The discovery of radium, in 1898, by scientists Marie Skłodowska Curie and Pierre Curie quickly captured general public creativity on a big scale foundation. Newspapers in both Western Europe and the United States described widely on this mysterious new factor and its peculiar houses. It seemed that radium could do everything, that it could resolve all of the complications facing humanity at the time. It confirmed likely as a super medicine, a modern day-working day panacea, a hope that could overcome the most feared conditions of all—cancer and tuberculosis—and identified prevalent utilization in healthcare remedies.
This general public fascination, alongside the eventual reducing of expenditures and the growing availability of radium, introduced brands with a retail option that was taken up with enthusiasm in the 1920s and 1930s. The general public was presented a opportunity to buy a tiny part of this wondrous substance in products and solutions that claimed to harness the healing and energizing powers of radium. The claims of the suppliers of these solutions, which ranged from patent medications to novelty things these types of as “radium spectacles,” exploited the murkiness of understanding and comprehending of the aspect, but all shared the related guarantee of miraculous success.
Radium was also hailed as the savior to a particular established of challenges struggling with girls, including wrinkles, weak skin, excessive hair, and crows-toes. A newly rising mass-marketplace field in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the elegance market was a severe company that advocated a variety of progressive new approaches. For other firms wishing to make a scenario for their modernity and one-way links with science, radium was an evident selection for analysis and enhancement needs. Soon after all, it was a merchandise of modern day science produced in a Nobel Prize-successful laboratory.
In the 1920s and 30s the streets of Mayfair had been crowded with attractiveness salons, most of which appear to have available some form of radium treatment. Some, like those people of Helen Cavendish, experienced produced from small personal rooms to larger sized salon premises owing to the attractiveness of their items and services. Other names, like Phyllis Earle and Feminix ended up new ventures: opened to cater to the desires of the contemporary, attractiveness hungry, lady. The design of the hairdressing and magnificence salon had the moment been modeled on the private cubicles of department shops. On the other hand, by the interwar period, they became virtually universally (if place permitted) a house divided into two. The 1st of these was a reception space, which resembled an upper middle-course parlor, and the second, the workspace the place the therapies ended up carried out. The hairdressing and magnificence salon experienced designed as a new urban pleasure—a room exactly where girls could be community but private. Even “parlor” and “salon” are conditions explicitly invoking the female spaces within a private home, implying a stable feeling of respectability.
The style of the salon areas was critical—they pressured a sense of luxurious and heat in distinction to the drab existence of the greater part. But they also built their premises to attraction to the values of modernism, stressing hygiene, streamlining and cleanliness. These areas have been the peak of what it meant to be a modern girl in the interwar years.
An up-to-date salon (and each and every salon would have strived to be up to date!) would have been a heat and magnificent put. A excellent salon would have all the mod cons together with electrical lights, marble-topped sinks, lots of incredibly hot and cold functioning water and reclining chairs. The splendor technologies on present involved electrical curling irons, banks of fuel or electric powered hairdryers, vibrator machines and electric powered hairbrushes.
The two Phyllis Earle salons (equally of which ended up in London: just one at 15 North Audley Road and the other at 32 Dover Road) had been the top of sophistication and ended up built with the ease and comfort of their shoppers in head. “It will have to be described that in just about every salon there is a phone this is sure to attraction to the active female,” mentioned one editorial.
There was also the Phyllis Earle Institut de Beauté, an onsite teaching school, which unleashed its trained reps into the provinces. There they proved really popular, demonstrating products and solutions and giving totally free consultations to a general public keen to attempt this special salon line.
Phyllis Earle herself has remaining tiny trace in the historic record—indeed, she could not have been a serious person at all. The salons have been, in truth, owned by a firm: Rapidol, which was owned by Philip Walley Ducker and Noel Blake Ducker.
In typical with other higher-close salons, the Phyllis Earle establishments delighted in the development of magnificence gear and supplied the most up-to-date treatments to their discerning and wealthy clientele. Just one of their most well-known ranges was a Motor Cream, a protective skin cream which was advertised as suited for software prior to motoring. Motoring was an ever more well-liked action for females in the first a long time of the 20th century. And among the the electrical face massages, electrolysis and scalp therapeutic massage with artificial sunlight was another cure: KemOlite, introduced to keen clients in 1922. This was a radioactive elegance plasma, said to make the skin lighter, much more refined and to remove wrinkles and pimples.
