15 Worst Beauty Trends Over Time

For all of the plucking and primping ladies (and plenty of men) indulge in, there is definitely a science to looking good. Want to score a mate? All you need to project are “full lips, clear skin, smooth skin, clear eyes, lustrous hair, good muscle tone and body fat distribution,” says one distinguished evolutionary psychologist.

Want to kick butt at work? A recent study shows a little makeup goes a long way in terms of conveying competency on the job. Still, evidence alone doesn’t seem to prevent us from testing the parameters of gorgeousity via wacky new ways to style our hair and paint our faces, which seem to deliberately contradict the rules of natural selection. Behold, the worst beauty trends to have emerged over the last half century.

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1Serious Tans-1953

Coco Chanel may have been the first woman to make a tan seem elegant back in the 20s. (She got baked in the French Riviera, what’re ya gonna do?) But when Coppertone came out with a self-tanning lotion and it became de rigueur to douse oneself in baby oil and silver UV reflectors seemed normal, the race to look like the next Gidget was on.

RESEARCH: Sun-Damaged Skin Looks Older

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Today we know better, but dangerous sun exposure isn’t the only pitfall of a dark tan: A key study on perception found that a lighter skintone helped feminize an androgynous face due to the contrast it created between darkened eyes and lips.

2Beehive AKA “B-52”-1960

Talk about a bomber. After an Illinois hairstylist created this style for “Modern Beauty Salon,” the hives seriously started buzzing and the style came to epitomize the early ’60s for style icons and housewives alike.

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While the fun (and the hair) finally died down as the Flower Children emerged, the kitschy ‘do has been spotted more recently on Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture runway collection, which paid homage to the late bee(hive) keeper, Amy Winehouse. But if “lustrous hair” is a symbol of attraction, what does ultra lacquered hair say besides “stiff”?

3False Eyelashes-1965

First there was socialite Edie Sedgwick, then the supermodel Twiggy. Once the British “Mod” look hit American shores, young people were hooked. While men got to rock rakish cropped cuts, women’s lids struggled to stay open beneath ultra thick fake lashes.

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Maybe they got ditched because keeping up with them requires a certain level of fastidiousness, or maybe the fact that they seemed to fall out at the most inopportune moments became too embarrassing. Perhaps it was this simple: No one could look bright-eyed and alert—key youth indicators—under all that extra eye baggage.

4Blue Eye Shadow-circa 1972

This look is so reviled, beauty expert Paula Begoun even wrote a book about it (“Blue Eyeshadow Should Be Illegal,” for the uninitiated). While shades of blue worn on the eyes can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians who used minerals to make pigment, the craze for blue shadow seems to have peaked in the 70s, as ascertained by the eventual rise of disco, multiple cosmetic ads at the time and one Farrah Fawcett. We know the look of large eyes may imply youth and fertility, but an eye shadow O.D. looks more little old lady.

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5The Mullet-1974

“Business in the front, party in the back” helps to describe this infamous haircut that somehow managed to look sort of cool on early adopters like David Bowie and Paul McCartney and then went horribly, horribly wrong. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, as we now know, sometimes mimicry can totally backfire, seen here in the case of Joyce DeWitt, who played Janet on “Three’s Company.” Other noted 70s mullets include Florence Henderson (Carol Brady, on “The Brady Bunch”) and David Cassidy.

COLUMN: Find Your Signature Style

6Big Hair-circa 1983

You can thank big stars like Dolly Parton, a little known TV show that went by the name of “Dallas,” and later, various hair metal band members, for a trend that seems to have as many different iterations as it did cans of hairspray. We’re not really sure how mankind evolved away from this look, though we suspect it could have had something to do with all that backcombing, which is sure to thin hair, an undesirable trait in a potential mate.

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7The Perm-circa 1983

Perms can be traced as far back as 1872, and they were commonly used to beautify women’s hair from the 1920s on. But anyone who lived through the 80s can attest to the all-out craze the home perm became, and just how wrong they tended to turn out, frying both our tresses and pride in the process. The crazy curly look certainly came and went, which is a good thing, considering all you have to do is close your eyes and think back to that accompanying extremely unpleasant aroma. Who could smell pheromones over that mess?

