Queen Cleopatra won the hearts of the most powerful men alive. Maybe it was her grace. Maybe it was her charm. Or maybe it was that sweet aroma of dung and insect guts.
Cleopatra, after all, almost certainly followed the usual beauty conventions of her time—and that meant wearing a lipstick made out of mashed-up beetle guts and putting powdered crocodile dung under her eyes.
But Cleopatra didn’t limit herself to a peasant’s beauty regimen. She was a queen, and that meant that she could afford the most luxurious treatment of all: bathing in sour donkey milk. Her servants would milk 700 donkeys each day so that they could fill a tub with their milk. Then, once it had gone bad, Cleopatra would bathe inside.
The theory was that it would reduce wrinkles—and it may actually have worked. Soured lactose turns into lactic acid, which can make the surface layer of skin on a woman’s body peel off, revealing the smoother, blemish-free skin underneath.
That was the real secret to her beauty: burning her flesh off.