The 20th Century Makeover (History of Makeup)
A short historical look back at the pioneers and influences that shaped today’s world of cosmetics.
At the beginning of the 1900s Victorian values abhorred makeup and associated its use with women of immoral characters. Any visible hint of tampering with one's natural colour would be looked upon with disdain. Homemade cosmetics had to be applied discretely based on foods such as oatmeal, honey and egg yolk.
Women who initially applied eyeliner were referred to as “vamps” an abbreviation for ‘vampires’.
The invention of photography and film catalysed the drive for better cosmetics to achieve the right on screen look; attitudes were influenced as pictures of celebrities with flawless complexions with sexual allure, changed standards of feminine beauty.
Movie stars proved to be the models for current trends in makeup. Who can forget Audrey Hepburn's captivating deeply outlined cat eyes.
Max Factor pioneered advances over theatrical makeup with his Pan-Cake makeup originally created to look natural on colour film, and in the 1920s marketed with flaw.
“Every girl could look like a movie star by using Max Factor® makeup.”
Mass marketing in the 1920s informed women that exercise, diet and the proper use of cosmetics and hair products could make them more attractive and improve their chances of bagging a husband.
There were however times when innovations experiments had dire consequences such as permanent lipstick tattoos.
During the World Wars with the absence of men in society a new breed of young liberated women emerged called ‘flappers’, who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to the new transatlantic Jazz music, and flaunted their disdain of socially acceptable behaviour. Flapper style influenced the cosmetics of the 1920s, embracing dark eyes, red lipstick, red nail polish and the suntan was devised as a fashion statement by Coco Chanel starting the tanning vogue.
In the past suntans had only been associated with agricultural workers, while fashionable socialites kept their skins as pale as possible.
In Asia, skin whitening continued to represent the ideal of beauty, as it does to this day.
The 1950s saw the increased marketing of skin tanning aids, following on the production of ‘leg makeup’ during World War II, developed in response to the shortage of stockings during the war.
In the post-war rationing era the cosmetics industry introduced cheaper ranges for girls who couldn’t afford the pre-war status brands by Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Max Factor in 1954 introduced Erace, the first commercial concealer. Smoothing out your complexion and add a spot of rouge then setting it all with Pond’s powder.
The 1970s followed the sexual revolution; cosmetics and advertising became less about achieving ladylike perfection and more about raw fun and getting down. Major market brands such as Outdoor Girl, Miners, Revlon offered glossy scintillating products for the disco girl. Shimmering brightly coloured eye shadows in greens, lilac or turquoise to catch those strobe lights accompanied with enormously long false eyelashes.
With the 1960s and the hippies came a more liberated makeup look, from white lips and Egyptian-lined eyes to painted images on faces. Until then lipstick had been the most important item in any woman’s cosmetic bag and no one felt dressed without bright red lips.
Beneath hugely emphasized eyes lips paled to insignificance. There also saw the growing popularity of both false eyelashes and ‘natural’ cosmetic products. ‘Natural’ products were those based on botanical ingredients like carrot juice and watermelon extract.
Applying foundation fell out of favour in place of acquiring a ‘healthy tan’, but if you weren’t careful your bronzing lotion had a tendency of turning you orange.
Cosmetics in the 1970s and 80s were divided into a "natural look" for day and a more sexualized image for evening.
Juicy lip-gloss has displaced the traditional lipstick as next generation lip-wear.
Today's trend seems to have reverted to a more natural look with a blending of styles from the past. With plethora of cosmetics to choose from getting ready has never been so baffling. But some things can be trusted to not have changed. The best-selling brand for budget cosmetics is still Rimmel.
You can apply foundation from a tube that matches perfectly to your skin using a sponge, unlike the tangerine powder cake of yesterday. Choose from a myriad of subtle eyeliner colours matching your eyes and enhance with Max Factor lash-lengthening mascara.
Whilst the long-standing Boots No7 range caused a sensation proving for once scientific claims can be true with their Protect & Perfect anti-aging cream.
What does the future hold? Coming full circle, developments in High-Definition film and television and advances in vapourised formulations herald a new age for airbrush applied makeup. The ultimate flawless finish, light and comfortable, lasts longer without smudging. This breakthrough will undoubtedly become as sought after by all and not just by Hollywood stars.