1930's hairstyles & makeup

Updated March 23, 2017

Fashion in the 1930s was heavily influenced by the glamorous goddesses of the silver screen, and make-up and hair were not immune to its siren call. Actresses like Greta Garbo, Jean Harlowe and Mae West exemplified style and sophistication with their carefully sculpted yet touchable waves, arched eyebrows and defined lips. Replicating 1930s make-up and hairstyles can give a little zip to your everyday beauty routine.


Impeccable skin was the starting point for every 1930s face. Skin was preferably pale, though a surge in women's participation in athletics made tan skin more acceptable (and popular) as the decade wore on. Brows were heavily plucked into a thin, high, dramatic arch. While coloured eye shadows were en vogue, most advertisements from the 1930s show bare lids save for a line of black eyeliner on the top lid, accompanied by multiple coats of black mascara. Lips were defined with precision, with little additional emphasis outside the mouth's natural contours. Red was a popular colour, as were more dramatic wines and browns. Blush was used, typically in pinks and reds.

Women's Hairstyles

Glamorous, touchable waves were popular among 1930s fashionistas, as were elaborate sculptural updos. While hair of the 1920s lay close to the head and strove for an overall look of androgyny, hair in the 1930s exploded into a celebration of femininity. Finger waves were both fashionable and budget friendly. Upswept hair was popular, especially accented by large curls and plenty of volume. When worn down, hair was teased into voluminous waves. Shine was important -- rumour had it movie star Marlene Dietrich demanded that real gold dust be sprinkled in her wigs to make them shimmer on film. Most women, however, were content to use products like Brillantine for the sheen they desired.

Men's Hairstyles

Men were just as fashionable as women when it came to hairstyles. A reliable barber was essential to the well-dressed man, and frequent haircuts were needed to keep hair neat and closely groomed. While men's hair was short overall, many grew it out at the front and top of the head, combing the longer pieces straight back and slicking them down with Brillantine or other hair oils. The younger and more dapper gentleman might part his hair straight down the middle. Sideburns were rare, as was facial hair.

It's All in the Details

For an authentic 1930s look, add blush or rouge to your ear lobes when applying your make-up. In a twist on today's French-tipped manicure, many fashionable 1930s ladies would apply light pink nail polish to approximately half of the nail, leaving the cuticle bed and natural tips exposed.

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About the Author

Hailing from California, Ann Mazzaferro is a professional writer who has written for "The Pacifican," "Calliope Literary Magazine" and presented at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Mazzaferro graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of the Pacific.