Today, the internet bus driver is dropping us off at the Helena Rubinstein beauty school, circa 1940-something. This might sound like a lovely, pink and fluffy sort of place, but as you’ll soon realise, beauty school is anything but.
Photographs by Nina Leen, fished out from one of my favourite places on the net, the LIFE archives.
Meet one of your professors. She’s about as friendly as your grade school headmistress who still haunts you in your dreams.
And then there’s this class, which involves inexplicably mummifying your classmates’ faces in balaclava masks.
Look how thrilled everyone is!
Having a bad skin day? What a perfect opportunity to use a giant magnifying glass to really get up close and personal with everyone’s flaws.
Ah yes, nothing prepares the students better for a facial class that a good ol’ fascist salute.
Right before you get to torture your guinea pig with a giant electrical cucumber.
Okay, the hair salon. This part should be relatively non-terrifying.
Spoke too soon.
Yes, this is probably the same creature that lives under your bed.
And here we were thinking beauty school was about tying pink hair bows and powdering your nose…
Sweet Jesus! They’re evil, pure evil here I tell you.
Just look at these possessed creatures, surrounding their next victim like a pack of hungry predators.
Over in the gymnasium, they even seem to be resorting to medieval limb-stretching torture techniques…
(And other unspeakable practices).
Nope, it doesn’t look like we’re cut out for this place…
In fact you might have a less terrifying experience applying for a job down at the morgue.
Hit the locker room, we’re outta here.
So here you are, staring longingly into the window of a career you almost had; a beauty school dropout, no graduation day for you, turn in your teasing comb and– ooh! Manicure, shampoo, eyebrows and rub for just 35 cents?! Bargain!
All photos via the LIFE archives, full photo stories by Nina Leen here and here.