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?

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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

BusLady
Community Member
1 month ago

Yes, but it gets your hair completely dry in 2.5 seconds.

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Capelli rosa e patate
Community Member
1 month ago

I’m hearing Randal. “Say hello to the scream extractor” 😂

Raine Soo
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Let's not forget that the original computers took up an entire floor of a building. This doesn't seem so farfetched.

Louloubelle
Community Member
1 month ago

My brother went to college in 1967 at Michigan Tech, for engineering. I have a letter from him telling me about this "computer" that indeed took up the entire floor. He fell in love with computers then and even though he got a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked with computers until he died in 2005.

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Midget
Community Member
1 month ago

This is what kids used the way we use fans to talk into to make that robotic-voice thing...

JessG
Community Member
1 month ago

“ loo loo laah loo luke, I am your fatherrrr” lol

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Linus Nilsson
Community Member
1 month ago

Someone took six hair dryers, aimed them at her face, and blasted away. Probably for a laugh. And we are laughing at her and not with her? I could do a thing like this!

Dave Emilio
Community Member
1 month ago

In those days they needed one at waist level too

Yibo Wang
Community Member
1 month ago

Blown Away!

A B C
Community Member
1 month ago

That's a lot of hair dryer for not all too much hair, lol

Miss Milinky
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks a bit Giger!

Berry Budgie
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like something from Dr Suess!

BusLady
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks more like some weird musical instrument to me.

AMYAH MINOTT-STARLING
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

who knows if a Caterpillar or something came out of that while trying to blow dry your hair -_-||

Leslye Joseph
Community Member
1 month ago

I kind of wish we had something along this line, think of the car dyer at an automated car wash, to get dry after a shower.

Ooooomangos
Community Member
1 month ago

Why does that remind me of Dr Seuss

Moezarella
Community Member
5 days ago

The machine's design give me a sense of unease.

Im_Crazy
Community Member
2 weeks ago

her face. lol

Marlene Ricker
Community Member
3 weeks ago

I love this one. You would get that beautiful windswept look!

Barbara Stewart
Community Member
1 month ago

Wow overkill

Lisa Tetlow
Community Member
1 month ago

So glad they managed to downsize them.

ArhomR
Community Member
1 month ago

Isn’t that overkill?

Gabriela Karabinosova
Community Member
1 month ago

Tears dryer

Sarmite Kraukle
Community Member
1 month ago

Nowdays it looks very similar, just a little bit smaller!

Mónica Elisabeth Sacco
Community Member
1 month ago

Drying your hair with a 747!

Elaine Mattingly
Community Member
1 month ago

That is too cute. It would be handy for bath time and not have to use towels.

Mary Hurst
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like overkill unless the woman has super thick hair.

Sharon Madsen
Community Member
1 month ago

WHOA!!!!

Evangeline Valhalla
Community Member
1 month ago

How phallic

Merilyn Horton
Community Member
1 month ago

It should blow your wrinkles off too.

tuzdayschild
Community Member
1 month ago

That's thing looks like Dr. Seuss drew it.

JD Lee
Community Member
1 month ago

Ri- Cola!

Eunice Robertson
Community Member
1 month ago

looks like something out of a sci-fi movie

Tugg Ster
Community Member
1 month ago

Wow!!! That’s a lot of air!

Denise Mclean
Community Member
1 month ago

Might just as well go outside on a windy day. Got to time it right though to wash your hair.

gracefullikeagazelle
Community Member
1 month ago

1920s???

Patty Leaton
Community Member
1 month ago

blow your face off

Sue Wolfsong
Community Member
1 month ago

This evolved into the hand driers in most public bathrooms. Like standing behind a jet engine!

Brandi VanSteenwyk
Community Member
1 month ago

More like leaf blowers.

Lynn Greyling
Community Member
1 month ago

Meant for Medusa?

Tanya Klieve
Community Member
1 month ago

A bit O T T.

Dave Chapman
Community Member
1 month ago

Install these in your car and boost your horsepower to over 600!

23AClark
Community Member
1 month ago

Wow!

James F. Wilson Jr.
Community Member
1 month ago

This is not what I meant when by blow job.

Nicole Tomme
Community Member
1 month ago

Tim Burton has one of these.

Jane Doe
Community Member
1 month ago

Now used for turbo boost in dragsters

MonicaChicagoGal
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks more like a face dryer..

Panda with Heart
Community Member
1 month ago

I can see the shape of the hair dryer held up.

Mary Peace
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like several dryers, maybe 5, not just one. And wouldn't it make sense to sit with your back to it, instead of hot air blowing on your face?

Vivi
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Practical.

Lynn Gold
Community Member
1 month ago

They look like larger versions of what we use today.

Sasha Kuleshov
Community Member
1 month ago

Ok, I want one now XD

Michelle C.
Community Member
1 month ago

It's like the blow dryer they use on dogs at the grooming salon.

Brandy Grote
Community Member
1 month ago

I imagined the sound of trumpets blasting!

Molly Block
Community Member
1 month ago

Jaysus!

Podunkus
Community Member
1 month ago

One can only imagine how deafeningly loud that must have been to the patron.

CAELYN MORALES
Community Member
1 month ago

looks like a cannon! Should I be afraid?

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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.