1930s Beauty Tips From A Vintage Beautician Textbook

The ultimate hack for finding your perfect nude lipstick, straight outta 1932.
Publish date:
November 18, 2014

I've always been drawn to vintage beauty. So when I was given a beautician textbook from 1932, I was over the moon.

Flipping through, I was reminded of 1939's The Women, and the spa where the characters frequently spent their days. The spa of the 1930s was truly a one-stop shop for head-to-toe beautification, and the training the employees received was intensely thorough. This particular textbook, titled The Science Of Beautistry, was created for use in all of the National Schools of Cosmeticians affiliated with Marinello, a chain that began in 1905 and continues to train professionals today.

Naturally, certain tips are laughably out of date. Here are three that hold true, and two that make me sad.

WORTH TRYING: Face And Scalp Massage

As Danielle pointed out, facial massage has numerous benefits. The textbook has a wonderfully in-depth guide to massage treatments--for the face and scalp--that boost blood flow, encourage lymphatic drainage, stimulate nerves, and keep skin glowing.

Aside from being relaxing, scalp massage is great for boosting blood flow to the scalp (which can stimulate hair growth), distributing healthy oils, and loosening dead skin cells. Waking up the scalp can be as simple as brushing with a quality brush (I highly recommend the Mason Pearson), your fingers, or those awesome scalp massagers that look like whisks but feel like heaven. One easy movement from Beautistry is to use your thumbs to knead around the crown and hairline.

PASS: A Narrow Viewpoint Of "Skin Types"

One thing that stood out to me as being horribly antiquated was the book's list of skin types, which included specific skin tones that span the widely varied vanilla range of "light pink" to "medium pink" to the darkest, "yellow/'olive." Yeah, that last one is the darkest shade listed, and on further examination I realized it was because this chart was for, ahem, "the white race" (their words).

As much as I'd like to believe that we've come a long way since 1932, and in many ways we have, it's still apparent that the beauty industry has some catching up to do, especially when many cosmetic brands still don't carry shades darker than "tan" in their ranges. This outdated and alienating concept is something I think we can all agree needs to be left behind.

WORTH TRYING: Peroxide Shampoo

As Alle demonstrated a while back, lifting color from your hair by combining a peroxide solution with shampoo can be a much gentler and subtler way to go lighter than bleaching alone, and in 1932 they were also fans, saying "when just a slight change or tinge is desired, hair can be bleached very simply and quickly by means of a peroxide shampoo." This one gets the xoVain seal of approval.

PASS: Electrolysis

Thanks be to the beauty gods: we live in a century where hair can be removed without smelly depilatories or painful electrolysis, defined by Beautistry as "the destruction of body tissues by means of an electric needle." Yikes.

Sadly, those methods were insanely popular back in the day. In fact, studio execs had Rita Hayworth's black hair dyed red and her widow's peak removed via electrolysis to give her an even hairline that looked more "white." Hair removal has come a long way, technology- and pain-wise, since then--you even can do it at home with this laser.

WORTH TRYING: Finding YOUR Nude Lipstick

I like to think of nude lipstick as "your lips, but better." The book's tip for finding your correct shade? Pull down your lower lip and match to the hue to your flesh. That is the shade that will look perfectly "nude" on you, regardless of skin tone. My perfect nude is NARS Audacious Lipstick in Anita.

  • Has anyone else tried the peroxide shampoo tip?
  • Don't you just love that nude lipstick trick?
  • What's the best old school beauty lesson you've ever learned?