Women in the Roman Empire used lead makeup to whiten their faces, and in the 16th century, English nobles did pretty much the same thing.
One of the most famous figures to use lead makeup was Queen Elizabeth I, who used it to cover her smallpox scars.
This mixture of lead and vinegar that Elizabeth used was known as Venetian ceruse, or the spirits of Saturn. While it may have smoothed a woman’s complexion day-to-day, over time it caused skin discoloring, hair loss, and rotted teeth.
Arsenic was known to be poisonous during the Victorian era, but perhaps some women thought that a little bit wouldn’t hurt.
Although it can be tolerated in small amounts, taking it was still a serious risk—unless you really wanted that “deathly pallor” look