People will do almost anything to look and feel young and attractive which is why the beauty industry is thriving. And it doesn’t matter if the trends are incredibly strange, as long as others are following them—you’re likely to jump on the bandwagon. However, when you look back in history, there have been some very weird beauty practices in the past that have left us puzzled. Suntan vending machines and using a literal iron to iron hair are just the tip of the beauty iceberg.

Bored Panda has collected some of the best vintage photos of women doing very peculiar things, all in the name of beauty. So scroll on down, upvote your fave photos, and let us know which of these activities you personally thought were the most bizarre, dear Pandas. Oh, and be sure to let us know which modern beauty practices you think are objectively weird! According to Forbes, the global beauty industry is worth 532 billion dollars. The US is the world’s largest beauty market with around a fifth of the share. While China is in second place and Japan is in third place.

To learn more about the history of beauty and the beauty industry, Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Jane Nicholas from St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo. According to Dr. Nicholas, the global beauty industry has grown “substantially” over the 20th century. “Its expansion reveals the importance of beauty in people’s lives as it shapes their identities, especially in regard to gender.”

#1

A Full-Faced Swimming Mask Helped Protect Women’s Skin From The Sun, 1920s

A Full-Faced Swimming Mask Helped Protect Women’s Skin From The Sun, 1920s

Hulton Archive Report

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Can you imagine seeing that crawl out from the water?

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#2

A Woman Having A Seam Painted Onto Her Leg, To Make It Appear That She Is Wearing Stockings, 1926

A Woman Having A Seam Painted Onto Her Leg, To Make It Appear That She Is Wearing Stockings, 1926

Fox Photos Report

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Back when hosiery was probably rather expensive, women of more modest means, did they best they could to appear chic.

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#3

Rita Perchetti And Gloria Rossi Try Out Their New Portable Bathhouse So They Can Change Their Clothes After Sunbathing On Coney Island Beach, 1938

Rita Perchetti And Gloria Rossi Try Out Their New Portable Bathhouse So They Can Change Their Clothes After Sunbathing On Coney Island Beach, 1938

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Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Your own portable changing room. LOL

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Dr. Nicholas explained to Bored Panda that modern culture is a visual culture. Meanwhile, modern living meant finding yourself in an increasingly-dense but anonymous city. And that means that appearance becomes more important than ever. After all, when you’re a stranger to someone, they judge you by your appearance.

“So how one appears is often presumed to be who one is. Historically, the rise of the modern city was seen as the place of quick judgments on appearances in places that were crowded but also built for observation. Evaluation by one’s appearance, then, took on new importance. This has only intensified,” the history expert explained.

#4

10th Century Chinese Tradition - Foot Binding

10th Century Chinese Tradition - Foot Binding

Jo Farrell / Living History Project Report

Wripolsi
Community Member
1 month ago

My eyes hurt.

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#5

Faceless Beauty Contest In Cliftonville, 1936

Faceless Beauty Contest In Cliftonville, 1936

Austrian Archives Report

Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 month ago

But, why?

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#6

"Ironing" Hair, 1964

"Ironing" Hair, 1964

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Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Women are still doing it today. Those with frizzy hair flatten it with a hair-straightening appliance.

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She pointed out that beauty is (at the same time) deeply personal, as well as culturally driven. That means that the beauty industry is relational to the consumer.

“It provides products and images for consumption and how consumers take those up largely determine its success. Beauty products and practices have to resonate with consumers, who are not simply dupes but often thoughtful and measured in what they want and can consume,” Dr. Nicholas said.

“Gaps in services and products lead to further innovation. Throughout the twentieth century, for example, women of color struggled to be appropriately represented and struggled to find appropriate products. In multiple ways, the industry was forced to grow and expand to respond properly to their needs. Black entrepreneurs often led the way,” she said.

#7

Before The Invention Of Sun-Screen In The Mid 1940s, Bathers Wore Garments Like This Freckleproof Cape To Protect Themselves From The Sun. The Cape Also Features Built-In Sunglasses

Before The Invention Of Sun-Screen In The Mid 1940s, Bathers Wore Garments Like This Freckleproof Cape To Protect Themselves From The Sun. The Cape Also Features Built-In Sunglasses

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Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 month ago

Lol

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#8

French Breast Washer, 1930s

French Breast Washer, 1930s

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Helen Haley
Community Member
1 month ago

Why?

