Beauty Secrets of the 1930s

Published: December 2, 2015

Woman getting a hair treatment in the 30s.

It’s funny how there are always certain elements that serve to define each decade, whether each one has to do with style, fashion, protocol, technology, education and behavior. What most influentially distinguishes the life particulars of Americans alive during the 1930s had to do with the state of the nation, seeing as how the Great Depression overshadowed everything for the greater majority of years comprising the 30s decade. The scarcity of money eventually resulted in the scarcity of everything, it could buy, and in consideration of around 12 million Americans without employment, most families were unable to sustain any former semblance of the lives they had previously enjoyed. There were bread lines extending for what seemed to be miles, along with the prevalence of soup kitchens that were solely responsible for keeping vast numbers of citizens alive.

Finding Something From Nothing
Beyond food, many other commodities the nation had previously regarded as “the basics” were now beyond the affordability of most Americans, and so doing without became a way of living. This was the age of making do, with a good many solutions being borne from the scarcity of any other ways of having, doing, being and enjoying. What we find is that, even during this raw, bare bones era, it was still highly important for the women of the 1930s to look their best, and these remarkable women managed to come up with new, inexpensive or mostly free ways of achieving 30s-style beauty that worked, with a few still in practice today. 1930s women were held solely responsible for keeping their marriages together, by looking pretty and nicely dressed, in addition to keeping a clean home and cooking tasty meals.

The Hollywood Leading Women
It tended to be the movie stars of Hollywood who set the public standards for what would become the era’s beauty details, and they managed to do so in ways that their impoverished audiences were able to emulate, with little or no money. And, because of the harsh competitiveness running rampant through the halcyon industry somewhat minute signs of aging to the regular domestic women were major catastrophes to the Hollywood leading women.

Professional Beauty Treatments Available During the 1930s
As crude as they were, facelifts and other surgical forms of beauty seeking were being performed during the 1930s, and not always with the best results. Hollywood Diva Mary Pickford’s facelift left the star unable to smile again. There were reduction surgeries, cosmeticians and parlors specializing in scalp treatments purported to prevent baldness, but sadly never worked. A new look at the effectiveness possible from specially designed corsets and uplift brassieres brought about specialty shops catering to suitably fitting the youthful wannabe women of the 30s.

Beauty Dictates of the Era
Women were instructed to perform daily beauty regimens that included the application of special eye lotions and herbal compresses for the eyes. Hands were loaded down with rich and oil-based creams to soften and make less wrinkled. There were exercises that women everywhere performed several times a day to increase their bust size, along with certain formulations said to firm up the breasts were a must. We know today that neither of these worked.

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