Story of Us, 1920-1930: Beauty Boom

By the 1920s, the beauty industry was picking up speed as many new products and services were introduced.

You can't argue with numbers. In 1921, the Census Bureau reported that approximately $26 million was spent on beauty products. That amount quadrupled by 1925, with more than $117 million spent on perfumes, cosmetics and toiletries. The tremendous growth was due, in large part, to product and service innovations, sophisticated advertising campaigns, the influence of Hollywood actresses and the proliferation of beauty supply stores. 

While the bob was a big trend popularized by screen stars in the 1920s, so was curled hair. Women were willing to try anything for curly hair. We ran ads for Fanette Waving Lotion, which enabled stylists to do “finger or swirl waves.” Wave Easy Water Wave Fluid left hair clean, not sticky or greasy. We also ran ads from hair color advertisers, like L’Oréal, which marketed Henné, and Paragon Permanent Hair Color. The latter claimed that its product had that indefinable something that Paragon chemists successfully accomplished through tireless experiments and testing on human models. 

American Salon Lookbook

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Also trending at this time was the topic of hair removal. Not only did we feature ads for various hair removal products, we dedicated a number of articles to the subject—from explanations on how hair grows, to removal methods like electrolysis. In an article by Paul M. Kree, it was reported that electrolysis was “the only scientific and safe way for removing undesirable hairs permanently.” If only it were that easy. Women and men today are still fighting that battle.