8 Painful And Dangerous Hairstyle Trends Throughout History

by Grace Eire
Grace plays in a band and is the mother to a black cat named Fitzhugh.

Throughout history, beauty has often come before comfort. No matter how many times we figure out that something just isn’t worth the pain or effort, some other trend or standard is set, and the cycle starts all over again.

Sometimes the effort and some minor pain is worth it, in exchange for the amazing boost of confidence and power we feel. However, there is definitely a line to be drawn.

Sitting in your stylist’s chair for five hours is one thing, but topping your head with an elaborate, unwieldy, and flammable decoration is a whole other story.

What lengths would you go to in the name of beautiful hair? Or, rather, what lengths do you go to on a daily basis? You may not think twice about your routine, but I bet there are a few things from history that, once you think about it, may not have been worth the consequences.

These eight examples from the past might give you a new perspective on “good hair” and what it really requires from a person.

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1. Monstrous Coiffures Gave Women Headaches

1. Monstrous Coiffures Gave Women Headaches

In the early 1700s, women used to pull their natural hair around horsehair pads piled on top of their heads. The towering structure would then be decorated with fake curls and other ornaments like flowers, ribbons, or even baskets of fruit. The weight of the pads alone would give women headaches.

This was far beyond a simple wig, and the weight of the entire thing put together would give women severe neck pain and swollen temples. Women also had to be careful not to set themselves on fire near chandeliers. Seems like a bit much for a hairstyle.

2. Extreme Teasing For Beehives Damaged Hair

Giant beehive hairstyle from the '60s

The intense back combing, or teasing, that was required to create the beehive hairstyle in the 1960s could really damage hair. It was also incredibly difficult to comb out the teasing afterwards, and could be very painful on the scalp.

3. Wave Machines Yanked On The Hair

Vintage wave machine for hair

Getting a perm around 1940 meant sitting in a chair for hours attached to a device that looked like a cross between Medusa and some kind of wind control machine. Early versions of this were heavy, and they pulled on the hair while it was setting, making it an incredibly grueling process.

4. Going To Bed With Giant Curlers Made For Painful Nights

Putting in hair curlers

Throughout the twentieth century, women have gone to bed with curlers as big as soda cans in their hair. As you can imagine, these giant obstructions make it hard to get that desperately-needed rest. They also caused a literal pain in the neck by not allowing the head to rest against the pillow.

5. Setting Curls With A Vintage Dryer Was Downright Dangerous

Vintage hair dryer

You still need to be careful with your hairdryer today, especially when going near water. But there were barely any safety requirements on the appliances of the past, making them potentially dangerous with the ability to deliver a nasty shock for those just trying to achieve a simple blow dry.

6. Wig Powders Were Made From Questionable Ingredients

Woman with large wig from the 17th century

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women would powder their wigs instead of dying them as that was less damaging. The lowest quality powders were made from corn or wheat flour. There’s nothing particularly dangerous about this, but people did walk around with flour on their heads.

On the more dangerous side, many of the fancier white powders contained lead, which was terribly poisonous.

7. Achieving Ringlets Was A Real Pain

Shirley Temple curls

The Shirley Temple curls from before the turn of the century were no piece of cake. You’d have to tightly wind up the hair and pin it close to the head, which caused immense scalp pain and even potential bleeding from the sharp pins.

8. Hair Dye Used To Be Toxic

Portrait of historic woman with dyed hair

From all the way back to Greek and Roman times to as recently as the 1930s, hair dyes contained a whole slew of toxins, including lead and extremely strong alkalis. Romans would leave mixtures on for so long that sometimes their hair would fall out completely.

In the 1800s, hair dyes with dangerous organic compounds were willingly slathered onto the hair, now used in engineering composites.

Do you think you would have followed the fashions of these times? Did we miss any from our list? Let us know in the comments and please SHARE with family and friends on Facebook!