Awesome, Weird And WTF Beauty Advice From A 1981 Avon Book

They might have single-handedly invented body dysmorphic disorder, but damn, could they contour.
Publish date:
October 21, 2013
vintage books, avon, face maps, throwbacks, dieting, eighties beauty, makeup charts, vintage beauty guides

Whenever I felt that I had no purpose in life, I liked to go to Goodwill on North Lamar in Austin to acquire new belongings for super-cheap. Shoes? $6. Vintage t-shirt? $.98. Hardcover books? Play your cards right and you could talk the cashier into charging you the $.25 for a "small" book, rather than $.75 for the "medium." Either way you were getting a great deal; a small accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless.

I'd smile smugly and present my $9 baroque diso ball and only slightly stained throw pillows to my visiting mother, like, "take that next time you ask me what I'm doing with my future, Mom. I don't NEED to be successful when I have everything I could ever want, need, or be indifferent towards for less than I pay for my birth control." Which isn't very much, word to Obama. I sometimes felt almost guilty for being so painfully good at getting cool stuff for cheap, like I was taking cool stuff from the less-fortunate.

Looking Good, Feeling Beautiful was one of those purchases. I had just started to write about beauty on the internet and figured it would come in handy some day. That day has come. May I present to you the highlights of Avon's thorough guide to being the majorest babe of the '80s:

The Good

- The photography was pretty neat--so staged, the photos almost read more surreal than cheesy.

- The makeup diagrams were pretty amazing and way helpful.

- On makeup:"'Water-based' foundation doesn’t necessarily mean 'oil-free'... only a tiny amount of oil, emulsified with lots of water, acts as the medium of suspension that holds the color.” This is how I image it feels for a teen to be sat down and told they’re adopted.

- On wrinkle prevention: “Gaining a few pounds might make your skin appear smoother and younger.” **crumples Klondike wrapper**

- “If you pinch a nail in a drawer or a door, raise your hand immediately to prevent a rush of blood to the area, and apply a cold compress as quickly as possible.”

- “Shop for shoes in the early afternoon. Feet swell over the course of the day. Shoes bought late in the afternoon can be too loose the next morning, too tight that night.”

- On dyeing hair: “Let a day or two pass before you pass judgement on the color. Natural oils needs time to come up in the hair again after coloring, and they make a difference in the effect.”

- “Gloves have made a definite fashion comeback.” I’m all over this.

- “Don’t think you are safe under a beach umbrella. Rays reflected off sand and water can burn you from the sides.”

The Bad

- "The Beauty Check Up"

- "Before the bath, assemble the accessories you will need for your self-appraisal session: a tape measure for accurate and up-to-date figure data… a bathroom scale… two or three mirrors—ideally, a full-length mirror and hand-held mirror as well as a magnifying mirror. And be sure to have handy a pencil or pen and a Beauty Notebook. Stand before the full-length mirror to study yourself from head to toe. Use the hand-held mirror along with the large mirror so that you can see rear and profile views. Is your waist a shade roly-poly? How about your hips? Perhaps you’re used to being told that you have beautiful legs. Look at them. Are they still terrific, or would some running help trim the upper thighs? ...Are you thoroughly depressed after studying the state of your looks? Don’t be. Some things can be helped by diet and exercise. Other things can be corrected by beauty techniques, and we’ll talk about all of those."

And thus Satan introduced the world to body dysmorphic disorder.

- "Should You Go On A Diet? ...After a bath, study yourself: look at all the angles, all the curves. If you find there’s more of you than pleases your eye then you should diet.”

- “Have groceries loaded into two bags rather than one.” “If your kitchen sink is too high for you to stand and work at comfortably, sit on a stool.” “Sit on the edge of your chair…This helps control fanny spread.” Now get back to the kitchen, woman!

- When applying makeup, “concealing and cover cream” comes before foundation. NO. This is SO illogical and a personal pet peeve.


- On overreacting:“Ask around for the name of a good podiatrist, and keep the number handy. Call at the first hint of foot trouble. A red spot on the toe is such a hint. A corn is starting to form. Act now.” Or just replace "podiatrist" with "car service."

- On losing weight by not eating: “Providing the body with no calories at all should do the trick… in theory only. In fact unsupervised fasting is dangerous. You lose weight on a fast, but too quickly for the skin to recontour itself, so that you will be left with a drawn, haggard look that’s more sick than svelte, plus skin that sags like an outsize leotard.” Lol skin sagging like a moldy old, stretched-out leotard is actually a pretty great argument against anorexia.

- On deciding on a hair cut: “…try pulling it back off your face and get an idea of how you would look in a very short cut, with your hair shorn like a little lamb’s fleece."

- “Glasses with tinted lenses are an important fashion accessory even if your vision is 20/20. Use them to help disguise signs of aging in the eye area.” Don’t Transitions Lenses have a way of making people look like total pedophiles?

- Freckles are considered “a skin vexation,” “but some bleaching creams do help.” “Or best of all, stop worrying and recognize that to people who don’t have them, freckles are charming.”

- The author describes how to stand up straight as if she were talking to a ballet class comprised of privileged five-year-olds named after presidents and cities. You should imagine a shiny pink balloon attached to the crown of your head. “Let the shiny balloon lift you up until your feet barely touch the floor.” I'm way too fat for these analogies.

- And then the book goes on to advocate for AT-HOME PERMS AND RELAXERS over the course of five short paragraphs.

Despite all the bogus dieting (and concealer) advise, I'm actually very pleased with this purchase. The face maps are genius, I'm going to contour myself into Kelly LeBrock.

Do you have any totally outdated beauty books or bits of advise? Let's be irresponsible and offensive in the comments!