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#9

Portable Hair Dryer, 1940s

Portable Hair Dryer, 1940s

Easyart/PA Report

Sasy
Community Member
1 month ago

Had one in the 80s, it was silly fun.

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It’s no surprise that some vintage beauty procedures, treatments, and practices seem strange to us now. “When dislocated from their context, what was typical in one time period seems strange in another. Today, we see the highly filtered, fully made up selfie as quite ordinary. When you pause to consider it though, it is interesting to think about how those reflect changes in technology (both digital and in cosmetics), as well as in dominant presumptions of what is considered beautiful. It can also be reflective of the democratization of techniques in lighting and makeup application that were historically reserved for insiders within modeling. Now, anyone can use them.”

Dr. Nicholas said that beauty is deeply interwoven with the wider social and cultural context. That means that it reflects more than just beauty itself. “Using X-rays for hair removal, for example, also reflects the fact that technology emerges before the full impact of its use is known,” she gave an example.

The history expert also told Bored Panda that we can expect some of the practices that we take for granted today to seem outdated and peculiar in the decades to come. “It’s quite ordinary today to inject a form of botulism into your face or to dress in the skin of another animal. Over time, though, as our collective beliefs and values change, these ordinary acts might come to be seen as extraordinary.”

#10

Tape Worm Diet, 1900s

Tape Worm Diet, 1900s

Unknown Report

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

I will say that this is worse than having leeches suck your blood in the hopes of improving blood flow. Tape worms can attach themselves to other internal organs and other parts of the body. If they want to leave a body, they will exit where they please. It is not a pretty sight. The damage can also be quite extensive.

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#11

Freckle Removal. A Complicated Apparatus Is Employed. Eyes Are Covered With A Special, Air-Tight Piece, And The Nostrils Filled In. Breathing Is Done Through A Special Tube. Sensitive Parts Of The Face Must Be Treated Separately, 1930

Freckle Removal. A Complicated Apparatus Is Employed. Eyes Are Covered With A Special, Air-Tight Piece, And The Nostrils Filled In. Breathing Is Done Through A Special Tube. Sensitive Parts Of The Face Must Be Treated Separately, 1930

Mansell Report

Helen Haley
Community Member
1 month ago

Imagine getting rid of something as lovely as freckles.

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#12

A Perm In Germany In 1929

A Perm In Germany In 1929

Everett Collection Report

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Why not look like the bride of Frankenstein's monster?

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What I find the weirdest, personally, is the size of the hairdryers in the past. They’re absolutely humongous and they look like something straight out of a sci-fi flick.

The very first hairdryer was invented in 1890 by French stylist Alexander Godefroy. His seated version had a bonnet that attached to none other than the chimney pipe of a gas stove. You read that right, dear Pandas! Imagine going to a beauty salon and being told to put one of those stove-connected bonnets on your head.

We got the very first handheld hairdryers around 1920 due to technological innovations at the time. However, these were nothing like our modern-day equivalent: they weighed around 2 pounds (that’s 0.9 kilograms) and were very difficult to use. They were also prone to overheating and electrocuted people from time to time.

#13

A Policeman Judges An Ankle Competition At Hounslow, London, 1930

A Policeman Judges An Ankle Competition At Hounslow, London, 1930

Prismatic Pictures Report

Capelli rosa e patate
Community Member
1 month ago

“Yes these are the winning pair of ankles; congrats little lady. NOW COVER THOSE YOU LOOK LIKE A WHORE”

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#14

Max Factor's 1931 Ice Mask

Max Factor's 1931 Ice Mask

International News Soundphoto Report

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Women use ice masks because it prevents facial puffiness.

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#15

Woman Tans Using A Suntan Vending Machine, 1949

Woman Tans Using A Suntan Vending Machine, 1949

ahtisham-ahmed Report

Hope Floats
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like a petrol pump.. You could fill the car and tan your arms at the same time.. Ha ha ha.

