Ironically, These Beauty Devices Were Designed to Torture People Chances are you’re not a supermodel (because nobody’s perfect, right?) Take it from the cosmetic industry that makes it their business to emphasize all of your countless flaws. While the beauty industry may be a fascinating field, it has a dark side. It tells you about your imperfections and then demands you to pay to change it. It encourages discomfort, nips and tucks. It hurts, it burns, it pricks and can even lead to addiction and depression.
While there are efforts to change it, staying beautiful is a tough business, and once it was even worse. There was a time where some of these products were just as terrible as middle aged corporal torture. Read on to find out some of the prettifying gadgets that might still be trending and widely used nowadays, if not for their torturous pain and dishonesty. Brace yourselves with these insanely unbelievable inventions meant to supposedly you make you more beautiful.
The Permanent Wave Machine (1906)
During the early 20th century, your only solution for straight hair was sitting still for about ten hours under 60 pounds of scalding brass irons that hangs half an inch from your scalp. According to a 1908 newspaper advertisement, a perm was $760 in today’s dollar rate. The ad claimed to work on the “straightest and longest hair & wave, which in texture, character, desirability, and appearance cannot be distinguished from the natural grown wavy hair.”
Initially, the hair was treated with sodium hydroxide (lye used today for relaxers), making it softer. Afterward, the hair was heated with brass rollers that weighed up to two-pounds. They were held with a set of counter-weights to avoid getting the client superficially burned.
Even if the process was obviously not safe, the ad went on to guarantee that it was “absolutely non-injurious.” Different accounts revealed that inventor Charles Nestle (née Karl Nessler) totally seared his wife-to be’s hair twice before launching the permanent wave machine in London in 1906.
In an interview with Pennsylvania’s The Morning Call in 1971, Nestle Company spokespersons say that the initial procedure was “12 to 20 hours of misery for both the operator and operatee” and the machine was nicknamed “The Fiery Dragon”. It was also mentioned that during the electrical adjustment, the “ceiling collapsed” on a few unlucky people who may or may not have survived the tragic incident. “At first, women were scared of the new process and only very brave women of great wealth decided to take the risk. Almost all of them got burned slightly,” the company representatives told the newspaper.
The crowds lunacy was eventually dominated by middle-class women under a false belief when Nestle successfully staged a public demonstration that he could perm a volunteer without sever injuring her. In 1915, Nestle unveiled an insanely successful salon chain across the United States and modified the device with safer inexpensive versions, still, picking up the occasional burn victim. In 1928, he said he had accumulated a whopping fortune that amounted to $3 million ($44 million today).
In 1929, Nessler hit an unfortunate mark when he lost all of his money in the Wallstreet Crash. Despite this sad event, history gives him recognition for progressing technology and for improving women’s lives. LIFE Magazine’s 1951 obituary “A Revolutionist Dies” suggested that Nessler positively impacted on women. Whether you personally view that perms are actually worthwhile to society or not and if such choice of hairstyle is valuable given the possible human sacrifices made, arguably, Nessler’s initial neglect led to the ultimate success of the hair perm.
The Dimple-Maker (1930s)
Mrs. E. Isabella Gilbert’s Dimple-Maker, known as the “Dimple Digger” took advantage on Americans’ desperate wish of having dimples. The beauty device made its debut in 1936, the same year when Shirley Temple’s dimples stippled the country in posters for her new film titled Dimples. “Any person feeling that the absence of dimples from their cheeks is a slight by nature, easily can supply the deficiency,” read a 1936 article from Pennsylvania’s Republican and Herald.
The yearning was so extreme that within ten years, door-to-door dimple-maker sellers had baffled housewives from one coast to another. A San Francisco Examiner article in 1936 titled “Swindler’s Harvest: Danger at the Doorbell” stated that “[i]n one community alone, a squad of salesmen took in $8,000 [over $100,000 today] before they were chased out.” Regardless of the authenticity of the piece’s claim, Alex Boese of Weird Universe sought down the fate of the device: a 1947 national display of fraudulent devices put together by the American Medical Association (AMA), which even mentioned physicians’ claims that the dimple-maker device may cause cancer.
Beauty Micrometer (1932)
At first, the idea of the “beauty calibrator” or “beauty micrometer” dissects what’s left of your self-confidence by auditing your face for defects you can’t even see. In 1932, Max Factor had advanced film cosmetics, substituting cherry Vaseline and flour masks with his scientifically flawless versatile “greasepaint” cosmetics. His biography, Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World, stated that his inventions were an asset to movie directors such as Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. De Mille. His diligent efforts produced distinctly new careers with lighter skin for Rudolph Valentino and Hunter’s Bow lips for Joan Crawford.
He succeeded in the commercial market when he and his son introduced the “pan-cake” makeup for Technicolor. The beauty micrometer foundered. A promotional statement of a January 1935 issue of Modern Mechanix discusses: “Flaws almost invisible to the ordinary eye become glaring distortions when thrown upon the screen in highly magnified images; but Factor’s ‘beauty micrometer’ reveals the defects.” According to Factor, the “defects” were nonuniformities in what he regarded as the ideal facial ratio: nose length should be the same as the forehead length and eyes should have a gap of one eyeball-width.