In a letter to a customer, the Glasgow hairdresser and perfumer R. Sheldon Bamber confirmed how enthusiastic his establishment was to feature this selection: “We set up a Phyllis Earle Professional and equipped a Therapeutic massage Parlour, in the most contemporary way attainable, some months back, and the division has proved fairly a boon to a wonderful range of Glasgow Females.”
At the Phyllis Earle Mayfair handle, or as a result of the network of salons (which provided Madame Pfob’s elegance salon in Norwich the place my grandmother’s cousin labored at the time and my grandmother frequented routinely) and shops that stocked the products, a customer could encounter the latest in present day radium remedies. And KemOLite cost twelve shillings and sixpence for what was explained as a standard treatment method, or fifteen shillings for the procedure and a therapeutic massage. (Around £30–£40 in today’s cash.)
Contrary to the a lot of technological progress available at Phyllis Earle, KemOLite was a incredibly reduced-tech remedy, but it proved to be extremely well-known.
KemOLite adverts expose how it was to be ready at property and, presumably, in the salons. It arrived as a dried powdered mud which was to be blended with boiling drinking water to kind a thick paste, which was distribute onto the facial area (or fingers, arms, neck and shoulders). It was then permitted to dry. As soon as dry, it was removed and set again into the pot, as it could be reused all over again and yet again with no getting rid of its radioactive properties. It was stated that the finest results could be had by continuing the procedure every handful of times for a month. This sort of rinse-and-repeat instruction meant women would come to feel compelled to depart the salon with a pot for household use, to continue to keep up the very good work.
KemOlite looks to have worked somewhat like any other experience mask of the time, or in fact of these days. It stimulated the pores and skin, bringing the blood to the floor and making a healthful glow. Nonetheless, the commercials are rather less forthright in detailing specifically what the advantage of the addition of radium was. They just mentioned that it was built from a “mysterious mineral deposit from the thermal springs in the lesser Carpathians.” This mineral deposit was also referred to as “Nature’s Possess Radio-Active Attractiveness Plasma.”
KemOLite was not the only radioactive mud advertised by splendor experts. Viabella Culture de Beauté, situated at 102 Baker Street, London, were being an additional corporation supplying an seemingly comparable treatment “carried out by entirely capable masseuses beneath the most hygienic problems in the most current scientific manner.” Caria Radium Health-related Mud Preparations, made by Caria Radium Ltd of 131 Regent Avenue, London, also supplied a selection of toiletries loaded in radioactivity. They included cleaning soap and a pores and skin balm which was a must have to victims from pores and skin blemishes, acne breakouts, eczema, blotches and pimples. Their mud purportedly came from a radium spa in Portugal and had been specially investigated and recommended by an expert pupil of Professor Curie (who this pupil was or which Professor Curie they ended up referring to was—perhaps deliberately—left unclear).
What manufactured KemOLite actually stand out from its competition was the revolutionary and fascinating advertising practices the corporation adopted. In addition to print advertisements in newspapers and publications that ranged from the countrywide publications like the Daily Categorical, or Tatler and Vogue the organization also ran substantial strategies in neighborhood and regional periodicals aimed at capturing a rewarding regional current market.
A single incredibly effective innovation was performing with the newsreel enterprise British Pathé to make a film featuring KemOLite in use at the main Phyllis Earle salon. This silent black-and-white movie, which was issued in July 1922, shows a white-coated, scientific-looking salon assistant mixing up the KemOLite and making use of it to the experience of her feminine client with a brush, ahead of cautiously peeling it off with her fingers. The finish caption reads: “and Madame has stolen a few additional cherished yrs from Old Guy Time.” Indeed, “Madame” is demonstrated at the finish admiring her complexion in a mirror.
