Why Radioactive Face Cream Was Once A Beauty Practice

Radium was first discovered by husband and wife Pierre and Marie Curie in 1898. Back then, the element's dangers were yet to be known, and radium was used for a variety of products. One of the most popular uses of radium was on watches for its luminous property. Radium was added to paint, and that was used on timepieces so that the dials can be seen in the dark (via Royal Society of Chemistry).

It was also believed that radium had healing properties, which is why it was used in a variety of cosmetics. One of the most popular manufacturers of radioactive cosmetics was a French company called Tho-Radia, which released a line of radioactive products including lipstick, face cream, and toothpaste. The main ingredients of its products were radium and thorium — both radioactive elements. Another popular product was the Radior face cream, which was advertised as a beauty product that removes impurities and makes the skin have a healthy glow, per Click Americana.

The dangers of radioactive products

Radium immediately became popular, and it was added to just about any product to make sales. Back then, it was known as a cure-all. An associate professor of radiation medicine, Timothy J. Jorgensen, explained the fascination with the element back then. "Before people started to fear radioactivity, all they seemed to know about it was that it contained energy," he said in an interview with CNN. In addition, radioactive face creams provided a luminous glow to the skin. Shortly after radium's discovery, there were several radioactive beauty products available on shelves, and consumers were buying them left and right.

The said beauty products claimed to remove wrinkles, regenerate the skin, and bring out one's natural beauty, and many people believed it. However, there was no scientific evidence to back up those claims. By 1925, reports of the dangers of radium started to emerge. Young women who worked in watch factories and used luminous paint — known as the Radium Girls — soon started developing symptoms, such as fatigue, brittle jaws, and tumors, according to CNN.

Over the years, more information was revealed about the dangers of radium, and today, one of its few uses is for the treatment of cancer (via Live Science).