The Pre-Plastic-Surgery Era: 4 Weird Ways Old Hollywood Stars Changed Their Faces

If you think today's stars go to extremes, think again.

In Hollywood, plastic surgery is as commonplace as The Paleo Diet or Twitter Fingers (opens in new tab). There are a million different ways to tweak, chisel, or reconfigure one's visage as desired thanks to a laundry list of procedures.

The possibilities are so limitless these days, it's got us reminiscing about the golden age of celebrity (opens in new tab). Even though they didn't live under the high-definition magnifying glass of today, Old Hollywood starlets were no less vain—perhaps even more so (opens in new tab)—and thus had to get way more creative in the nip-and-tuck department.

From the up-and-coming ingénue looking to kick-start her career to the lauded actress hoping to freeze her face in time, here are a couple of ways O.G.Hollywood glamazons altered their famous faces.

The Hairline Electrolysis

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(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Back in the heyday of Old Hollywood, hairlines (and white beauty ideals) had a lot of sway. In fact, Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, was of Spanish descent and decided to dye her hair red and get rid of her characteristically-Latina lower hairline.

To reshape it, Hayworth underwent a year's worth of electrolysis, which consisted of using a thin metal probe to "shock" the follicle and permanently remove the hair. In the end, her hairline was an inch higher and her new look, for better or for worse, helped launch her career.

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(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Marilyn Monroe was also notorious for undergoing electrolysis, removing her widow's peak to change her face shape. The less painful, modern day equivalent? Stars (the Kardashians in particular) are making their hairlines look more bold and precise by filling them in with eyeshadow (opens in new tab).

The Sans-Molars Cheekbone Trick

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(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Marlene Dietrich was famous for her cheekbones that could cut glass, but rumor has it they weren't part of her born-with-it bone structure. According to folklore, the German-American beauty had her molars removed to emphasize the hollows of her cheeks. And you thought fillers sounded unpleasant...

The Croydon Facelift

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(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

In case you had your doubts, Dietrich had a very high threshold pain. In addition to her dentistry tactics, she was also a fan of the Croydon Facelift method (opens in new tab), using both surgical tape and strategically-twisted piece of hair to pull the skin up around her face.

PSA: Do not try this at home. For one, the skin on your face is extremely delicate and you don't want it too lose any of its precious elasticity. And then there's the whole matter of putting weight on the hair and being abrasive with follicles, which can cause (opens in new tab)*permanent* hair loss (opens in new tab).

The Did-She-or-Didn't-She Nose Job

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(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Unlike today, where every star and their mother has had a nose job (we're partially kidding), it was a less popular, and more risky procedure amongst the Old Hollywood crowd. This said, rhinoplasty did happen. And it's hard to say who definitely had work done, but X-rays of Monroe's skull (opens in new tab) (weird, we know) indicated she had some type of procedure to alter the cartilage around the tip of her nose.

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Lauren Valenti
Lauren Valenti

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.