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Refined Female Beauty of the 1950s

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The 1950s brought about an economic ‘boom’. War had ended and the economy had finally recovered, with this the cosmetic industry was at its best. 50s makeup reflected “a change in attitude from the simple make do days of the 1940s to the refined feminine beauty of the fifties” (‘Authentic 1950s Makeup History and Tutorial’, 2016). This period gave birth to many beauty icons including Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

Face and Complexion

Foundation would be matched as closely as possible to their natural skin tone. Sometime women wore one shade darker. Foundations had a pink undertone so women would often use two different shades of foundation to adjust their shade – in an attempt to contour. In the 1950s, pan cake was a really popular option for women. This was made by Max Factor and “in 1953, the introduction of the creme puff was very successful” (Team, 2014). This gave women an easy way to apply foundation and powder. After foundation was applied, powder was dabbed onto the face to cover any shiny areas and set the base. Any excess would be brushed away with a powder brush.


By the start of the 50s, rouge was out of fashion. The trend that was seen a necessity from the 1700s was no longer needed to complete the look. “If any rouge was used, it was for contouring the cheekbones” (‘Authentic 1950s Makeup History and Tutorial’, 2016). The minority of people who still preferred a touch of rouge, applied it to the top of their cheekbones and blended it up into the temple. For those who had defined cheekbones, they skipped this step. A lighter shade of rouge was used if wearing under artificial lighting.


Eyeshadow came in a small range of colors, including purple, blue, silver, gold, green and teal. All of which could be matched to purses, outfits, curtains and shoes. During daytime, many preferred to match their eyeshadow with their eye color and during the evening, gold was added to darker eyes and silver was added to lighter colored eyes. This was because it was thought to be more classy and elegant. Eyeshadow was applied with a finger and came in different forms. Shadow was available in liquid, powder and also crème to create a smoother application. Generally, only one shade was used on the eyes at a time. Teens were advised to apply a thin layer of Vaseline onto their lids during the day for a natural looking effect.


The eyeliner trend ben in the late 1940s with women lining their top lash line to give a thicker more defined look. However, in the 50s, eyeliner was taken a step further by the addition of a wing. This type of liner was described as “The doe eyed wing tip” (‘Authentic 1950s Makeup History and Tutorial’, 2016). By 1954, liner became longer and thinner and was named ‘the cat eye look’. “Black was recommended for black or dark brown-haired ladies, while brown eyeliner was better for blonds and redheads” (‘Authentic 1950s Makeup History and Tutorial’, 2016). Eyeliner was a way of adding glamour to a woman’s eyes and was a way to create a more heavy eye makeup look.


Block mascara was still used in the 50s. This was activated with a drop of warm water and applied with a little brush. However, “Creamy mascara in a tube with a wand appeared in the 1950s” (Team, 2014). Black and brown were the two most used mascara colors. In addition to this, brighter colors were made. This included purple, green, blue and grey. ‘Kurlash’ – an eyelash curler from the 20s was improved to make it more comfortable when curling eyelashes. An added cushioning on the crimpers helped to do this.

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“Well defined eyebrows were the iconic look of the 1950s” (‘Authentic 1950s Makeup History and Tutorial’, 2016). Eyebrow pencil was a favored product amongst women for their brows. This is because they would tweeze away unwanted hairs or create a thin shape to their brows and then draw back hair like strands with the pencil. This way women were able to draw on their desired arch shape. “The fashionable 1950s brow consisted of a strong arch and a decent thickness that tapered out at the ends. The thickness varied from medium to very thick, but skinny brows were definitely no longer in” (Team, 2014). Many also extended the end of their brows.


Lipstick was one of the most important features of the 1950s look. Women no longer overdrew their lips and they gradually became a thinner, more natural shape. Red was still the most popular choice of color however; this came in many shades. Pink and coral colors also became popular. Lipsticks were matte and “after application, lips were pressed together and then blotted with a tissue before applying the final layer. A little face powder could be used to set the lipstick after the first application” (Team, 2014). Vaseline could be added to the lips to add a sheen or gloss. In 1950, the first long – lasting lipstick was produced. This was named the ‘no smear lipstick’ and was made by Hazel Bishop.


Hairstyles in the 50s complimented each person’s personality. Short hair could be seen mostly on housewives, whilst long hair was associated with Hollywood pin ups. The curly bob was a favorite amongst women. Lucile Ball was a wearer of this style. The Italian haircut was a short hairstyle that followed through until the end of the 50s. This was slightly longer than the curly bob and was sculpted with a side parting and volume all round. In 1957, the bouffant hairstyle was introduced. “Hair was set in large mesh rollers, backcombed/ teased to create height on the sides” (‘1950s Hairstyles – 50s Hairstyles from Short to Long’, 2018). The pixie cut was also a highly worn hairstyle. Audrey Hepburn debuted this look in 1953 in the film, ‘Roman Holiday’. The Pageboy hairstyle was one for women with medium length hair. This style had a side parting with sleek mid lengths and edges that curled underneath towards the neck. The Hollywood pin up was the favorite for long length hair. Rita Hayworth, June Haver and Betty Grable all wore this hairstyle. This consisted of “very full curls all over a sleek top with cascading curls to one side” (‘1950s Hairstyles – 50s Hairstyles from Short to Long’, 2018). Other styles involve using headbands and scarves as accessories, The Horse tail Ponytail, the Betty Page hairstyle, The French twist and Chignon.

Influences on Makeup and Fashion


An increase in signal coverage was seen post war in the 1950s, because of this, most of the country could watch tv. Tv stars such as John Wayne, James Stewart, Julie Newmar and Jane Russel were influential to the public as tv shows presented a range of new ideas.

Film Stars

Similarly to 1920s, the public and recent trends, especially in makeup, were guided by film stars. The most prominent women in the 1950s were Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Dorothy Dandridge and Doris Day. Betty Grable was also amongst those who influenced many.

Wartime Restrictions

During the war makeup was expensive and was really difficult to find. Products such as shampoo, soap, mascara, Vaseline and alcohol were rationed. Rationing from the war had ended at the beginning of the 1950s and oppositely, the makeup and cosmetic business bloomed. As a result, there were much more products on the market to offer.


The 1950s saw the rise of the teenager. “Young people now had a disposable income” (Team, 2014). This meant that they could spend their weekly allowance on whatever they wanted. As a result, brands marketed their products towards teens. Products such as skin care cleansers were released, targeted at ‘teenage problems’ (Team, 2014). These brands influenced teens into wearing makeup, in order to gain a profit and become a larger, more dominant cosmetic brand.

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Refined Female Beauty of the 1950s. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“Refined Female Beauty of the 1950s.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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