Beware of Bicycle Face! Ridiculous Women’s Health Concern from the 1800’s

by Sonia Edwards

Bad news, ladies.  Another random thing to feel insecure about has just come out of the woodwork. And just when you finally got your FUPA and your unattractive armpits under control, too. Bummer.

It’s called Bicycle Face, and it was actually considered it a serious health issue in the nineteenth century. The definition varies from source to source, but the general consensus was that women who biked too much would develop a chronic look of exhaustion and strain. This could include tight lips, a flushed face, harsh wrinkles, and bulging eyes with dark circles underneath.


So why bicycles specifically? In the late nineteenth century, biking while female was considered to be quite a feminist thing to do, it being a man’s game. The more women took to the wheel, the more publications like London’s National Review warned women of the “hidden dangers of cycling.” Bicycle Face notwithstanding, female cyclists also had to follow a long list of arbitrary rules and were warned that it could cause heart palpitations, depression, and other serious (and totally false) health problems.

Making up things for women to feel insecure about is obviously nothing new. As women living in a consumer culture, it’s important to figure out when companies are trying to sell you something you don’t need (Vajazzle kits, anyone?). Thankfully, the Bike Face phenomenon was dispelled and ultimately forgotten about by the end of the 1890s, so as far as anti-Bike Face creams go, you probably won’t find too many of those at the drug store.


You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.