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Before you rush to poke fun at these vintage beauty practices, keep in mind two things. First of all, even if something is trendy, far from every person follows the newly-minted flavor of the month beauty techniques.

Second of all, if you think that we’ve ‘advanced’ much beyond silliness, turn on the TV and flip to an infomercial channel! The things you’ll see there are just as weird (and maybe even weirder).

#16

Contestants In The Miss Lovely Eyes Beauty Pageant In Florida Wearing Masks To Obscure The Rest Of Their Faces, 1930

Contestants In The Miss Lovely Eyes Beauty Pageant In Florida Wearing Masks To Obscure The Rest Of Their Faces, 1930

FPG Report

ML
Community Member
1 month ago

This would be applicable today also with this Covid hanging around

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#17

Customers Have Their Legs Painted At A Store In Croydon, London, 1941

Customers Have Their Legs Painted At A Store In Croydon, London, 1941

G W HALES Report

Downunderdude
Community Member
1 month ago

This was during the war. At that time, nylon had only just been invented. Both silk and nylon were needed to make parachutes and were either just about impossible to get or were prohibitively expensive.

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#18

A Traditional Japanese Sign Of Beauty- Black Teeth, 17th – 19th Centuries

A Traditional Japanese Sign Of Beauty- Black Teeth, 17th – 19th Centuries

Pierre Dieulefils Report

Laugh or not
Community Member
1 month ago

Women used to put a white powder on their faces (made with rice, not lead) and that would make the teeth look yellow. So they dyed them black instead.

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#19

X-Ray Of Female Torso With Corset (Left) And Female Torso Without A Corset (Right), 1908

X-Ray Of Female Torso With Corset (Left) And Female Torso Without A Corset (Right), 1908

nyamcenterforhistory.org Report

Helen Haley
Community Member
1 month ago

Who needs to breathe, right?

Ilse
Community Member
1 month ago

Please go and watch - Bernadette Banner: I Grew Up in a Corset. Time to Bust Some Myths. - Karolina Zebrowska: How Victorian Men Taught Us to Hate Corsets: The Biggest Lie in Fashion History. - Cat's costumery: I wore a corset every day for a month.

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Brandy Grote
Community Member
1 month ago

No one had bras in 1908. Every woman who wasn't literally "loose" wore a corset. TIGHT LACING was looked down on. A well fitted corset is actually more comfortable than a bra.

BusLady
Community Member
1 month ago

We've all seen that scene from Gone With The Wind. Scarlett's vanity.

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Martha Meyer
Community Member
1 month ago

The amount of untrue myths surrounding corsets today is really sad. Pictures of torsos like that are from extreme cases of the very few people who completely overdid it. Corsets were worn for support by everyday working women as well and they weren't restrictive or changed their bodies at all.

earringnut
Community Member
1 month ago

Waste trainers anyone?

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

No breathing and no eating.

Ilse
Community Member
1 month ago

Please go and watch - Bernadette Banner: I Grew Up in a Corset. Time to Bust Some Myths. - Karolina Zebrowska: How Victorian Men Taught Us to Hate Corsets: The Biggest Lie in Fashion History. - Cat's costumery: I wore a corset every day for a month.

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Veronica Vatter
Community Member
1 month ago

This was tight lacing. This was not normal. Women wore corsets everyday for working, hiking, ice skating, every day. It supported you and DID NOT RESTRICT YOUR BREATHING

Cordi Schmidt
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Uh, please stop with the 'corsets were a torture device/women oppression'. It was the equivalent of our bra and women used to work, ride horses, exercise, fence, etc. in it. Sure, a very small percentage of women did tight-lacing but vast majority of them did not, why would they? People of the past were masters of illusion regarding the body silhouette and used pads to fill in the right places. Please, go and watch some videos by fashion historians such as Bernadette Banner and Karolina Zebrowska who actually done the research unlike Hollywood studios.

