Makeup Looks From the 1950s

Makeup Looks From the 1950s

The golden age of makeup, the 1950s was a great time for women to express themselves through makeup. It was then that many of the modern-day makeup companies made their mark on the makeup world. It’s no surprise that many of the go-to looks of the 1950s are now making a huge comeback in modern makeup fashion.

Color Pallets

If you enjoy experimenting with makeup or dolling yourself up for a night out on the town, chances are, you’ve seen a color pallet. Color pallets were extremely popular in the 1950s, giving women the ability to pick and choose colors of eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick that would best suit their complexion, eye, and hair color. 

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Blonde Hair Color Palette: 

Blonde hair color pallets ranged greatly from blues, neutrals, and rosy pinks. These colors popped against fair complexions most associated with blonde hair during the 1950s. 

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RedHead Color Palette: 

Redheads were suggested to wear rich colors such as purples, blues, reds, and greens that all complimented the different tones of natural red hair. 

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Brunette Color Palette: 

A mixture of blonde and redhead palettes, brunettes were able to get away with almost any color palette available. It was usually suggested that they use reds, pinks, deep neutrals, pinks, and even greens and blues. 

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Of course, color palettes were mostly a suggestion to help women pick the perfect shade to complement their overall look. That didn’t mean that women were pigeon-holed into selecting from a tight range of colors, no, they had many they could choose from.  Some of the most popular colors were set in pastels such as pinks, greens, blues, and yellows. Pink hues and other pastels were all go-to color schemes both in the home and in makeup. 

Bright vibrant red lipstick, winged eyeliner, and thick coats of mascara were also all the rage in the 1950s. 

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1950s Makeup Brands: 

Many of the makeup brands we know and love today have roots in vintage fashion, the 1950s is no different. While there were many different brands that vyed for customer’s attention, there were a few stand-out companies that became extraordinarily popular during the 50s. 

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Max Factor

Max Factor was one of the key makeup companies that started experimenting with creating suitable makeup for the new technicolor film technology. They were best known for their pan stik that became popular for actors, actresses, and every-day women. 


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Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder, founded in 1946 in New York was a skincare line with only a handful of products available for purchase. However, in the 1950s when they expanded, they were the first-ever company to give free samples and a gift with the purchase of their products. They were known to give away free miniature rouges, lipsticks, face creams, and shadows.  

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Created in 1932 by a chemist and two brothers, Revlon started with just one product, nail enamel which soon became a popular household name and remains so today. However, in the 1950s, they expanded to include lipsticks in different shades every six months to entice women to purchase lipstick more frequently. 

Much like modern PR, Revlon often asked questions of their customers to ensure that lipstick they offered suited their needs.  

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Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden, known best by the 5th Avenue salon with a bold red door was a brand that expanded to offer a complete line of cosmetics in the 1950s. They offered a huge line of lipsticks with matching nail polish. 

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Rimmel played a huge role in the revolution of mascara. While the brand has changed hands several times throughout the years, their brand is still sold today. 

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Maybelline was a powerhouse in the 1940s and 1950s. They introduced iridescent eyeshadow sticks along with liquid eyeliner in the 1950s. However, their biggest feat was the invent of magic mascara, featuring a spiral brush in the tube instead of the cake mascaras of the past.

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Key Makeup Elements and How They Were Used

Like any other decade, the 1950s had its own key elements in fashion and makeup. Some of the go-to makeup items of the 50s are: 

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Pale was in, in the 1950s. A cream ivory base paired with a cream or liquid foundation was used to create the perfect complexion. 

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Powders were used to help set foundations, much like they are today. The key difference is that these powders were often flesh-colored to offer a maximum smoothing effect. 


Eyeshadows came in many different colors, however, it was important that no matter the color, it was subtle.

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Doe-eye or winged eye-liner became all the rage in the 1950s. While it may take a steady hand to perfect, it was a great way to elongate the eye with a sultry silhouette. 

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Mascara was a key component to any makeup look in the 1950s. With the invention of tube mascara, it was easier to create a subtle look with mascara applied to the upper lashes after curling them. 

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Rouge or Blush

Rouge, now known as blush, was used to add a little color back into the cheeks after the application of foundation. Typically rouge was worn in subtle pink hues. 


Lipstick colors ranged from bright red to pinks, oranges, and coral.  Women often had a shade for every season or outfit. Typically women of the 1950s followed their natural lip-line, but, would sometimes round out the peaks and extend the corner of the lips into a slight smile. 

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Pulling It All Together

When creating a 1950s makeup look, you’ll want to go for the less is more approach with modern makeup technologies. 

To start you’ll want to use a natural shade of foundation, closest to your natural skin tone, cream or liquid foundations work best for this look, but, your go-to foundation would still work. Remember, the key to 1950s makeup is to keep it natural. 

Once your foundation is set, use rouge high on your cheeks. It should go no lower than the tip of your nose.

The 1950s look included fuller eyebrows with a prominent arch at the end, a dewy eye look with light eyeshadow, winged liner, and mascara on the top lashes.

Finish off your look with full yet natural lips, rounding out any harsh points in the lip-line and broaden your smile by extending your lip-corners slightly. 

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The 1950s were a wonderfully creative time for makeup, manufacturers broadened the scope of what your every-day woman could use to express herself. We should all be grateful for the influences the 1950s had on modern-day makeup. Which color palette suits you best?
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