History of Makeup

History of Makeup

The History of 20th Century Makeup – The Classic Eras

A concise and lavishly illustrated history of women’s vintage makeup looks, styles and famous brands, from 1900 to 1970. Where to buy classic vintage makeup era cosmetics today.

If you love makeup, you’ll love scrolling through these rare galleries of colorful images from classic makeup eras. Who invented lipstick? Learn how a young woman named Mabel singed her eyelashes and invented mascara as a solution.

Read about great cosmetic innovators – like Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Hollywood makeup guru Max Factor and the impact they had on women across the world. Also find links to rare vintage makeup tutorials and downloadable guides.

Max Factor at work in 1935

Max Factor’s Makeup Tutorial Film in 1935

Click on the Image Links below or navigate from the navigation menu – to read the history of women’s makeup styles, famous brands and beautiful original image galleries from 1900 to 1969 .

Scroll down below these image links to read a summary of makeup history and our recommended vintage style makeup brands today !

1900s-to-1919-makeup-banner - Shop for 1910's style makeup
History of Makeup 1900 to 1919
1920s-makeup-Where to buy 1920's style flapper makeup today
History of makeup – 1920’s. Where to buy 1920’s style flapper makeup today
1930's makeup history - Where to buy 1930's style makeup today
History of makeup – 1930’s. Where to buy 1930’s style makeup today
1940's makeup history - Where to buy 1940's style makeup today
1940’s makeup history – Where to buy 1940’s style makeup today
1950’s makeup history – Where to buy 1950’s style makeup today
1960s-makeup-Shop for 1960's style makeup
1960’s makeup history – Where to buy 1960’s style makeup today

Vintage Makeup Tutorials

vintage makeup tutorial books

For beautiful original vintage makeup guides from the 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s and the 1950’s. Visit Vintage Makeup Guides.

 A History of 20th Century Makeup – Summary

Cosmetic use by American women during the first decade of the 20th century amounted to just one in five, including any basic toiletry, let alone face makeup. However between 1910 and 1929 – just 20 years, that figure reached over 70% of American women, black or white. This extraordinary change in women’s feminine perception of themselves was undoubtedly fueled by Capitalist mass production and advertising, but also by women’s increasing fight for independence and freedom.

Makeup in the Titanic Era


In the 1910’s, the increasing numbers of middle class and working women chose to kit themselves with pots of rouge which served
a multipurpose during an average day. Rouge was applied subtly to lips, cheeks and forehead. The idea of ‘choice’ in brands, scents and shades really kicked off after the First World War, with the advent of Hollywood and the spell which actresses such as Theda Bara and Lillian Gish cast over women, the world over.

Makeup of the 1920’s


Kohl eye-shadow: use out of necessity to emphasize actresses eyes ( as in theater) now became an acceptable form of feminine enhancement, and brands such as Max Factor, Maybelline and Revlon  soon had women spending over 1$ Billion dollars annually by 1922. By the end of the Roaring Twenties, women could choose from over 3000 face powders and several hundred rouges. One huge change in the criterion for wearing makeup by the early 20th century was a persons ‘gender’.


In past eras, it was quite common for men to be feminine if they chose, and the wearing of makeup in the courts of Europe was extremely common, even by the early 19th century.

Makeup in the 1940’s and 1950’s

But by 1930 – cisgender women had dominion over makeup.The wearing or not wearing of makeup is now a choice made by many transgender men and women, as a declaration of their true gender identity.


The rise of consumerism in the 1930’s continued to link appearance and femininity with the need for beauty products and women happily embraced the idea. By the war years of the 1940’s, the papers wrote regularly of the ‘fears’ of women losing their femininity’ by having to take on ‘men’s work’ and furthermore went on to praise women who managed somehow to ‘remain glamorous’ whilst assembling lethal bombs to be dropped on the enemy.

A-female-member-of-Air-Raid-Precautions-staff-applies-her-lipstick-between-emergency-calls - IWM

One of the few cosmetic items to avoid rationing was a girls trusty lipstick. this was considered by both men and women in all sides of the conflict as ‘necessary to maintain national morale’. A Tangee cosmetics advert in 1943 wrote that “A women’s lipstick is an instrument of personal morale that helps her to conceal heartbreak or sorrow”


By the 1950’s, over 90% of women used lipsticks and rouge, and this was a reflection in many ways of the expanding middle classes
in the western world.the habit of ‘making up’ was now so firmly ingrained in the psyche of a woman , that she felt ‘undressed’ if she went outside her home without a splash of cosmetics on her face – at least a rub of lipstick and a pat of powder -my dear!

Swinging 1960’s Makeup

Pattie Boyd - 1960s makeup look
1960s makeup look

The 1960’s gave women a new sense of self. The 1960s gave women the miniskirt. She could create her own specific look rather than adhere to the dictations of Paris. So too with makeup. But like any era, the makeup look of the 60’s had its own unique style. Lips took second place to eyes. Mascara and false eyelashes paired with paler lipsticks was in stark contrast to the previous decade.

This idea of feminine self expression has essentially remained ever since. The story of makeup is an entertaining one, which conjures up feelings and images of femininity and glamour which will forever find appeal in the evolving human race.

© 2013 – Stevie McGlinchey – Glamourdaze.com
Published 29/5/2013

Vintage makeup - Besame Cosmetics
Our recommended purveyor of classic vintage makeup. Besame Cosmetics.

Further Reading:

A Concise History of Fashion – 1900 to 1919
Concise History of Fashion – 1920 to 1929
A Concise History of Fashion – 1940 to 1949
History of fashion – Head to Toe.
History of makeup -wiki.
Fashion Era – History of Cosmetics.
Classic Beauty – History of makeup
Cosmetics and Skin

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