4000 Yrs of Makeup: The Evolution of Makeup

Understanding the origins and evolution of makeup is essential to understanding how makeup has evolved. In your career as a makeup artist, you will reference period makeup often. Read on to learn more about the evolution of beauty trends over time. 

Early Makeup – The Egyptians

The first recorded use of cosmetics dates back to 3000 BC during the first Egyptian dynasty. Makeup was used by the upper class to “decorate” a person’s eyes and set them apart from the lower classes. During this time, both men and women of the upper class wore makeup daily. 

The first makeup colors to be widely used were black and green. Black and green eyeshadows were made using mined lead and copper ores. The Egyptians also used makeup called “kohl” to outline the eyes in an almond shape. Kohl has a powder consistency and was applied using a small stick. 

Victorian Era Makeup

The Victorian Era lasted from 1837 to 1901. During this time, cosmetic use was linked to female actresses and prostitutes. People cherished the natural skin color, and any makeup that altered that natural color was frowned upon. 

During this time, women began to tweeze their eyebrows, massage castor oil into their eyelashes, and use rice powder to dust their noses. They also used beet juice or pinched their cheeks to make them rosier. Clear pomade was used to give the lips a glossy sheen. 

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that makeup became more socially accepted and began to gain popularity. This popularity led to the availability of the first commercial cosmetics. 

Makeup in the 1920s

During the 1920s, society increasingly focused on the sexual beauty of women. As women entered the professional world, they were encouraged to wear makeup to compete against men for jobs. 

A specific, heavily made-up look defined cosmetics in the 1920s. Lips were painted in the shape of a cupid’s bow, eyes were rimmed with kohl, and cheeks were brushed with bright red blush. 

The 1920s is often revered today and plays a vital part in fashion, hair, makeup, and pop culture. Many key aspects of makeup from the 1920s still exist in makeup trends today. 

Makeup Products of the 1920s

Lipstick became popular after the metal lipstick container was invented. Lipsticks were available in salve, liquid, and stick forms, but long-lasting stains were the most popular. “Natural” lipgloss was invented using Bromo acid to create a red effect as it reacted with the skin. Flavored lipstick was also popular, and cherry was the most popular flavor. 

Blush evolved significantly during the 1920s, replacing the messier blushes of the past with creams, powders, liquids, and rouge papers. Powder blushes grew more popular after the invention of spill-proof containers and the compact. 

Mascara also evolved during this time. Many women accomplished darker, fuller lashes using common household products like petroleum jelly mixed with soot or coal. Women then applied this dark gel to the lashes with a fine brush. By the mid-1920s, mascara was available in cake, tube, wax, and liquid form and applied with a brush. 

Eyeshadow was used to keep the eyes dark. First, the whole eye would be edged and blurred with a black kohl eyeliner. Next, the eyelid was painted in dark gray, turquoise, or green. 

Finally, it was popular to ink eyebrows using black or brown eyeliner. The eyebrows of the 1920s were often very thin, dark, and downward sloping. 

1950s Makeup Trends

As in previous decades, women took beauty inspiration from the decade’s big screen and movie starlets. With the explosion of color from the motion pictures in the 1950s, women were now fully able to see the makeup that stars were wearing. 

Advertisements for major makeup brands like Max Factor, Revlon, and Elizabeth Arden also helped increase the popularity of makeup. The 1950s was, without a doubt, the age of glamour. Many of the makeup looks in the 1950s defined the era. 

1950s Makeup Products

Women in the 1950s began to use more foundation cream. They then used a flesh color setting powder to set it. 

Eye makeup was more minimal, with little eyeshadow applied. Colors stayed warm and earthy. All eyeshadows were matte texture. Mascara, on the other hand, grew increasingly dramatic. The look of fuller, more luxurious lashes carried into the 1950s from the 1940s. 

By the mid-1950s, winged or cat eyeliner was a crucial part of the makeup looks of the decade. Commercial eyeliner on the market was available in pencil, liquid, and gel forms. The possibilities for winged eyeliner were endless – changing the length, thickness, or color changed the appearance of the eye and the rest of the makeup dramatically. 

Eyebrows in the 1950s mainly were thicker in the inner corner and then tapered out to a clean point. The inner corner could be either rounded or squared. A gradually rounded eyebrow was very popular. It was common to take what eyebrow you had, tweeze it to a clean line, and then use a pencil to darken in and possibly thicken the brow. 

Lip shapes in the 1950s, for regular women, followed the basic shape of the natural mouth. In Hollywood, they began to taper the fall from the peak to the outer corner for a droop that almost mimicked a pleasant, innocent smile. Sultry movie stars like Marilyn Monroe were over-drawing their top lip for a fuller look. Hues of red, dark red, and blue-red were trendy. 

Makeup in the 1960s

The 1960s was a youth-oriented decade. The “baby boomers” were coming of age and defined the decade as their own. 

