The History of 1950s Makeup

The main influencers for 1950s makeup were the film stars, including Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Doris Day, and Elizabeth Taylor. These ladies continued to have a strong impact on styles and a great influence on the common people. Additionally, Betty Grable and swimmer Esther Williams were also there as influencers. 

A Little History of 1950s Makeup

In 1950, after World War II, the cosmetic makeup industry exploded with grand brand names, knocking out the smaller brands in the makeup business for several decades. Everything changed in the 1950s, including new cars, new appliances, modern style clothing – that was way different from the practical standards. 

If we compare 1940s look, ‘50s makeup has refined the feminine beauty. The 1940s era constituted a natural, minimal makeup look. On the other hand, new colors, exaggerated eyes, and defined beauty was the trend for 1950s women. 

The women of 1950 had complete freedom to follow the styling trends and match their lips, eyeshadows to whatever they want like purses, shoes, hats, etc. they were no longer bound to choose colors that complemented their skin and hair color. Hence new sculpted faces emerged in the ‘50s decade.

Women who work outdoors were the biggest buyers of 1950s makeup as makeup was not just about attracting husbands but was used to be eye candy in a crowd. 

Keep in mind the “true makeup trend of the 1950s” belonged only to upper-class women. While the middle-class gentry still naturally used minimal makeup.

Women’s Classic 1950s Makeup Look

Women of the decade used creams and liquid foundations, setting them up with a dry powder, and then using on to their cheeks a pink-colored blush or rouge. Rouge was not the main feature of 1950s makeup, but it was used only to give a softer, warmer look to the face.

Moreover, defined eyebrows were the trend, paired with a subtle eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, and mascara (to define their original upper eyelash). The eyebrows were made a shade darker than the original tone. Also, eyebrows were arched and penciled for a defined look. It was then essential to emphasize the eyes while maintaining a natural look. 

The most beloved trend was the red-colored lipstick, lined with different shades of pink.

Renowned Makeup Brands of 1950

Because of World War II and its restrictions, cosmetic products were unavailable. Now that the control was over the cosmetic market flourished. The newly launched products were of better quality and had a wide range of colors.

The extravagant cosmetic market was abandoned, and the whole business was then led by fierce opponents Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. They came up with a vast range of skincare preparations with widely-priced ingredients.

The leading brand for inventions was Max Factor. They invented everyday products that every other woman wanted to use. Also, in 1954, Max Factor launched the first retail concealer, a meat-colored stick called Grace.

Another leading brand for health and beauty products, Boots, relaunched its No.7 range, which vanished during the war. 

Avon, a multinational cosmetic company, started selling their products by demonstrating during its rounds at people’s homes.

1950s Makeup Items

1. Foundation

After the night cream is washed off, a layer of foundation is applied. The 1950s foundation typically had a warm color, with a peach or pink base. Ladies always wore the foundation that matched their skin complexion the best, rather than trying to look fair or tanned.

The Max Factor standard, Pan-cake, was the most popular during the 1950s, with a record of selling tens of millions within a decade. Also, the Crème Puff, invented in 1953, was a success as it provides a two-in-one application by offering an easy way to apply foundation and powder together in one stroke.

2. Face Powder

After the application of foundation, a face powder is used to set it well. This step was done with the help of a powder puff. Once the powder is applied on the face with a puff, a face brush or cotton pad is used to wipe away the excess powder.

3. Rouge

Rouge was not the essential feature of 1950s makeup. It was used to warm up the face and add a bit of a soft glow. It was applied to the cheeks and forehead. Additionally, it can be applied to contour the cheekbones. For example, in 1950, the oval was considered the ideal shape for a face. If women had other face shapes like round, square, heart, or diamond-shaped, there were several tricks using rouge to contour their faces into the illusion of an oval. 

Back then, it came in different shade colors of pink, reds, and corals. The powdered rouge was applied after the dusting of face powder, while the creamy or liquid rouge was applied in dots all over the face before powder and after foundation application.

