History Humor Medicine News of the Weird Quackery

I wonder why this never caught on…

i-b8b399fd020fec495ee88f74cf6139f7-lrg_xray_shave.jpgVia Modern Mechanix, from the pages of Popular Mechanics, April 1924:


Shaving beards from men’s faces, has been accomplished by a special mudlike paste that is undergoing experiments at the hands of a New York doctor. After the mass has been applied, it hardens and is torn off. To finish the operation, X-rays are then directed against the skin. The originator of the method claims that it is beneficial and if used regularly will remove scars and similar marks of long standing. It is also said that the sticky treatment does not leave any ill effects on tender skins.

It never ceases to amaze me what people used to use X-rays for before it was appreciated just how bad an idea it is, how X-ray exposure is cumulative throughout one’s lifetime, and how carcinogenic it is. In any case, the above treatment just looks like some sort of waxing (painful!), followed by the treatment of X-rays. Unless the dosage of X-rays was high enough to cause hair loss (and I’m guessing that the focusing ability and the ability to control the dose were pretty darned primitive in 1924, so I don’t discount the possibility that it may well have been), this doctors’ customers would have probably gotten the same result with just the paste. I’d love to see a followup study to see what the rate of head and neck cancers were among regular customers of this doctor. It must have been astronomical. In fact, I wonder what happened to the doctors. The one in the picture doesn’t appear to be protecting himself with lead shielding.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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