The feminist movement re-emerged in the sixties and was primarily focused on equality for all and the end of discrimination. Some feminists viewed makeup as objectifying women as sex objects and wore very little. Others embraced makeup and wore it as a badge of honor. 

Makeup looks were at both ends of the scale, from the natural look of the hippies to the dramatic black and white eyes of mod high-fashion, with pastel colors making their mark on the masses. 

The start of the 1960s saw a continuation of the 1950s makeup looks, with a flicked upper eyeliner, matte eyeshadows in greys, greens, and blues, and lipsticks ranging from red to corals and pink. 

A few years later, the distinctive dark eyeshadow crease of the 1960s came in, matched with pale lips and pastel colors. False lashes were also incredibly popular. 

1960s high-fashion makeup became all about the eyes. The rest of the face was kept soft and natural, pale and understated. 

Modernist Style

The modernist style, often called “mod,” peaked between early 1964 and mid-1967. During this time, youth-oriented television shows, magazines, and films united young people worldwide. The love for bold geometric patterns and black and white spilled over into the white eyeshadow and black crease look. 

1960s Makeup Products

The distinctive mod look, black eyeshadow line in the crease with a pale white eyelid, was exemplified by 1960s supermodel Twiggy on the cover of many magazines. The dark crease line was left as a sharp line, not blended or smudged. Powder eyeshadows were matte, but eye crayons and liquid eye makeup in a tube were also available. Compacts with several different eye makeup colors were also now available. 

Eyebrows were groomed, shaped, and defined with a brow pencil. The thickness of the brow and the amount of pencil used varied widely. 

Eyeliner looks continued from the 1950s. The upper eye line was in vogue, flicked out and up at the ends. Eyeliner came in pencil, cake, and liquid formats in various colors. 

Fake eyelashes were highly popular in the 1960s, especially starting in 1964. Fake lashes were worn on both the upper and lower lashes. They came either on a long strip that you cut to length or as individual sets in various styles.

Pastel colors like corals, pinks, and peach were the most fashionable blush colors. Applying blush to more than just the cheeks started in about 1963 and was intended to create a natural glow to the face. Color was often added to the temples, hairline, and under the jaw to add warmth and soft definition. 

Lipsticks were mainly matte, though women could use Vaseline to add a sheen if desired. Corals, pinks, and peach were the most fashionable lipstick colors. The mouth was kept understated and naturally defined. 

1970s Makeup Trends

Like the 1960s, the seventies was a diverse decade for makeup looks. The early 1970s was a continuance of the “flower power” natural look of the 60s. The late 70s started to see more glam. 

During the 70s, the makeup needs of women of color started to be recognized, and more women of color were used in advertising. New makeup brands made just for women of color were launched, like Fashion Fair Cosmetics which debuted in 1973. 

In 1974, Vogue was the first mainstream magazine to feature a black model, Beverly Johnson, on the front cover. 

1970s Makeup Products

The 1970s were defined by three eye looks: natural and barely there, soft and smoky, bold and garish. 

The eye crease of the 1960s continued into the 70s for some makeup looks but was blended to create a soft depth and a cat-like or almond shape. There were no unblended lines in 1970s makeup. Many women didn’t use a crease, just one main color all over the lids, with an optional lighter shade under the brow. 

Eyeshadow finishes could be matte or have a pearlescent sheen to them. The industry used words like “frost” or “velvet” to describe these products. 

Eyeliner wasn’t always worn by those who favored a natural look. Eyeliner came in pencil and liquid forms with an applicator. White eyeliner worn directly behind black eyeliner on the upper eyelid was popular with some younger women and teenagers, a twist on the mod look of the 1950s. 

Mascara was worn on both upper and lower lashes. Depending on the individual’s tastes, it could be heavily coated on or applied softly to give a barely-there look. False eyelashes could still be worn, but they were less common than in the 1960s. 

Fashionable eyebrows were on the thinner side in the 1970s. These thin, curved brows were reminiscent of the Art Deco skinny brow. 

Deep fruit colors like plums, mulberry, and cranberry became popular lip colors in the early 1970s. Pastels, peaches, and pinks were also worn throughout the decade. 

Red lips made a comeback in the 1970s, riding on a nostalgia trip that looked back to the mature glamour and sophistication of the 1940s and 1950s. 

Lipsticks with gloss and sheen were fashionable, and there was some experimentation with flavored lip products. Lips were sometimes lined with a pencil, but not heavily – no lip liner lines were visible. 

How can LMI help?

In your career as a makeup artist, you will reference period makeup often. Understanding the evolution of makeup over time is essential to understanding makeup artistry in its current form. At L Makeup Institute, we offer several classes to help you achieve your commercial artistry goals. Our goal is to help the makeup artists of tomorrow perfect their skills and gain hands-on experience to help them with their makeup careers. 

We offer a wide variety of training, including focused beauty makeup and special effects makeup classes, to help you explore your talents and learn impressive techniques. If you are ready to start your career as a makeup artist, reach out to L Makeup Institute today.

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