The implications are disturbing. Mimi Thi Nguyen, professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois and author of the new book The Promise of Beauty, highlighted through an email that the micrometer arrived at a period of heyday in the pseudo-science of physiognomy–an analysis of moral character based on body type and facial features. “Long used to assign criminality, deviancy, and primitiveness to people of color, and the poor, physiognomy was deeply entwined with the rise of eugenics in the 1920s and ‘30s, which shaped U.S. cultures from law to beauty,” Nguyen wrote. “The association of beauty with symmetry, and symmetry with goodness, is thousands of years old in Western aesthetics, but the micrometer appears to promise ever more precision in one’s judgements in a period obsessed with minute degrees of ‘racial contamination,’” she added. In a 1991 interview with The San Francisco Examiner, an assistant curator at the Beauty Museum said that Max Factor’s discovery was “there is no such thing as the perfect face, just perfect proportions.”
The Glamour Bonnet (1941)
Have you observed how amazing you look when traveling on a long flight? Have you asked yourself on how you can better imitate the fair complexion of a mountain climber? Did you know that decreasing your air supply can give you a youthful glow? It’s a “maybe” for Mrs. D M Ackerman of Hollywood, California.
A March 1941 article in Popular Science described the theory in which there are some people who believe that a mud pack is the answer to the to beautiful complexion, and others that think a massage will do the trick. Mrs. Ackerman however decided that “reduced air pressure is a good treatment.” Staying true to her beliefs, she created a “glamour bonnet” similar to a diver’s helmet which atmospheric pressure around the person’s head could be lowered.
The result is likened to what a person feels when climbing a high-level mountain or flies a long-flight in a plane. Mrs. Ackerman suggested that the reduced pressure induces blood circulation and helps the complexion to achieve its natural beauty. A window has been built so the beauty seekers can read in between treatments. Obviously, this beauty project didn’t succeed as it barely got recognized outside of this piece.
Dynatone (Late 1960s)
A 1968 newspaper ad for a luxury facial toning device called Dynatone had a catchy offer that read: “You’ll think you look younger in just 3 days!” During the 1950s and 1960s, the prefix “dyna” means “power,” liberally attaching itself like to countless items such as “Dyna-Range,” a hearing aid affixed to eyeglasses, “Dyna-Surge Tumble-Action” washing machines and “Dyna-flyte” undestroyable golf balls. There were also the so-called Dyna stereos, Dyna basses, Dyna-Kleen power vacs,Dyna bikes, and Dyna pool cues. Apparently, nothing could be better without the “dyna” power. Similar to these “dyna” things, the Dynatone relied much on the copy and light on the science.
The Dynatone is a handheld beauty gadget which retailed for around $70 at the time ($506 today). It appeared like an electric razor topped with two metal balls that generated gentle battery-operated electric shocks to the face with an aim to tone the underlying muscles, thereby removing wrinkles, fine lines, and double-chin. Dynatone’s assurance read: “You see, true beauty is deeper than the skin. It rests in those tiny underlying muscles that support your face and neck.” The beauty device also guaranteed that the process “electronically exercises hidden face and neck muscles and gently coaxed them back to youthful resiliency and tone.” When used daily, Dynatone claims that it will easily and quickly tones sensitive facial muscles that led to double-chins and other facial contour issues.
In 1970, the FDA confiscated 46 units of Dynatone from a Minneapolis department store due to the company’s deceiving marketing offers, among many others. The district judge found the product’s claim as spurious. A doctor testified against Dynatone that rubbing the skin potentially worsened the wrinkles, and the court affirmed that continued use could lead to nerve damage. In 1984, Dynatone was the highlight of an awareness-raising campaign led by the FDA about quackery.
The same vague electric-workout concept applied to Dynatone’s offset the “Dynabelt,” an execution of the no-work-workout waistband which burns calories for a person while he/she watches his/her favorite television show. Maybe. Today, you can legally fasten into an Electric Muscle Stimulation suit which distributes electric pulses to the muscles, to give them more volume while you work out; while research revealed that short-term application of electric stimulation on wasted muscles can stop the loss of muscle mass, it’s generally identified that it does not boost strength.
The Epilady (1986)
Epilady is an electric hair removal gadget that won the hearts of millions but eventually made its way back to the store. The rotating metal coils removed hairs individually, leaving beauty seekers with up to two weeks of smooth and silky skin. But the process was excruciating. The Los Angeles Times in a September 1990 piece noted that: “Consumers got so caught up in the Epilady fad that many who shouldn’t have bought them—women who couldn’t tolerate the pain—got the gadgets anyway, only to return them later.”
