How to get that ‘Vampire Complexion’

The headline of this advertisement from 1922 caught our eye just in time for Halloween. It contains some recommendations for how to get that “vampire completion” — though we wouldn’t recommend following these instructions, and we’ll tell you why in a minute.

"Vampire Complexion is Natural, She Says," Dayton Daily News, 27 April 1922, page A28.

“Vampire Complexion is Natural, She Says,” Dayton Daily News, 27 April 1922, page A28.

This scan is a bit difficult to read, so here is a transcription:

Vampire Complexion is Natural, She Says

They say of a certain well-known dancer that she has a “vampire complexion,” it is so bewitchingly beautiful. Yet to intimate friends she has confided that she abhors make-ups and that her complexion is really natural. Her secret is ordinary mercolized wax. She spreads a thin coat of the wax over her face at night, without rubbing it in, and takes it off with warm water upon arising. This simple application actually absorbs the dead particles of scarf skin which daily appear, and a fair, soft, fresh, girlish skin is always in evidence. The complexion is kept perpetually young by preventing the accumulation of the aging and lifeless cuticle.

As mercolized wax is obtainable at any drug store, and as an ounce is sufficient to rejuvenate even the worst complexion, anyone may enjoy the benefits of this remarkable beauty secret. There’s nothing more effective for freckles, liver spots, moth patches, pimples, and unwholesome skins generally. Adv.

So, according to this ad, one achieves the desired “vampire complexion” — which equates to one that is pale and youthful (makes sense!) — through the nightly application of a cosmetic called “mercolized wax.”

Mercolized Wax was a trademarked cosmetic product produced by the Dearborn Supply Company beginning in 1911.

On the pro side, it really did work, as far as its claims of lightening skin. (That is more than can be said of many “miracle” products we’ve seen advertised in historical newspapers!)

On the con side, it did work because one of the chemicals it contained was mercury. (If it occurred to you that the word “mercolized” looks a lot like the word “mercury,” good for you!)

We probably don’t need to tell you that rubbing a compound containing mercury into one’s skin is not a great idea. Consequently, restrictions were placed on the use of mercury compounds, and products containing them had to have warning labels. Eventually, the use of mercury in any cosmetic products was banned in most modern countries.

We’ll all just have to find some other way to work on our vampire look!

For more information about Mercolized Wax, here’s a great article with lots of citations.

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