42 Laughable Beauty Trends You’ll Be Glad Went Out Of Fashion

Published May 16, 2019
Updated May 17, 2019

From mechanical bulls and "portable" saunas to vibrating belts and "slimming" machines, these fads were utterly bizarre.

Women On Vintage Workout Machines
Woman Wears A Head Measuring Device
Map Of Actress Sylvia Sidney's Proportions
Model On Vibrating Belt Machine
42 Laughable Beauty Trends You’ll Be Glad Went Out Of Fashion
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The beauty industry is a big business and the evidence is all around us on a regular basis. From bus stop advertisements to magazine covers, online discussions as to which new anti-aging cream is worth the cost, and listicles ranking exercise accessories — business is booming.

According to Reuters, the global cosmetics products market is expected to reach $805,610,000,000 by 2023. While the exponential growth of technology, medicines, and discoveries of effective healthcare routines could explain this colossal rise, people have always been eager to feel and look good.

Of course, what differentiates the modern era in this regard from its early to mid-20th-century counterpart is that we have a better grasp on what is actually effective or laughably preposterous.

Vintage Woman's Hair Machine

Bettmann/Getty ImagesA dog and his mistress getting waves at the same time from a "modern" machine. Marion's Beauty School, New York. 1920.

As the 1900s gave rise to the broad dissemination of fame and glamor televised and broadcast as the first celebrities were marketed across the globe, so too did the need for appliances, solutions, and technologies to make people look better. However, many of these were quite simply ineffective.

Health, Beauty, And Fitness Trends

Beauty tips, health advice, and fitness routines come and go. In 2018, a popular and entirely ineffectual fitness fad saw people doing yoga with animals such as puppies — or even goats — scampering around participants. Worse yet was the near-life-threatening vampire facial.

According to Insider, the early 20th century was the starkest time period for implementing bizarre contraptions to aid customers in their efforts to look and feel better. The Walton Belt Vibrator, for instance, was invented in the 1800s and popularized in the 1930s and 1950s as a way to literally vibrate fat away.

"It is this speeded up motion of your tissues...3,200 times a minute...that aids in fast, effective, spot reduction...that actually helps trim down the size of your measurements wherever it embarrasses you most," a 1958 ad for the product claimed.

Vintage Trends Electrical Fat Massage

Mirrorpix/Getty ImagesInvented by a South African doctor, this machine aimed to "massage away" any unwanted inches using electric currents.

From a business perspective, the vibrating belt was quite an ingenious product — if being unscrupulous wasn’t an issue. By selling a basic and cheap rotating device with a standard rubber exercise belt, the company profitably sold these components as an answer to a new life.

Never mind the fact that shaking fat away is not a scientifically proven method to lose weight or that spot reduction has been proven ineffective.

The main product here was hope and optimism. The belt was fortunately also a one-size-fits-all type of product which rid the company of selling multiple versions or limiting its customer base.

The Contraptions Get Weirder

The Slendo Massager was yet another supposed method to shake off some fat. Unlike the Walton Vibrating Belt, however, this was a little more painful — the coiled springs rolled over your hips, thighs, and stomach with a fair amount of pressure.

The advantage of these nascent exercise machines seemed to be rooted in two appealing tenets: losing fat and not having to move much, if at all. Indeed, the Slendo Massager allowed customers to simply stand in place while the miracle of technology did its job.

"Girls, it seems after you helped win the war, you still have another battle on your hands: legs and things...the Battle of the Bulges," a 1940s ad cleverly read.

Vibrosaun Machine

Barbara Alper/Getty ImagesA woman in a Vibrosaun machine at a health farm in New York City, 1986. It was intended to simulate the effect of exercise.

Besides vibrating belts and massagers that claimed to rid women of their "bulges," the 1940s saw the beginning of a boost in popularity for a variety of saunas that extended all the way until the 1960s.

From closet-like structures one would sit in for the duration, to "portable" saunas that were essentially just bags pumped full of hot air, the trend was popularized by products like the Reduc-o-matic and the Vibrosaun.

The Reduc-o-matic was practically nothing more than a large cloth bag that left only hands, neck, and head protruding while an air pump pushed hot air into it.

Once again, this health, fitness, and beauty trend of the 1940s was designed with leisure at the forefront as the ads made sure to convey that one could read a book while supposedly shedding pounds.

Of course, it didn’t actually work. While recent studies have amassed credible evidence that saunas can actually produce extracellular heat shock proteins and have tremendous benefits for heart rates and inflammation, however, these portable saunas were targeted at weight loss instead.

In the end, people just got really hot and sweaty.

Electrical Currents, Masks, And Mechanical Bulls

While getting coiled springs to roll over your legs has thus far been one of the more painful examples of largely ineffectual beauty fads, the electric methods which arrived on the scene in the 1960s undoubtedly surpassed them.

A "slimming" device which immediately brought to mind its abdominal muscle counterpart from the 2000s, the machine produced small but painful shocks to around a dozen spots on the body didn’t actually help people lose weight at all. The prospects of merely laying down and getting fit, however, were promising enough to help this trend survive for a few years.

Vintage Trends Women Mechanical Bull

Topical Press Agency/Getty ImagesThe mechanical horse was actually somewhat effective as an ab and core exercise.

Facial masks, too, quickly garnered mainstream favor from women eager to look younger. While today’s varieties are intended to release various anti-aging serums and moisturizing lotions throughout, these masks were supposed to "exercise" one’s facial muscles for increased elasticity — or fewer wrinkles.

Lastly, as perhaps one of the only effective fitness trends in this entire gallery, the mechanical horse: initially used to train rodeo riders, those eager to work on their athleticism correctly found it a fun alternative to comparatively boring ab and core exercises.

But wait, there's more. Just take a look at the gallery above.

After this look at some weird vintage health trends of yesteryear, check out these 55 vintage photos of your parents being way cooler than you'll ever be. Then, take a look at these 40 vintage Halloween costumes that will haunt your nightmares.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.