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8The All-Over Crimp-Circa 1989

Close, kinky cousin of the perm, those who lived to tell the tale couldn’t forget the ubiquitous 80s styling tool that was the crimping iron. Many a cheek, neck and ear were maimed in the name of achieving MTV rock star-esque hairstyles, until eventually Barbie herself emerged with a crimped, crackly head of hair. Barbie, like the rest of us, was smart enough to walk away (eventually) from this unfortunate craze that seriously damaged and dried out hair, which also happens to be an indicator of age.

QUIZ: Is Your Hair Damaged?

9Over-Plucked Brows-1992

Speaking of major cultural references, we’re going to have to call Madonna out on this unfortunate trend. Sure, the Queen of Pop was born with a healthy set of full eye frames, but even if you’re royalty, brows thin as we age. That still doesn’t explain why she made them look so thin for her notorious Girlie Show tour. We love Madge, but we not only prefer her all-out bushy-browed and proud, now that they’re restored, we suspect the feature could help explain the fact that she seems to be aging backwards.

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10Super Matte-1993

Anyone recall a little show that went by the name of “Melrose Place”? The stars—women such as Heather Locklear, Josie Bissett and Courtney Thorne-Smith—weren’t just stunning for their looks and duplicity: Fans were clearly enamored by their almost chalkily mattified complexions. Sadly for these beauty icons of yesteryear, the popularity of powder hit rock bottom once we realized that fresh, dewy skin looks far more youthful. And you can’t let a healthy glow shine through under layers of pancake makeup, now can you?

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11Dark Lip liner/Light Lipstick combo-circa 1999

Was it Kim Mathers, Eminem’s klassy sweetheart? Or perhaps, more likely, the media’s sudden fascination with “chola” subculture? At any rate, this distinct look is wrong on so many levels-namely the two that don’t match, the outline of your lip and your lips themselves. Men are extremely attracted to women’s lips, but red seems to steal the male gaze, not flesh tones surrounded by coffee brown.

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12Sun-In-circa 2000

When it comes to beauty, blonder is always better, or so it would seem. With that quest in mind, young girls who couldn’t afford pricey highlights or whose parents forbade them to dye their hair turned to an inexpensive drugstore product that promised golden, blonde highlights and delivered, well, brassy orange streaks on most—and that’s if you were lucky. Cheer up ladies, a recent study claims that while blondes may bring all the boys to the yard, real men rate brunettes as more attractive and intelligent.

THIS STUDY, EXPLAINED: Brunettes Rated More Attractive & Intelligent

13Hair Extensions-2003

While hair extension mania continues to grow (heh), one might trace the sudden widespread appeal back to the year Paris Hilton’s sex tape made her into the most famous celebutante in all the land (that is, until Kim Kardashian came along).

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Hilton was always up front about the fact that her locks were less than naturally luscious, and later went on to launch her own line of clip-ins called “Dreamcatchers,” no joke. Since then, scores of celebs from Britney to Rihanna have fessed up to extensions, but the reality—weaves can cause hair loss(!)—ain’t so pretty.

14Spray Tans-2009

We simply have no choice but to connect the apex of the glossy, glistening Oompa Loompa-skinned trend to the one and only Lindsay Lohan. This was the year her $35 spray tan launched, and though its success was not to be-the subsequent lawsuits were messier than a leaked bottle of bronzer-countless stars and pedestrians have gone a la orange in the name of glamour. Sadly, the chemical component that darkens skin, DHA, has been shown to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive folks. Glamorous, indeed!

QUIZ: What’s Your Face Shape?


Thank you Jennifer Love Hewitt! We tolerated you in “Party of Five” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” but did you really need to introduce the world to the practice of gluing rhinestones to one’s vulva? (Shudder.) After she discussed this odd practice on “The George Lopez Show,” all hell broke loose down below. While we haven’t heard of any particular side effects per se, well, do we really have to explain?

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