Arsenic as a beauty aid?!
We might think of self-care, the practice of taking care of one’s health and well-being, and the industry that has developed around it as a relatively new concept, but people have been hawking self-care goods for decades. At the turn of the twentieth century, these potions and contraptions made big promises, many of which seem dangerous or at the very least laughable today.
Take a look at these seven surprising self-care products from 1902.
1. Dr. Rose’s Arsenic Complexion Wafers
A pale complexion was desirable for a young lady of the early 1900s. Large sun hats and parasols were used to achieve the look of preserved skin, but for an expedited process, you might turn to a self-care product like this. “Perfectly harmless, when used in accordance with our directions,” the advertisement reads. The wafers undoubtedly did cause paleness… among other conditions.
2. Wrinkle Eradicator
“This convenient little article will remove wrinkles from around the eyes and nose and any part of the face,” so long as you don’t mind the process. This suction cup “invigorates” the skin back to health.
3. The Princess Bust Developer
Resembling a standard toilet plunger, this product promised: “a symmetrically rounded bosom full and perfect.” You “will be surprised, delighted, and happy over the result of one week’s use” is guaranteed. And for those wishing to properly display the latest in women’s fashion, it seems a small price to try such a contraption. Especially, since a full refund is “guaranteed” if you are not fully satisfied.
4. Vapor Bath Cabinets
Not unlike the modern sauna, with the surprising difference being a ventilated hole for one’s head, “vapor baths are great for blood and skin diseases.” There didn’t seem to be an ailment that the vapor bath couldn’t fix: “scrofula, eczema, salt rheum, hives, pimples, ulcers, boils, carbuncles, barber’s itch, oily skin, poor complexion, the common cold, …” the list goes on and on. With an alcohol stove, vaporizer, four-walled rubber-lined cabinet, and $5.95 one could have a cure for just about anything.
5. The Toilet Mask
A facial mask meant for “the removal of freckles, liver spots, and other facial blemishes” doesn’t seem so surprising at first. This mask, however, isn’t comprised of soothing botanicals and extracts. Rather, it’s an “acid cured” mask, made of transparent rubber, that promises to turn the skin soft and velvety.
6. Electric Insoles
Poor circulation? Cold feet? This product offers just what you need… an electric current. “A mild pleasant current is produced along the soles of the feet, which stimulates the blood and keeps it circulating constantly.” What is a little discomfort with the promise of health, right?
7. Giant Power Heidelberg Electric Belt
And if you don’t think the electric insoles are “shocking” this belt might do the trick. A cure for all “diseases, disorders, and weaknesses peculiar to men.” This product claims that the user will experience more benefits in one week of use than six months of going to the doctor.
All products advertised from the Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalogue from 1902. Sears, Roebuck and Company. “Catalogue No. 112.” Catalogue No. 112. : Sears, Roebuck and Company : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, archive.org/details/catalogueno11200sear/page/n9/mode/2up. Accessed 30 Apr. 2020.