Liz
Community Member
1 month ago

I have a corset and when I don't tighten it too much for an event or anything it's actually pretty comfy

Kenna Cook
Community Member
1 month ago

That is what I like to call, um, not good

Vivi
Community Member
1 month ago

Or kim kardashian before and after taking off ribs.

Abigail Seaholtz
Community Member
2 weeks ago

Breathing physics! PREPARE TO BE IGNORED

Lisa Tetlow
Community Member
4 weeks ago

What's a little displacement of body organs?

May Be
Community Member
4 weeks ago

For an even more horrible side effect, corseting could deliberately be used to produce deformed babies for the freak show trade.

Carole Strawn
Community Member
1 month ago

Yikes!!

Mónica Elisabeth Sacco
Community Member
1 month ago

Terrifying

Rcath
Community Member
1 month ago

No different than today's waist trainers, or idiots who have lower ribs removed. :(

Merilyn Horton
Community Member
1 month ago

Those internal organs are just a nuisance.

Ann Collingwood
Community Member
1 month ago

....and people wondered why women fainted so much......

Grace Smith
Community Member
1 month ago

Not all corset did this some were essentially bras

Denise Mclean
Community Member
1 month ago

Bowel Perforation

Cathryn Cade
Community Member
1 month ago

Some women even had the bottom rib removed. Shudder.

Cordi Schmidt
Community Member
1 month ago

Do you really think that anyone would undergo an unnecessary and most likely deadly surgery (during times when even taking out your tooth was very dangerous) just for the sake of beauty? Do you even know anything about the medical conditions back then?

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Lunar Owo Potato
Community Member
1 month ago

oUCH

Pansexual (In theory)
Community Member
1 month ago

:((((((

Darth Vader
Community Member
1 month ago

Never heard of breathing

Evil Little Thing
Community Member
1 month ago

Both have tuberculosis

Call Me Mars
Community Member
1 month ago

That scares me! How can they breathe?!?

BusLady
Community Member
1 month ago

They started "training" the waist before they even entered puberty. No room to grow.

Athena Gurl
Community Member
1 month ago

Jesus Christ 😱😖🤨

Yeah, you heard
Community Member
1 month ago

Wow, the corset literally destroys the spine, pelvis, and most of the ribs! The woman is just a black blob with a couple if ribs visible. Hang on, woman without a corset also has no spine. Yes I am joking.

Sent From The Slytherin House
Community Member
1 month ago

yuck.

Linus Nilsson
Community Member
1 month ago

I heard somewhere, probably on QI, that the invention of the x-ray machine put a stop to the use of corsets. With them it was possible to see the extreme damage they do for the first time

Cordi Schmidt
Community Member
1 month ago

Sorry to bring you back to reality but that is not true. Is your bra dangerous to you? No. Corsets are bras of the past. No shifting organs, no ribs removal. Corsets and other garments were very expensive (unlike modern bra) and thus they were made with precision and exact measurements of the woman who was about to wear it. Then they wear only for a brief periods of time per day so they would adjust to a woman's body properly. After that, days and days without a problem or a shortage of breath.

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ClaudiaDarla03
Community Member
1 month ago

corsets were so dangerous, plus there was the lead makeup....

Vicki Perizzolo
Community Member
1 month ago

O2 - a choice rather than a necessity

Evangeline Valhalla
Community Member
1 month ago

Sometimes women took a rib out but not til a bit later

Hilary Mol
Community Member
1 month ago

"Why worry about internal organs, Harry? All women need to do is sit or stand in one place and look pretty. They're decoration, not useful."

Louise Stange-Wahl
Community Member
1 month ago

This is mutilation! Some women had their last two ribs removed!

F S
Community Member
1 month ago

Nope, not true. Having a surgery before the discovery of antibiotics was inherently dangerous due to the risk of a deadly infection. Let alone the fact that demanding having your lower ribs removed would have brought you straight to the nearest mental institution - especially as a woman (hysteria, anyone?). Corsets were a part of daily life for women, they provided breast support and stabilized the back. Looking at photographies from the Victorian era you’ll see that the women didn’t lace their waists into oblivion and that they were mostly chubby. Please don‘t mix up tightlacing (which is done nowadays) and wearing a corset on a daily basis as underwear. Inform yourself about the history of stays and corsets and stop spreading false claims!

