1920s makeup and cosmetics

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Among the many elements that define an era, make-up trends also change with time. From the sultry scarlet lips of the 1950s to the electric blue shadow of the 1980s, how people wore their make-up reflects a specific time and place in history. In the 1920s, women started using make-up as a public statement; previously, make-up was only used by women of questionable character. The liberated "flapper" became the symbol for women of that decade. Her make-up was distinct and meant to be seen.

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Dark Eyelids

Women in the 1920s often used kohl to outline their eyes. They also applied kohl on the entire lid--stopping at the crease lines--for an intense look. Pots of cream eye shadow became available during the decade; dark grey was the most often used, with dark green and even turquoise shades as options.

Ivory Skin

A light-coloured, porcelain-like skin tone was the ideal for 1920s women. To achieve this look, ivory-coloured powder was applied to the face. Unfortunately, skin lightening with bleach was also a popular trend in skincare, which had the capacity to damage the skin's overall quality. Many women suffered burns, scarring and sores in order to achieve a whiter complexion.


In previous years, women would use a mixture of vaseline and soot to create an ointment to darken their eyelashes. In 1917, the Maybelline company produced a cake mascara that came with a small brush. To apply the mascara, the brush was moistened and then rubbed across the cake. A woman would then brush the mascara on her eyelashes and eyebrows.


Elegant yet sexy, thinly drawn eyebrows brought the drama a 1920s woman looked for in her make-up. Many women plucked all of their eyebrow hairs and pencilled in perfect arches. Others plucked them into very thin lines. No matter which technique they used, slender, perfectly drawn eyebrows gave women a seductive yet classy look.

Lip Color and Rouge

To match the dramatic eye make-up, women in the 1920s opted for bright, bold lip colours. Popular hues were brownish red, dark red, crimson, plum and orange. Lips were also lined to create a voluminous pout and a perfect Cupid's bow. Lip colouring came in liquid, salve or stick form as well as an indelible stain, which was very popular. Natural-coloured lip glosses could be applied over the stain for a shimmering effect. Rouge for the cheeks came in powder, cream and liquid forms, as well as rouge papers, which could be moistened and then rubbed on the face.


A woman in the 1920s preferred to grow her nails long and applied white nail polish to the tips. This elegant nail look resembled today's French manicure. Another technique was referred to as "Paris Nails." A deep pink shade was applied to the edges of the nails, while the centre of the nail was painted a paler shade of pink.

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