How They Used To Do Perms In The 1920s and ’30s Seems Outrageous By Today’s Standards

When looking through vintage photos from the 1920s and ’30s, you’re bound to come across a few odd-looking images. It’s easy to forget just how different things were back then. But in some cases, things weren’t just different. They were downright horrifying (at least from our modern-day viewpoint). Take how they used to do perms, for example.

That seriously looks like a machine out of “The Twilight Zone.”


While it might look pretty freaky to us, back in the 1920s, this machine was a breakthrough. It allowed electricity to heat the hair and speed up the curling process.

Perms 2

Before the invention of electric perm machines, caustic and toxic chemicals were used by some stylists to achieve the desired look. As you can imagine, it didn’t always end well for their clients.

Perms 3

Even though they were advanced for their time, these machines still carried the risk of burning a woman’s scalp if the heaters got too close. If the stylist was especially careless, the hair could even catch on fire.

Perms 4

This is what one model looked like when it wasn’t hooked up to a subject’s head.

Perms 5

Luckily, getting a perm today is a much easier ordeal than it used to be. Although 2016 might be a tough year in a lot of ways, at least you don’t have to worry about your hair possibly catching on fire at the salon.


Sign up for our Updates

Enter your email and stay on top of things,