10 Must-See Vintage Beauty Tutorials and Commercials

Featuring radioactive chemicals and amazing early '90s style.
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Featuring radioactive chemicals and amazing early '90s style.
Meet the Michelle Phan of the 1940s

Meet the Michelle Phan of the 1940s

Getting a little tired of the same old beauty tutorials on YouTube? How about watching some actual old beauty videos instead for a change? Here’s a roundup of the most fascinating vintage beauty videos on YouTube -- from the hilarious to the disturbing. We can’t stop watching.

1940's Makeup Advice

I love the quaint horror of vintage makeup and beauty products — teeny tiny razors (think of the endless pain they must have caused!) and the dark humor behind the idea of "Vanishing Cream" — basically just cold cream, but with such a poetic moniker. This advice-laden film talks all about vanishing cream and the mathematics of blush via a "tri-dot system" in which you blend it into invisibility. The best part of this is the lipstick tip, though: "Lipstick is your exclamation point. Use it sparingly, but well." I personally love leaving lipstick marks on every single cup I can get my hands on, but I admire the point being made here.

1950s No 'Poo Hair Advice 

This amuses me because it encourages you to wash your hair frequently, but their idea of frequent is once every two weeks. Nowadays most people I know wash it every other day and I feel like a trashbaby for washing it once a week (to better preserve my hair color, and also to maximize the volume) — now I can just say I'm vintage. Just kidding, I'm just going to be honest and say I'm lazy. Dry shampoo forever.

1950s Facial You Shouldn't Try at Home

"What's going on? It's the latest way to cover up signs of age and employs a mask which contains radioactive elements. Invisible rays will reach out from the mask and revitalize the bloodstream." This is a terrifying horror movie, not a beauty tutorial.

1950s But Here's a Cold Cream That Can Clean That Radioactive Waste Off Your Face

"This dirt was made just radioactive enough to register on a geiger counter..." Dorothy Grey's Cold Cream testing methodology wouldn't get very far with the FDA today. 

1980's Perfume Commercial Condoning Stalking

This is the best perfume commercial. Ever. It's from the 80's era of Coty, which was sadly post-their golden years of perfumery — but I like how tacky this commercial is. It really gets down to the core of perfume philosophy for some people: desire. "Use it before you stalk."  

1940s Beauty Tutorial: The Long Cut

The best part of this public domain video is the strange coloring job done post-production: The red hair is glowing a little, their bodies are all still pure white, an their suits look like easter eggs. It looks a bit like a Tim Walker shoot, actually. It's a disturbing but logical conversation about respectability and presentation for women. This is the longer version of the first video above — I think both cuts offer unique perspective.  Also there's some timeless advice offered: “Be sure you rule your habits – don’t let your habits rule you.” Amen, red suit lady.

A Montage of Late '80s and Early '90s Commercials

This roll of vintage beauty and fashion commercials from 1989-1992 is actually performance art. I wish my entire life was documented the way the Pantene commercial is filmed. The glamour! The constant cuts! The orange shimmer lipstick! "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.....it didn't happen overnight. But it did happen." This is a masterpiece. (Editor's note for '80s enthusiasts: That is Kelly LeBrock from Weird Science in the Pantene commercial! Skip to 2:16.)

1986 Maybelline Great Lash Commercial 

Maybelline Great Lash mascara has never been able to give me the kind of lashes in this video, but I still love this for the elderly lady opening up the window so enthusiastically and the catchy jingle.

8-Hour Perfume for the 24-Hour Woman

'Cause I'm a wommmmannnnn. I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan....and I mute the video there because I don't care if you feel like a man or not, and am too distracted by how wonderful I smell to pay attention to you.

1936 Mathematical Definition of Beauty

This is my favorite video on YouTube because it's so terrible and beautiful all at once — I have the narration memorized. "Makeup is made to measure — it's all rather touching, don't you think?" The puns! Bury me in beauty puns. What's morbidly fascinating about this is the history behind physiognomy — the pseudoscience measuring of the face is actually linked to the dehumanization of people of color in America. Here, it's considered beauty routine. Nowadays, we're more into the idea of "sisters, not twins" and relishing in the imperfections, but you can still spot the dark side of beauty now and then. This is just a bald moment of truth, wrapped in poetics. I can't stop watching.