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Patty Leaton
Community Member
1 month ago

that's how a lot of them have bad pregnancy's

Grumble O'Pug
Community Member
1 month ago

A post based in nonsense. You have zero clue about the pitfalls of childbirth before modern medicine. Women have been corseting for hundreds of years. Living into adulthood for any baby was considered a miracle.

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Demi Falsetta
Community Member
1 month ago

Who needs to breathe when you can be "beautiful"?

23AClark
Community Member
1 month ago

Just think about how many women have list their lives to these things over the centuries.

Karen Dyer
Community Member
1 month ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

corset was the worst invention ever, organs were damaged big time from the women wanting to a super skinny waste line.

Stina Kolling
Community Member
1 month ago

Tightlacing was frowned upon. Our organs are actually rather squishy--as they have to be, in order for a fetus to develop in there.

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#20

Hair Dryer, 1920s

Hair Dryer, 1920s

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Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 month ago

I would be afraid to stand in front of that

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#21

Wooden Swimsuits, 1929

Wooden Swimsuits, 1929

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Ray Martin
Community Member
1 month ago

If Rose had worn one of those on the Titanic, Jack could could have had the door and the film would have had a happy ending.

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#22

Rubber Beauty Masks Used To Get Rid Of Wrinkles In The 1920s

Rubber Beauty Masks Used To Get Rid Of Wrinkles In The 1920s

Wellcome Collection Report

Downunderdude
Community Member
1 month ago

Sure it's not a bdsm fetish shoot?

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#23

A Fruit Mask From The 1930s

A Fruit Mask From The 1930s

vintage.everyday Report

Jayne Kyra
Community Member
1 month ago

And even today some people or articles will recommend using straight up lemons and lemon juice to "even out skin-tone" or better yet, "to lighten the skin".

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#24

The Bra Claimed To Develop And Strengthen The Bust And Was Designed To Vibrate While The Person Wearing It Was At Work. Brussel, 1971

The Bra Claimed To Develop And Strengthen The Bust And Was Designed To Vibrate While The Person Wearing It Was At Work. Brussel, 1971

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Helen Haley
Community Member
1 month ago

What exactly in a breast was it strengthening?

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#25

You Have A Beautiful Face But Your Nose?

You Have A Beautiful Face But Your Nose?

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Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago

Ah, the days before rhinoplasty...

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#26

Dimple Machine In 1936

Dimple Machine In 1936

Unknown Report

Downunderdude
Community Member
1 month ago

OK, I've got an idea... So, you attach wire to the inside of your cheeks (oh, I don't know. Superglue, maybe. Details. I'll work it out later). Then you wrap the wire around your teeth. Brilliant, huh? I'm going to be SO rich!

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#27

Women Who Had Just Given Birth To A Baby Weren't Prohibited To Smoke In The Hospital. 1940s Ad

Women Who Had Just Given Birth To A Baby Weren't Prohibited To Smoke In The Hospital. 1940s Ad

Unknown Report

nanashi
Community Member
1 month ago

the world was a weird place before they admit that smoking kills.

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#28

Facial Warming Mask, 1940

Facial Warming Mask, 1940

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Ashasaurus rex
Community Member
1 month ago

The origins of Pac-Man

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#29

A Young Woman Holds Her Arms And Legs In Four Water Bathes With Electric Current, To Improve Blood Circulation, Circa 1938

A Young Woman Holds Her Arms And Legs In Four Water Bathes With Electric Current, To Improve Blood Circulation, Circa 1938

vintage.everyday Report

Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 month ago

She's in danger!

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#30

Taking Precise Measurements Of A Beautiful Young Woman's Head And Face With A Contraption Like An Instrument Of Torture, 1933

Taking Precise Measurements Of A Beautiful Young Woman's Head And Face With A Contraption Like An Instrument Of Torture, 1933

Hulton Archive Report

ADHORTATOR
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

1933? He may be looking for the measurements of the master race....

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Note: this post originally had 43 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.