Hair and Makeup Styles of the '50s

By Nancy Hayden

The cosmetic and hair care business really exploded to life in the '50s. Women and men began putting more time into their beautifying regime. More people than ever began emulating the movie star and musician hairstyles and makeup looks of the time that were highly glamorous and sophisticated.

Fashionable1950s Hairstyles

Graceful 1950s Ladies Hairstyles

The 1950s had a variety of very popular hairstyles for women. The 1950s ladies must have spent nearly half their life in their hair salon getting styled or purchasing hair product.

The poodle cut and bubble cut -- which was short all around and curly on top -- was commonly replicated. This was also Lucille Ball's signature look, so it's likely many "I Love Lucy" show fans mimicked her style. Hair styled with waves and a side part was common and worn by the likes of actresses Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, and Veronica Lake. It was a very elegant way of wearing one's hair. The pixie cut was a very short style that was simple and sweet in the '50s. Audrey Hepburn made the cut well known. Actresses Sophia Loren, Dorothy Dandridge and Elizabeth Taylor also wore their hair in a very short cut known as the Italian cut. This hairstyle had much more volume and curls on top then Hepburn's pixie cut. Curly or wavy hair with short length and volume was also very popular in the '50s. Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Eartha Kitt did various styles like this. Elegant updos were popularly styled in low chignons or high buns. Young teen girls sometimes wore their hair with teased full bangs and high ponytails. They'd occasionally adorn the ponytail with a ribbon or small colorful scarf. Pinup model style hair was also influential in the '50s. This consisted of long hair length with thick full bangs. The popular pinup model Bettie Page popularized this style. Chemical hair relaxers were introduced in the 1950s and many black women would use them or hair straightening in a salon to make their hair smooth to follow popular style. Hair coloring also became more commonly used in the 1950s thanks to advances in hair color products. Platinum blond, red, and gold or silver streaks were popular hair color style choices sold in the '50s.

Suave 1950s Men Hairstyles

Hairstyles for men in the 1950s favored pomade products and the use of styling combs, and were almost always short.

Pompadours were common for men. Pomade was used to create volume on top layers of hair. The sides were either trimmed very short or smoothed back. Actors James Dean and Marlon Brando wore this style, as did Elvis Presley. The ducktail greaser style involved applying pomade to hair, parting the hair on one side, and then slicking the hair back smoothly to create a line where all the hair met in the back. Businessmen typically wore hair clipped very short, or slicked straight back with pomade.

1950s Makeup

Makeup in the 1950s was all about glamour and accentuating the features considered beautiful at the time. Full, pouty lips, noticeable eyes and arched brows were key facial features 1950s women played up with makeup.

The most popular lipstick color in the 1950s was red; women also wore soft pink lipstick colors.

Women's eyelashes were long and full with use of black mascara. If it was impossible for a woman to get full lashes with mascara, fake eye lashes were used. Eye shadow in the shades of gray, gold, blue, green, purple and brown were commonly in use in the '50s. Eyes were important to highlight during the '50s, so eyeshadow and eye liner were a must if women wanted to be the definition of what beauty meant in the era. Eye liner in black on the upper lash line with a slightly winged tip off the eye corner was a popular way of wearing eye liner in the '50s. Eye brows were commonly either full or arched like actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn or they were more slender and arched high similar to how actresses Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall kept their brows.

Pink or peach blush was commonly used. Blush was sparingly and was not applied over the top. Liquid, cream or cake foundation were available; finishing powder was brushed over foundation makeup to get rid of any unwanted shine.