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Vintage Vanity: Insane Beauty Treatments Down the Years

 

Freckle freezer, 1930s.

Freckle freezer, 1930s.

Women have been chasing the ideal image of femininity for thousands of years. The search inherently depends on unattainability—weight gain during times of malnourishment, weight loss during eras of excess, tan skin during the winter and so forth—and therefore has no foreseeable end in sight. Beauty “guidelines” vary by generation and culture, and require differing amounts of time, money and physical or mental sacrifice. Ironically, they rarely reflect the preferences of the opposite gender, who don’t give a hoot about hair highlights or pressed-on nails; instead, they arise more often from marketing campaigns designed fuel our own insecurities. Here’s a look at a few of the most grimace-inducing examples of the last century.

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The Permanent Wave Machine allowed straight-haired gals to attain the coveted appearance of naturally curly locks. The original model, designed in 1906 by inventor Karl Nessler, utilized chemicals and electricity to steam damp hair into permanent waves. Less desirable effects included brittle hair and burns from the extreme heat, which reached over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, the process was improved by the time it reached popular use in salons by the 1930s.

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The Beauty Calibrator, also known as the beauty micrometer, was concocted by beautician Max Factor in the early 1930s. It was intended for use in Hollywood — no, not as a prop in a slasher film, but as a tool for makeup artists to identify actresses’ facial “flaws.” Its adjustable metal strips and screws provided precise measurements; if any imperfections were detected, they would be remedied with makeup. Astonishingly, this procedure never gained widespread appeal, and only one Calibrator is known to have actually been created.

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Ironized Yeast — a “scientific formula” designed to help you gain 10 to 25 “normally attractive” pounds, new pep and new charm.” Though the concept of attractive pounds may seem oxymoronic in today’s diet-obsessed society, these tablets gained popularity during the tail end of the Great Depression, when malnourishment was a legitimate concern. However, some shady pill-pushing ads also promised dates, popularity clear skin and even a “healthy color.” The special free offer advertised here included a book on health entitled “New Facts About Your Body”  by a “well-known” (yet anonymous) authority.

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Mrs. D. M. Ackerman of Hollywood, CA discovered the secret to a beautiful complexion: enclosing your face in a bag that essentially robs you of oxygen. Her “glamour bonnet,” which lowered atmospheric pressure around the wearer’s head and stimulated blood circulation, supposedly mimicked the feel of climbing a mountain or flying “high in a plane.” Even better, the bonnet included a transparent screen that allowed the wearer to read in leisure while presumably drifting in and out of consciousness.

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Nose Shaper: Who could ignore a beauty campaign that claimed to affect “the failure or success of your whole life” and “your ultimate destiny?” In 1930, series of ads from a New York “face specialist” promised to improve readers’ appearances with the patented Model 25 Nose Shaper, a nifty contraption that “remodel[ed] the cartilage and fleshy parts” of the nose. Though the specialist’s 1921 patent explained how “more or less continuous pressure” could reshape nose abnormalities, an ad guaranteed a “painless” experience — or your money back.

— Ali Datko

 

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