Entity reports on how makeup was used in the 20th century.

For women around the world, the ways in which we use makeup to enhance our natural beauty has evolved  over thousands of years. How women have chosen to express themselves in the public eye has continuously changed, often at the hand of influences such as Hollywood starlets and wartime woes. Though this is hardly an exhaustive list, here is a quick summary, with a little help from Glamour Daze, of how makeup has altered over the years for women in Western society – from the seedlings of the 1910s to the full-blown glamor of the 1960s and every look in between.



LOOK: Pale, light look

GET IT WITH: Lemon juice, heavy powder and rouge for shading


LOOK: Flapper look with an artificial face

GET IT WITH: Kohl eyes, plucked eyebrows and moon manicure


LOOK: Hollywood Golden Years

GET IT WITH: Dark hues, triangle contour and thin brows


LOOK: Retro pin up look

GET IT WITH: Red and orange lips with a thick brow


LOOK: Suburbia pink for a mask effect

GET IT WITH: Skin-matching foundation contrasted with bright lips


LOOK: London mod

GET IT WITH: Winged eyeliner and fake lashes


In Depth Look


At a time when social class was everything, women evaluated every move they made, lest they risk jeopardizing their reputation. This, of course, applied to how they evened out their complexions.

The very idea of makeup existed only in the world of stage actresses during this time. It was taboo for the Edwardian woman to reveal that she wore anything on her face other than her natural complexion. The exception to this rule was rouge, which was contained inside tiny pots and kept in a lady’s handbag for special occasions. According to Glamour Daze, “This rouge could be applied to cheeks, forehead, and just a stain on the lips as opposed to ‘lip shaping’.”

During this era, any foundation used by women was as pale as possible, due to the fact that a naturally, light-toned woman who bore a tan was considered to be “of a questionable class.”

Below is the makeup that was commonly worn during this time by the women who dared to doll up:

  • Foundation – “moisturize, powder, rouge, and then powder again.”
  • Powder – “a popular choice for the woman on the go – was ‘papier poudre’ which resembled roll up cigarette paper.”
  • Eyes – “post of grey, brown, and lemon-colored paste applied very slightly on the lids.”
  • Lips – “a light stain to create a ‘bitten lip’ effect as opposed to ‘painted.’”



The Roaring 20sa time when everyone competed to be the most extravagant, and when women most notably began breaking away from societal constructs of the time. This was the time during which ladies began to change the way they painted their faces.

It was the women of the 1920s who were bold enough to create the first “artificial face.” “Startling eyes, scarlet lips and a pale pallor” was the sought-after look for the everyday flapper. A huge increase in the mass production of makeup meant that every handbag held all the essentials a lady could ever need, including “cake mascara – applied with a brush and the ever present push-up tube lipstick.”

Here are the products women used to dazzle their way through the decade:

  • Eyes – “kohled eyeshadow for the more daring girls.”
  • Eyebrows – “plucked for the first time and drawn downward towards the temple.”
  • Lips – “lips were smaller than the natural outline and fashioned into the ‘cupid’s bow’ shape.”
  • Lashes – “mascara was the new rage and no woman could resist enhancing her lashes.”
  • Rouge – “applied in circles rather than angular. The effect was a rounded face.”
  • Nails – “The big name was Revlon and the popular style was the ‘moon manicure’ leaving the tip painted.”


A photo posted by @mrs_arlena on


Ah yes, the age of Hollywood. The Golden Years, as some would call it. Entering in alongside the rise of the silver screen during this time was the revamping of how women presented their facial features. A more feminine look became popular, in contrast to the androgynous aura of the previous decade. The result was a more glamorous and refined look, with an expansion of eyeshadow palettes.

Eyeliner pencils became wildly popular over the heavier kohl look of the 20s. “Now women began to contour the eye, tracing a triangle effect from the tear duct out to and beyond the natural edge of the eye – thus widening and adding further feminine emphasis to the face. The lips lost the rosebud effect of the previous decade and adopted a thinner line, but now with a host of color palettes to choose from.” The most popular shades of lipsticks included maroons, dark reds, and raspberry hues.

