History of Makeup – A Lady’s Beauty Routine 1916.

The Daily Rituals of Beauty and Makeup in 1916.

While the First World War raged on – America’s Photoplay flew the flag of glamour with this delicate  peek behind a society woman’s beauty rituals.

History-of-Makeup---A-Lady's-Beauty-Routine-in-1916 -Dorothy kelly
History-of-Makeup—A-Lady’s-Beauty-Routine-in-1916 -Dorothy Kelly

The salon de beauts brings to the mademoiselle in distress all the fine art of beautifying and correction to which science is handmaiden. Here she is in the hands of the pseudo-scientist who repairs the damages of freckless exposure to sun and wind, makes the skin white and satin again, trains the eyebrows, multiplies the eyelashes, reduces pores, eradicates crow’s feet, keeps her face fit and in condition.


The rites may be performed here regularly or carried on conscientiously at her own carefully equipped dressing-table modeled hygienically after that of the most luxurious beauty salon with its rose-tinted booths each containing a glass-topped dressing-table set forth with crystal bottles and ivory-celluloid toilette requisites kept scrupulously antiseptic like a surgeon’s table.

Step one – The Evening Bath.


The first principle — indeed the indispensable and absolute foundation for the beautifying of the person is the prosaic one of cleanliness. The order of the bath may be made as intricate and luxurious as one please. The hot tub may be softened and perfumed with bran, powders or crystals. Within easy reach is the long-handled brush which reaches the back, and the smaller ones for the twenty digits. For the face one chooses carefully the soap, unless she is wholly addicted to cold cream and the auxiliary astringent lotion. There are soaps with almond oil and glycerine, with sulphur, with vaseline, soaps antiseptic, borated, curative, stimulating and soothing, and perfumed with every known fragrance.

After her bath comes the cold spray, an invigorating rub with Turkish towel, a judicious spraying with one’s favorite perfume from a fine atomizer, and finally an allover dusting with bath powder.

Step Two – The Dressing Table.


Now for the dressing-table and its secret rites. Three times a day at least one performs her devotions there. There is the first morning session, when in clear, undeceiving daylight one takes stock of beauty assets and liabilities. One looks to see the work of the bleach cream put on the night before; a close inspection discloses the fact that the nose would be benefited by a judicious use of good pore-reducing cream and the mental note is made to acquire such that day. ‘The muscles about the eyelids may indicate a coming inclination to droop. Fortunately a special muscle oil may be had to build up the delicate tissues about the eyes. Yes indeed – a lady’s work is certainly cut out for a long night at her dressing table.

Step Three – The Beauty Salon Facial.


Beauty is no longer Heaven-sent. Following a regular routine in personal care and use of rightly selected beautifying agents, it puts itself democratically within the reach alike of headline society hostess and stenographer, moving picture star and telephone operator. A visit to the salon of beautifying finds one reclining in a low-backed Morris chair before yet another dressing table with a white-clad attendant deftly performing the rites.

First the face and neck are thoroughly gone over with a good cleansing cream, which is then wiped off with soft tissues made expressly for the purpose. Next an astringent lotion is applied on small pieces of antiseptic cotton, first soaked in water to make firm pads. The astringent tightens and closes the pores after the softening cream. Then, if there be need, a skin food, one of the new greaseless creams, is worked in by a gentle tapping process under trained fingers, stirring up circulation and creating a glow. There may be occasion also to use a pore cream, especially on the nose, for foreign substances the ordinary cleansing cream cannot at first remove. This is preferably applied at night on retiring. Perhaps the eye-brows need pruning and shaping. If one decide on a fine arched line, one must be prepared to encounter a half-stranger in the mirror.

Step Four – Applying Makeup.

History-of-Makeup---A-Lady's-Beauty-Routine-in-1916 - Applying makeup
History-of-Makeup—A-Lady’s-Beauty-Routine-in-1916 – Applying makeup

The skin food is also a foundation cream and serves to hold the powder smoothly. One is now ready to go as far as she likes with lip salve and rouge, eyebrow pencil, and perhaps a very tiny eyelash brush is used to darken the lashes with cosmetic. The most effective make-up is that of the invisible variety, and the individual studies this out for herself.

It is at night that restoratives are applied to work their good. The beauty sleep goes on with the beautifying agents aiding and abetting nature. The skin food puts in its efforts building up tissues, or an especially good bleach does its chore. First of course the face has been thoroughly cold-creamed to free the pores of the day’s grime. The eyelash and eyebrow grower, whether it be just Vaseline or a scientifically prepared cream, busies itself at this time.

When one seats oneself before the dressing-table for the purpose of preparing for public appearance, the process may be limited to the simple expedient of shaping up the eyebrows between thumb and finger or a pass at powdering the nose. But even she blessed of the gods with skin of peaches and cream, or lacking it entirely but endowed with an exemplary nature, must at times resort to defensive preparations against dust and wind. A good powder makes a far better covering for the pores than a coat of dust. One of the new powders combines ingredients which act also as a skin food. An excellent grease-less foundation cream is an adjunct for every dressing-table. It not only serves to hold the powder smoothly, but is a protection to be used in motoring and sailing.

If one go in for any of the retouching processes it is always advisable to contemplate oneself by a strong north light. This makes sure our friends do not see more of the work than is intended.

Transcription copyright Glamourdaze.com 2013.
Originally published in Photoplay – 1916
Many thanks to The Media History Project – for sourcing,scanning and preserving these wonderful articles.

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1 thought on “History of Makeup – A Lady’s Beauty Routine 1916.”

  1. What a cute little blog! It’s so much fun to read and it’s a thrill to see that there are some vintage blogs that talk about this stuff. My favorite is when you write about beauty routines of girls from the past. Like this post. It’s all about their routines.

    April – 15

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