The History of Makeup in the 50s

Written by kathryn stanley
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The History of Makeup in the 50s
Make-up of the 1950s reflected the female housewife and male breadwinner lifestyle of the era. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

For make-up, the 1950s emphasised the importance of being flawless, glamorous and bold. Women of the 1950s wore bright make-up to make a statement. Film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day were very influential for women in the 50s, which can be seen in magazines, newspapers, and photographs from the time period.

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Foundation became widely used in the 1950s with the invention of "Pan Cake." The foundation was intentionally designed to imitate what was being seen at the cinema on the big screen. The 1950s were a time of obsession over perfection. It is for this reason that Max Factor invented this foundation during this decade. Women applied foundation to cover imperfections and neutralise their skin tone. Many used it as a sort of base: once their face was entirely covered in foundation and looked flawless, they were then ready to use other make-up.


The explosion of colour motion pictures in the film industry replaced black and white films and heavily influenced the make-up of women in the 1950s. Suddenly, women were able to see that the lipstick that film stars wore on screen was bright, cherry red. Make-up in the 1950s became all about emulating what was seen on the screen. In order to tone down the brightness of make-up, titanium was added to make-up products towards the end of the 1950s. Until then, however, most women featured cherry-coloured lips at any time of day and for any occasion big or small.


To achieve that glamorous look seen on the big screen, women paired red blush with their cherry red lipstick. Rosy cheeks were considered very attractive in the 1950s. Two thick circles were applied to the cheeks directly below the cheekbone. After applying a coat of foundation to the entire face, the intent with the blush was to add a bit more colour back to the face, and to do so in a way that was flawless.

Eye Makeup

The eyes were just as crucial of an element as the lips for women in the 1950s. Women used black liquid eyeliner to create a thick, bold line that extended to the outer tip of their eyes. Eyelids were generally left neutrally toned, but eyelashes were very much played up. Women often applied two coats of thickening black mascara to their eyelashes. Eyebrows were filled in with a dark brown pencil to make them look thicker and fuller.

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