Here is a list of the go-to hues and techniques of the time:

  • Eyes – “blues, greens, pinks, purples applied lightly and in pear shapes beyond the natural eye.”
  • Eyebrows – “plucked out of existence and redrawn in pencil thin lines – arched more attractively upwards.”
  • Lips – “the cupid’s bow was replaced by thinner horizontal lines with upper lips enlarged and fuller. Popular colors are raspberry reds and maroon.”
  • Lashes – “mascara moved to the lower lashes only which lifted eyes out.”
  • Rouge – “the triangle was the new look and contouring faces was in vogue.”
  • Nails – “the moon manicure remains and nail and lip colors sold to match.”



While the trope of the 40s is usually the ever-popular “retro pin-up’:look, there is much more to the true 1940s essence.

The 40s was a very distinct time in women’s aesthetics. The ultimate look? “Confident up-do hairstyles, redder than red lipsticks and nails, and prominent arched eyebrows.” Red was on the lips of every lady during this era, and the shades were endless. “Replacing the thin understated lip contours of the 1930s was a deep luscious full mouth . . . Simplicity and convenience were key as many women took to working in factories and on the farms…Lipsticks were considered in the USA as essential for ‘the war effort’ – to keep morale up.”

Here are the primary looks and essentials every 40s wartime girl kept in her makeup arsenal:

  • Foundation – “a shade darker than your natural.”
  • Powder – “plenty of powder still, a lighter shade and patted on.”
  • Eyes – “light medium browns with beige highlighting. Understated.”
  • Eyebrows – “much thicker than in the 1930s. Vaseline used to groom to shape.”
  • Lips – “reds and orange reds were the prerequisite.”
  • Lashes – “cake mascaras like Maybelline – still applied with a brush.”
  • Rouge – “rose colors applied out from the cheek apples.”
  • Nails – “filed to a point with the tips left unpainted.”


A photo posted by @mrs_arlena on


Out with the ruby red and in with the powder puffs was the anthem of the 50s, along with the rise of suburbia, saddle shoes and poodle skirts.

Essentially, glam was in for women’s makeup. Cream foundations and shadows replaced the previous powders. After all, this was the era of the “mask effect.” Ladies were liberal with foundation, and though natural eyebrows were still popular, they became more feminine and tapered. “Rouges were less emphasized than in the 1940s. If there was a color to define the 1950s – it has to be pink. Pink hues in shadows and reddish pink lipsticks.”

  • Foundation – “a cream ivory base, and cream or liquid foundation near to natural skin color.”
  • Powders – “brushed on flesh-colored powder to set.”
  • Eyes – “subtle shadows on lid – taped out to shimmering pale brow.”
  • Eyeliner – “the wing effect became popular in the 1950s.”
  • Lashes – “subtle and applied usually to the upper lashes.”
  • Rouges – “pastel and rose colors applied to the apple of the cheek.”
  • Lips – “many tutorials advised creating a ‘smile’ effect with lipsticks. Achieved by drooping.”


A photo posted by Viktoria (@vikke_kjaer) on


Waif-life, svelte, and mod were the three major adjectives of the 1960s (besides peace and love).

It was Yardley of London that revolutionized the decade by using models Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton as their makeup muses. The London Look created a whole new generation of glamor enthusiasts. “The mod look is the cosmetic look most remembered from this beauty era.”

The sultry cat eye was overshadowed by a love of lashes during the 1960s. This was the first time false eyelashes gained fierce popularity. “The 1960s was the first ‘retro’ decade with styles in both clothes and makeup harkening back to the 1920s, however with a more waif-like appearance. Lips were pale to help emphasize eyes.”

Here is a snapshot of what the everyday woman could be seen wearing out and about during this decade:

  • Eyes – “eyeliner was the most important makeup tool. Instead of cat’s eye effect, liner was doubled up at the end of the lid. White eyeliner drawn down over upper lid to inner corner of eye.”
  • Eyeshadow – “the popular palette was blue, grey and white.”
  • Eyelashes – “placed on both top and bottom for a real retro ‘flapper’ effect.”
  • Powder – “lots of powder in the early 1960s to just a dab of translucent by the end of the decade.”
  • Lips – “very pale pinks and reds outlined with a pencil.”

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