In a New York Magazine article, Joan Rivers is reported to have compared the yells of a murder victim to the screams of an Epilady session. (The Epilady’s namesake “epilate” exists way back to “épileurs,” French servants during the 19th century hired by hospitals to pull out the hair of patients with parasitic disease.) This 1992 ad offered that the new models were up to “30 percent more comfortable,” however, it was too late during the time. The Epilady originated from a kibbutz in Israel, was ambitiously pushed onto the market and exhausted by its third year. The Epilady fad had intensified almost right after its debut in 1986, earning more than $340 million ($750 million today) in its first two years and imitation products across the world. Long-legged models with Epiladys headined TV ad breaks in a $45 million annual commercial charge.
In 1990, the Krok sisters, the trio managing the US distributor, joined the warm reception of the New York Magazine’s style pages, which praised enthusiastically: “What Nancy Reagan and Imelda Marcos are to buying, the Krok sisters are to selling—goddesses of the art.” But after six months, the company registered for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in 1991, Management Today likened the Krok sisters to Donald Trump as“‘80s entrepreneurial heroes” who became a “‘90s embarrassment.”
The Los Angeles Times ruled that EPI’s (Epilady’s parent company) failure is an illustration of the dangers of sensational promotion, excessive optimism and, some insane spending and financial deception. According to its current US distributor, they’d produced too much for the past Christmas and couldn’t manage the returns. After the Kroks’ distribution company collapsed, the Israeli manufacturer folded. But for loyal fans of Epilady, their support and love for the device is eternal.
Israeli investors bought the intellectual rights to Epilady back in 1999, and EpiladyUSA, a US distributor–who gauged that about five percent of American women still epilate- a claim made by the US distributor that they still receives calls from Epilady users. The company has turned from the coils to revolving micro-tweezers which Amir Abileah, EpiladyUSA’s vice president, claims to have less discomfort and is allegedly embracing consistent growth mainly attributed to online shopping. Rejuvenique face mask (1995)
After two and a half decades, the Rejuvenique Face Mask folded, establishing its collapsed status, now a featured device in the Swedish-based Museum of Failure. Chiropractor George Springer launched his $395 (today $652) prototype to a meeting of Florida spa owners in 1995 and he always received the side-eye for this item. A 1995 article in the Tampa Bay Times identifies the purpose as “aerobics for the face” with contracting screws that delivered gentle electric shocks (can we classify this as Dynatone version 1995?) to every facial zone and massaged the muscles. Apparently, this ideas wants to let users know that their face is a dodecahedron.
None of Rejuvenique’s promises were supported by science, but by Springer’s aggressive belief. “Springer acknowledges that he is selling a dream. The only difference is that it’s a dream come true,’ he says,” the Times reported. Somehow, Springer was correct, at least for himself. In 1999, he inked a deal with Salton/Maxim, a herald in the shopping channel industry, which drafted Dynasty star Linda Evans as a paid sponsor and even displayed the Rejuvenique mask on shelves at Target and Sears. But the dream was fleeting.
However, in 2000, the FDA released a warning letter stating the face mask was not safe and declaring that the absence of FDA approval means “marketing Rejuvenique is a violation of the law.” Upon request, Evans’s management team verified that the review is true, that the face masks were terminated for reasons she doesn’t recall, but “she does use it and it works remarkably well for her.”
Smart hairbrush (2017)
In this digital age, reality has it that everyone and everything should be smart. Think of smartphones, smart appliances and smart hairbrush? Seriously, a smart hairbrush? Made with L’Oréal’s Research and Innovation Technology Incubator, the world’s very first smart hairbrush gathers valuable information on your hair status that include dryness and frizziness, which then supplies an app that evaluates the atmospheric conditions around the hair.
Before you get confused, here’s the reason why as read in the press release: “By tracking the way a person brushes and factoring in aspects of daily life, the smart brush app provides valuable information including a hair quality score, data on the effectiveness of brushing habits, personalized tips and Kérastase product recommendations.” The Verge trashed the product during its launch at the trade show Consumer Electronics Show (CES). But, the smart hairbrush was never released.
After two years, you won’t find it even on sale. When asked for comments, a L’Oréal spokesperson briefly responded via email that the company is “integrating insights” from both professional and consumer feedback into future technologies. They did not answer for further comments about the issue. Reality check: Eyes wrinkle, noses sag, necks waddle, chins double, collagen decreases, and the cells die.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune about the Rejuvenique (2000), dermatologist Robert Polisky has this to say: “The skin really goes through a period of atrophy as we grow older. No one likes to hear that, but it does.” It looks like the rudimentary unscientific beauty device, too, is gliding into predictable atrophy; items that attach to, plug in, are battery operated, or as-seen-on-television flows out deception after too much lawsuits, recalls, reality programs about altering the detritus from excessive shopping of the past.
Clumsy devices may be a fleeting phenomenon, but in the house of magic bullets, the United States has discovered magic itself; with a piece of faith and a stack of useable income, we shower in vitamins and serums, sleep in the glow of Himalayan salt lamps, embrace the soothing photons of lasers, rejuvenate our faces with a mud cream. Yes, mud which is insanely popular nowadays but can be a big flop any time soon. Take note, beauty seekers are always craving of new inventions amid the quackery and torturous pain.