The History of Makeup in the 50s

By Kathryn Stanley

For makeup, the 1950s emphasized the importance of being flawless, glamorous and bold. Women of the 1950s wore bright makeup 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.

Makeup of the 1950s reflected the female housewife and male breadwinner lifestyle of the era.


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 movie theater 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 neutralize 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 makeup.


The explosion of color motion pictures in the film industry replaced black and white films and heavily influenced the makeup of women in the 1950s. Suddenly, women were able to see that the lipstick that film stars wore on screen was bright, cherry red. Makeup in the 1950s became all about emulating what was seen on the screen. In order to tone down the brightness of makeup, titanium was added to makeup products towards the end of the 1950s. Until then, however, most women featured cherry-colored 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 color 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.