Old cold-cream ad touts beautifying benefits of radioactivity

Lakelady sez, "In an ad for cold cream facial cleanser they use 'slightly' radioactive dirt on a young woman's face to test which cleanser works the best. Complete with geiger counter clicks. Gotta love the innocence of the 50s."

Before anyone protests that the level of radioactivity is very low -- like, lower than a brick wall -- the astounding thing isn't that they're spreading "radioactive" stuff on a model's face, but rather that "radioactivity" is being presented as a health benefit and beautifying agent.

Shocking 1950's Commercial!


  1. I remember Dorothy Gray…whatever happened to it, I wonder?  But…a pedantic note, you might want to re-watch the commercial. It actually only uses the radioactivity to measure how clean, that is, how much dirt is removed by one product versus another. Not actually hyping radioactivity as a “beautifying” agent.  Just that one cleanser removes “all” the dirt, as measured by, I presume, 0 clicks.
    suppose it’s too late to write for the details, hmm?

    1. Yeah. There *were* health tonics and such hyping the power of radioactivity in the early 20th century, but they were well before the 1950s.

    2.  Exactly, here’s the transcription:
      “Busy you, in and out of doors every day.  Think how much dust and dirt settle on your skin. And make up clings to your skin and clogs pores. That’s why your face needs a thorough cleansing each day. And that’s why cleansing tests were made by an independent testing laboratory. This same kind of dirt was made just radioactive enough to register on a Geiger counter. Leading cleansing creams, complexion soaps, and Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream were used to remove this dirt. The Geiger counter proved that Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream cleanses up to two and a half times more thoroughly than any soap or other cleansing cream tested.”

      So they were just using irradiated dirt, which they probably didn’t actually, do, seeing as how the commercial was probably made by Don Draper.  You can almost hear the “ooo, atomic age” pitch.

    3. I don’t think it’s particularly pedantic to point out that the headline of this video is the complete opposite of what the video actually is :)

    4.  http://www.cosmeticsandskin.com/companies/dorothy-gray.php

      Scroll way way way down to the bottom.  Apparently there was a series of buyouts and Dorothy Gray products wound up being available primarily in Argentina and Uraguay.

  2. Purportedly radioactive cosmetics were fairly common in the 1910s-1930s. (In reality, most of them were about as radioactive as dishwater.) As noted above, the 1950s were actually quite radiophobic, for obvious reasons, and this commercial is selling the absence of radioactive schmutz.

    But yeah, not that long before, radioactivity was a selling point in and of itself. It connoted vigor, energy, and light, and besides, everyone knew it could do weird and wonderful things to the body. It wasn’t that hard to convince people that just a tiny little pinch of it would give you that, ahem, healthy glow.

    I wrote a whole pedantic dissertation on it once!

  3. Yes, Cory missed the methodology of the ad entirely. Headline fail.

    He’s probably not old enough to remember what a buzzword “fallout” was in the 50s, somewhat like “global warming” today. And people were genuinely afraid of coming home covered in radioactive particulates. A goop that left your face free of Geiger clicks would have appealed to those fears. And every suburbanite was supposed to have a Geiger counter handy in their fallout shelters, right next to the Spam. I’d guess the “Atomic Test Booklet” (!) at the end of the ad describes how to scan your own face. Geiger counters as beauty aids …

    1. It would appear that they were also trying to dog-whistle this as a “dual-use” product:  great for makeup removal, sure, but indispensable for removing radiation after an atomic blast. No doomsday prepper should be without it!

  4. Lakelady clearly understood what was going on in the ad — her comment that Cory quoted is spot-on. I guess Cory didn’t really read it, but it’s only funny because he went out of his way to preemptively dismiss the comments.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who posts hundreds of items each week getting confused over the odd one, though.

  5. Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) has  a nice page of photos of a wide variety of radioactive ‘health’  devices, both historic and present-day, as well as an interesting article about them by Paul Frame of ORAU

    Caveat lector: If using irradiated dirt as a tracer shocks and astounds you, you’d better brace yourself for these. :-)

  6. MST3K Re: The Incredible Melting Man Quotes Thread

    Dr. Loring runs the Geiger counter over the dead nurse:
    Ted: “Great”
    Mike: “She’s full of crickets”

  7. The beautifying secret they don’t mention is Marie Curie Skin Rejuvenating Clay Mask.  

    Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream is a fine way to remove the aforementioned beauty product, leaving behind nothing but a healthy glow.

  8. A friend of mine recently had prostate cancer. I say “had” because he went through radiation treatment and is now considered cured. So please don’t forget there are health benefits to radiation!

Comments are closed.