The Lady Sunbeam Vintage Hair Dryer – Controlled Heat Deluxe!

Last week I met a friend of mine at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, and we proceeded to giggle like idiots whilst scavenging for *really cool stuff*, which this particular Thrift Store seemed to have plenty of.

By far the coolest thing found was a vintage hair dryer, the kind with a motor in a box, a cap on the head, a hose, even the original booklet.  I’d seen a photo or two of one of these magical mechanical mysteries around the web, and thought to myself that if I just had one all my vintage hair problems would be solved.

Another Lady Sunbeam hair dryer shown here, of a different model.

You see, it’s getting the hair to dry that’s a lot of the problem, I find.  Even with sleeping on uncomfortable pin curls, or rollers, or trying out the curling iron, nothing seems to work – my hair just doesn’t dry, and it doesn’t hold a hot curl.

So when I saw this ugly “Lady Sunbeam” vintage brain-frying robot, I just HAD to buy it for that whopping $15 price, whether it worked or not.

She’s missing the plastic door that covered the hose, cap, and cord compartment.

But it DID work! Mwahahahah!  And boy howdy is it loud and hot and a little smelly.  50 some odd years of dust and geriatric plastics and rubber bits tends to get a little ripe, but by the time the blower had ejected all this stuff, it didn’t smell so bad anymore.

I had to try it, so I busted out a haphazard pin curl set, my first actually, and put the cap on my head and enjoyed the interesting and unique experience of having what amounts to a plastic shower cap inflate upon my head with hot air.  The “warm” setting was hot enough, and 45 minutes later, I had dry hair.

Warm was hot enough.  Medium and Hot settings are more like the surface of the sun.

Pin-curl setting is an art, and I’m no artist. I need practice, but all things considered, I think what I ended up with for a first try was pretty flippin’ fantastic, and I owe it all to my crusty new friend, the Lady Sunbeam. … and a little extra work from my other trusty friend, the small-barreled curling iron, which helped out with the depth of the waves.

So if you are out and about and see one of these gnarly boxes around and for a good price, give it a try!  I’m sure there are modern equivalents as well, with a higher price tag and far less awesomeness because they’re not vintage but probably definitely don’t smell and maybe won’t fry your brain too………

For pincurling inspiration, how to, reference, general 20th century hair mysteries solved, check out the blog “Beauty if a Thing of the Past.”

Here’s the original booklet that came with the thing, in its entirety:


  • Cynthia Griffith

    August 31, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    Oh wow, I could swear I remember my mom having something similar that included a manicure set to keep you busy while you dried your hair. Enjoy! 🙂

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    August 31, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    Now I feel REALLY old because I used to use one of these when I was a kid for drying ragcurls! My mama had one, only the motor was round and had a strap so you could wear it over your shoulder and move around, no doubt to do housework, well only as far as you can go with the power cord. I loved it, loved the feel of it and the poofy turban thing. Brilliant! Goodness knows what happened to it. Love the 'do!

  • Vienna La Rouge

    August 31, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    "geriatric plastics and rubber bits tends to get a little ripe"


    I had one similar to this. It came in a round case, but did the same thing with the shower cap whatnot and the hose. Yeah, 'medium' was Madmen era code for "cook-yer-brain".
    Then I found my Conair Hotstix, and I haven't gone back to the little round case of hot smelly plastic 🙂

  • ZipZip

    August 31, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Dear Lauren,
    My mother had one that came in a round suitcase deal with a handle at the top. Pink, of course. She traveled with it when we went to live in Germany and I remember finding the whirr of the motor relaxing.

    Love how your hair came out; those curls are darling. Now I want one of those dryer things!

    Very best,
    Natalie at the beach where all hair goes to frizz


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