The core reason for a rogue (blush) was to add a healthy glow to the skin and not to have a rosy painted face.

4. Eye Shadow

The subtle, light, and natural look of eye shadow changed in the mid-1950s. The women were encouraged to wear colorful eyeshadows matching their shoes, handbags, dresses, etc. 

The popular eye shadow colors in 1950 were purple, violet, ice blue, silver, light or dark green, and gold. It was the trend back then to match shadow to eye color during the daytime. While at night, a tint of silver for light eyes and gold for darker eyes was used.

Eye shadow can be in powder form or liquid cream texture. A slight application was made, and generally, only one color was used on the upper eyelid. It was applied with a pinky finger. 

5. Eye Liner

During the early 1950s, the doe-eyed wing liner look was in trend but later on, by the middle of the decade, the trend modified to cat eye with a longer but thinner liner look.

Black eyeliner was generally recommended for women with black or dark brown hair. Whereas the brown eyeliner was for blonde or redhead ladies.

The 1950s fashion emphasized the eyes, so back then, various colored eyeliners were available. The color variety mainly included the basic blacks, browns, greys, blues, greens, and purples.

Eyeliner could be worn on the lower eyelid, too but was not in fashion.

6. Eyebrows

The ideal look of the 1950s was well-defined eyebrows. The in-trend look consisted of a long arch and a decent thickness that narrowed at the ends. The thickness depended on personal choices, but thin eyebrows were no longer fashionable. The eyebrows were filled with a brow pencil for a more defined shape. The same was used to enhance the length of brows.

The eyebrows could be arched depending on the shape of the face:

  • A deep, high arch was for round/square-shaped faces
  • Natural arch for oval faces
  • Minimal straight arch for long faces
  • The arch following the angle of an eye was for almond-shaped eyes

7. Lipstick

In 1950s makeup, lips were a dominant feature, and amongst many different shades, red was the superior lipstick color choice. Pink and coral colors were also used. Red lipstick came in a number of tones, ranging from blue-based colors to lighter, orange-based shades. Until the end of 1950, beige lipstick started to grow in popularity. 

Against the trend of the last three decades, 1950s styling involved applying the lipstick shade to the natural lips shape and not fake a particular in-trend shape. The matte lipsticks were used in combination with a shine or shimmer using a lip pomade product or simple Vaseline.

The lipstick was applied by first using a lip brush to draw the outline, then the lips were painted with the desired lip color. Lips were then pressed against each other for even distribution. The extra color was taken off using a tissue. For long-lasting effects, a light powder was tapped, which was then again coated with a lip gloss.

Matte lipstick was more dominant than the glossy lip color look.

8. Nail Polish

Nail polish manufacturers launched their nail enamel colors by coordinating with lipstick trends. Therefore, the shades were similar to lipstick shades, i.e., red, pink, and corals.

9. Mascara

At the beginning of the 1950s, mascara came mainly in two colors: black and brown. The eyelashes were topped with mascara of the same color as that of eyeliner. But later in the decade, many more adventurous colors were invented, like navy blue, emerald green, grey, pistachio, and violet. 

Back then, mascara needed activation with a little warm water. Or they came in the form of squeeze tubes containing a creamy paste, which was applied with an application brush.

The design of eyelash curler was improvised in 1950 with a cushion on crimps. Now the women were able to curl with ease.

How to Get a 1950s Makeup Look

Follow these steps to try a 1950s makeup trend:

  • Master your base
  • Define your brows
  • Paint your eyelids
  • Use your eyeliner
  • Coat your lashes with mascara
  • Tint your lips 


The 1950s was all about becoming more prominent – be it by wearing long floral skirts, skin-tight beach clothes, or attractive makeup. The makeup items of the 1950s are the same that we use today, but they became fancier and useful. Now, ladies can find a wide variety of cosmetics depending on their liking. 

Interestingly, women of that era didn’t even have many choices for makeup items, but still, they managed to look perfect.