Even though the British Pathé film would have attained a large audience of individuals, more compact demonstrations of solution use were being a preferred software employed by radium attractiveness businesses who would have been keen to respond to some of the questions that may possibly have arisen about the use of the controversial items. The buyers of Watt & Grant’s Retailers of Union Avenue, Aberdeen and D.M. Brown of Dundee have been handled to demonstrations of “Radium-Vita Radio-Active Magnificence Preparations” by Mrs. Fletcher and Skip Williams: the personal reps of Radium Vita Ltd. These demonstrators offered consultations and absolutely free facial treatments of these types of products as Radium Vita Working day and Night time Product, Radium Vita Exclusive Health-related Cream, Radium Vita Rouge (“in a shade which tones with every pores and skin, and it can also be employed for lipstick”) and Radium Vita Confront Powder (“in just one shade only … a powder that modifications to the precise color of your pores and skin when applied”).
One more radium-targeted enterprise, Radior, had expanded from their main organization of rheumatism cures into the even much more worthwhile market of toilet preparations. They bought vanishing product for day use, a evening cream, rouge, talcum powder, skin soap, hair tonic and shampoo powder. To round out their merchandise list, they also offered six tints of confront powder—available in both pressed and loose forms.
When the cosmetic marketplace had grown considerably in the 1920s and 1930s Radior differentiated alone from other companies with the assert that its products and solutions ended up not only of fantastic top quality but have been the only types that labored ‘for genuine Betterment’ of the pores and skin. “You would pick out ‘Radior’ Preparations for their daintiness, delicacy and exquisite good taste—for the silky smoothness of the cream—for the impalpable fineness of the powders and the charming, tantalizing, haunting fragrance located in all—an exclusive fragrance of our have, not offered in any sector. With Radium additional the closing phrase is said for elegance.”
Radior had also expanded its variety of pads to encompass Forehead and Less than Chin Pads. These had been built from silk, arrived in quite a few different “pretty” colours and also in many radioactive strengths.
The Below Chin Pad “adjusts comfortably to the chin by the assist of ribbons.” The firm claimed that Radior Elegance Pads labored to eliminate and eradicate double chins and wrinkles by firming up and strengthening the facial muscle tissue. At the very same time, they also (seemingly) did double responsibility blocking problems and neuralgia.
Radior’s Natural beauty Pads have been based mostly on the theory that strapping or taping up the confront would support to raise sagging neck muscular tissues and reduce double chins. Face pads and straps have a long historical past and were being typical attractiveness merchandise throughout the 1920s and 1930s (even though most makes did not use radioactive products). They had been located in several ranges of products and solutions by nicely-known suppliers. These incorporated Eleanor Adair, who equipped “Mrs. Adair’s Ganesh Bathroom Preparations and the Ganesh Chin Strap,” and Elizabeth Arden Muscle mass Strapping solutions.
Radior differentiated on their own from products this kind of as Caradium and KemOLite by emphasizing that their merchandise were being produced with “ACTUAL RADIUM not ‘Radio-Active Drinking water,’” which they highlighted intended their goods “remain permanently Radio-Active.”
Whilst acknowledging the healing powers of radioactive waters at spas, the company referenced the downside of radon’s 50 %-daily life on merchandise made employing it, arguing:
No preparation, until it have[s] real Radium, will keep its electricity. If it contain[s] real Radium, it will keep its power practi- cally forever, but radio-lively h2o, loses its radioactivity in strict geometrical development at the level of 50 for each cent just about every 3rd day, so that after a couple of days from manufacture, radio-lively water has no much more remedial benefit than normal tap water. It is the use of these types of valueless content which tends to foster disbelief in a proved remedy this sort of as real Radium.
The electric power of the radium in Radior solutions was emphasized in all their promoting duplicate: “As very long as there is a trace of the powder on your cheeks, it is radio-energetic and is your assist to beauty” or “‘Radior Pads’ remain radio-energetic completely. No renewals essential. Their initial cost is their only charge.’”
Radium Vita Ltd, makers of the Radium Vita items talked about previously, as nicely as the “Radium Vita Mud Pack,” differentiated themselves from other companies with the declare that they strengthened the purely natural radioactivity of their muds. This strengthening was attained by including a single microcurie of radium salts and maximized the sum of radioactivity imparted. Radium Vita also cautioned from the use of other mud packs, arguing that these were (typically) “artificially created and generally incorporate substances which routinely verify dangerous after continual purposes.”
The following is excerpted and tailored from Half Lives: An Unlikely Record of Radium by Lucy Jane Santos, publishing in July with Pegasus Textbooks.