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Members of the Bluebell Dancing troop use "hip slimming" machines in a French beauty parlor in
Paris, France. Jan. 23, 1965.Keystone/Getty Images
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Hollywood cosmetics expert Max Factor takes the measurements of a young woman's head and face with a bizarre contraption which indicated those places on her face which needed to be enhanced or reduced by makeup. 1933.General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
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An annotated portrait of American actress Sylvia Sidney's facial proportions which were presumed to be near perfect. May 1934.General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
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Alaskan model Terry Walker uses a "weight reducing" machine which encircles her hips and back while vibrating. 1935.Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Skin cleansers of yesteryear, or "cold creams," were comprised mainly of mineral oil and were meant to be applied and gently washed off. 1939.George Karger/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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A woman receives a facial from a machine using cotton pads over her eyes.
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Thin arched brows were the rage in the '30s. Here a woman gets the signature look via a professional beauty therapist with an electric device. May 1934.Fox Photos/Getty Images
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A woman applies precise makeup using an eyelash stencil. 1926.Fox Photos/Getty Images
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The "ozone bath" was a beauty treatment hat claimed to help with weight loss and detoxification of the skin through heat and moisture. 1951.Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images
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A traveling beauty parlor in London, England. 1930.Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images
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Beatle-mania in a can. The band's likeness was used on all sorts of products, such as this generic hair spray from 1964.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Beauty expert Helena Rubinstein illustrates where and how best to apply makeup to flatter her client's contours. 1935.Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images
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Bavarian actress Inge Marschall demonstrates the use of a shower-hood invented in Germany to protect hair and makeup from getting wet. Feb. 12, 1970. Munich, Germany.Keystone/Getty Images
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Margaret Waggoner Mitchell of Kansas City as she approaches 100 years of age gets her grey hair set in to a permanent wave with electrical heaters. 1926.Henry Miller News Picture Service/FPG/Getty Images
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A beautician paints a seam on a woman's leg to create the illusion that she's wearing stockings. This was during a shortage of nylons in World War II. U.K. May 23, 1940.A.R. Tanner/Getty Images
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A patient wears a flu mask during the flu epidemic that followed World War I. It was their main line of defense against the sickness. Feb. 27, 1919.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
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A pair of artificial breasts with a built-in heartbeat. Made in Japan, this aimed to serve as a sleeping aid for young children. March 16, 1963.Keystone/Getty Images
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An American woman reads a book while "working out." New York, NY. 1947.Nina Leen/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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A portable Finnish sauna bath in 1962. It could be folded up and brought virtually anywhere, some Finnish women even gave birth in them. You can actually still buy these. Yale Joel/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A woman gets a "salt glow" treatment at the Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. The treatment was meant to make the skin swell with blood to look fresh and young after being scrubbed with salts. 1924.Underwood Archives/Getty Images
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Members of the Arsenal soccer team get a sunlight treatment. It was thought sunlight treatments could combat diseases like tuberculosis. Jan. 16, 1931.Fox Photos/Getty Images
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A plastic tent meant for the isolation of infected patients. June 3, 1969.J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images
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Plastic surgeon J.C. Bell at work on a customer's face in his beauty parlor. 1937.Fox Photos/Getty Images
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British actress Joan Barry applies a milk facial treatment. Milk is still used as a base beauty treatment. March 23, 1933.Sasha/Getty Images
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American actress Lola Fischer sitting in a steam cabinet at a 24-hour Health Salon. New York, NY. 1955.Vecchio/Three Lions/Getty Images
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A woman massages her neck with a roller device. 1928.Underwood Archives/Getty Images
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A model tries out the personal German "Heim Sauna" or home sauna. 1955.Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images
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Women take steam baths at the Roosevelt Baths in New York. 1938.George Karger/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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A woman uses the Vibro-Slim which was another weight loss tool via vibration. 1928.Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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A woman reads a magazine while trapped in a steam cabinet on the Knebworth beauty farm in Hertfordshire, U.K. June 21, 1960.William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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This spray treatment was thought to be thoroughly cleansing. Homestead Spa and Bathhouse, U.S. 1955.Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images
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Model and actress Rosemary Andree demonstrates a slimming exercise with an elastic band. Dec. 24, 1939.General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
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Four women exercising their cores to improve their posture at a charm school for minister's wives. Kentucky, U.S. 1960.Archive Photos/Getty Images
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Contestants in a "Neatest Figure" contest, wearing bags over their heads for unbiased judging. Margate, Kent, U.K. Sept. 6, 1932.Fox Photos/Getty Images
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A digram for a "mustache shield" patent which was designed to keep facial hair out of the way while eating.
April 18, 1876.M.J. Rivise Patent Collection/Getty Images
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A woman gets steamed and cleaned. Philadelphia, PA.Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
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Beauty therapist Maree Fox uses the electric Cathoidermie Machine which was meant to clear skin using ionization. March 8, 1983. Alan Gilbert Purcell/Fairfax Media/Getty Images
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A state-of-the-art hair dryer presented at the Hair and Beauty Fair in Olympia, London, U.K. Sept. 21, 1936.David Savill/Getty Images
42 Laughable Beauty Trends You’ll Be Glad Went Out Of Fashion
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.