10 Old-School Beauty Tools That Seem More Like Torture Devices — PHOTOS

circa 1933: Hollywood cosmetics expert Max Factor (1904 - 1996) takes precise measurements of a young woman's head and face with a contraption like an instrument of torture. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
Source: General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Beauty history is full of less than conventional methods. Whether it's vintage beauty tools that make your skin crawl or ingredients that dermatologists would frown upon, women of the past have not run away from tactics that we might expect to be seen in a Quentin Tarantino movie. It may seem like some of these methods should have been avoided altogether but beauty is pain right? Perhaps mental pain in some cases, but pain nonetheless. 

We’ve all heard horror stories of beauty products made from placenta and crushed beetle shells but sometimes the thrill seeking beauty buffs of the past wouldn't settle for products alone and needed to get a little more heavy metal. From Ancient Egypt to mid twentieth century, I’ve compiled a group of beauty tools that will strike fear into the heart of even the truest beauty believer. If you thought your eyelash curler made you squeamish, wait until you see what your grandma might have been using to keep up with the unending demands of societal beauty standards. From outlandish hair stylers to non-surgical plastic surgery replacements, the beauty tools of yesterday mean serious business. While not all vintage beauty trends are quite so crazy, you should definitely proceed with caution on these contraptions. 

1. Max Factor's Beauty Micrometer 

Hollywood makeup bigwig Max Factor's mechanism is one of the more famous torture-esque beauty inventions. This Clockwork Orange style cage was fastened around the user's head using a series of metal strips and screws. According to Wired, The helmet had 325 possible adjustments so it could be used on anyone and everyone.

The Micrometer revealed everything that was perceived to be wrong with a woman's face, from a crooked nose to unsymmetrical eyes. Things that would otherwise go completely unseen were magnified with the use of the device. It was meant to aid makeup artists, showing them where makeup was needed to counteract the shortcomings of the users appearance. 

2. Trados Nose Shaper

Long before rhinoplasty ran rampant, men and women alike would turn to this harnesses based nose shaper to revamp their face. The shaper was meant to be a quick, painless and permanent way to give your nose a new look. By 1928, Trados had reached his 25th model of the nose shaper. I can only hope that those who used the first 24 models didn't have buyer's remorse.

3. Electric Mask

This beauty tool may feel a little less foreign to us because it's a little reminiscent of LED based masks like illuMask. However, this electric mask uses heated coils instead of light which were meant to improve wrinkles and skin elasticity. 

4. Dimple Machine

This little contraption is a pretty simple design: It features two knobs connected by a spring that press into your cheeks. It seems pretty far fetched that this machine could counteract your genetics and creates anything more than inflamed dents in your face but hey — if you're desperate for dimples it may be worth a shot. 

5. Chin Reducer 

This pulley system is meant to eradicate any sign of a double chin. With the chin strap that looks like an abacus connected by cords to a leather headband, the so called beautifier is meant to massage away any excess skin or fat, according to The Atlantic

6. Ancient Tweezers

We all know the right pair of tweezers can make or break your brow look but these look like something out of a demon dentist based nightmare. Tweezers from this era were most likely used for something even more unfortunate like pubic hair grooming. No, thank you! 

7. Perm Machines

Curly hair has long been desirable but back in the '20s and '30s it wasn't as easy as a curling wand or salt spray. Women back then had to resort to a much sillier option with these extremely involved perm inducing machines. 

8. Glamour Bonnet 

An adorable name for a most unfortunate tool. This helmet creates a vacuum inside, lowering the atmospheric pressure which was said to increase blood flow thus maintaining a lovely complexion. There just has to be better way to increase blood flow than pseudo asphyxiation...

9. Leeches

As we learned recently from the Realest of Housewives, leech facials are still a thing. Today leech treatments tend to be taking blood from your stomach or elsewhere then putting it on your face, which is supposed to tighten skin and give you a youthful glow. Back in Elizabethan era however, leeches would be used directly on the face to drain blood and give women a paler complexion. 

10. Madame Rowley's Toilet Mask

Saving the best name for last, we have the Toilet Mask. While this treatment has a humorous name, the concept isn't too far off from the sheet masks that are all over the market right now — which, to be fair, are also pretty scary looking. This advanced level sheet mask would be strapped to the face overnight and was supposed to clear complexion with its chemical contents. 

While some of these tools aren't as bad as others, let's all say a little thanks that we live in a time of Clarisonics and not Micrometers. 

Images: The Brooklyn Museum; Modern Mechanix (4); Vintage Ads; Vintage Ad Browser


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