does adding washing your eyeballs to your daily personal hygiene routine sound? Some people swear by rinsing their eyes with ghee, which is an Ayurvedic practice known as Akshitarpana. Ghee is a clarified Indian butter, and when applied around the eyes ghee is said to soften the skin and assist in the healing of all sorts of ocular maladies by cleansing the eyeball and surrounding area. Some Ayurvedic practitioners encourage their patients to do “ghee goggling,” a process that involves wearing a pair of sealed goggles that are filled with ghee and allowing the ghee to penetrate the eyelids and work its magic. Along with eye washing, ghee is also used for massage, as bath oil, for cooking, and as a laxative.
Gwyneth Paltrow has garnered a lot of attention for the alternative health and hygiene methods she encourages, and the Mugwort V-Steam meant to cleanse the body, among other things, is no exception. Paltrow explains just how a V-Steam works on her lifestyle blog, Goop: “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels.” Not only do doctors not recommend this, but some also say it can also be quite harmful to your lady-parts and cause infections or even miscarriage. There’s an intimate steaming practice for men too, called the A-steam, and you can probably imagine what that does.
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