The Harley Medical Group

Beauty through the ages - 1950s

The world of beauty exploded during the 1950s – with the war over, television programming started up again and more movies were produced in vivid colour, all of which contributed to women becoming more daring than ever with makeup colours.

Gone were the pale faces of the previous decades and the UK and USA welcomed the screen sirens of Hollywood who are still topping the Most Beautiful Women of All Time polls today.

The Women Behind The Look

So who were these Hollywood starlets who inspired such an iconic beauty trend? The faces of Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn are immediately recognised today as the founders of the 1950s look. Women everywhere desired the look of these leading ladies. Let’s find out how they achieved it:

  • Grace Kelly

The world-renowned beauty emphasised her cheekbones with two shades of blusher. She applied the lighter shade over the cheekbone and the darker one in the hollow of her cheek. She also used a brown eye shadow to define her eyebrows.

  • Marilyn Monroe

To keep her skin glowing for the cameras, Marilyn was a strong advocate of moisturiser, using a different brand for day and night. She also favoured the cat eye look, topping it off with false lashes. She finished her look with layer upon layer of red lipstick to create a full-looking pout.

  • Audrey Hepburn

A classic beauty, Audrey was a fan of subtle makeup. She’s rumoured to have separated each lash with a pin after applying mascara to give them more volume – not that we’d recommend trying that at home!


Hazel Bishop, Revlon, Max Factor and Pond became the must-have brands, with women taking a marked interest in luxury products with expensive and high-end ingredients. Some of the most popular products of the time included: Max Factor’s Pan Cake foundation, Revlon’s Eye Shadow palettes, and Hazel Bishop’s non-smear lipstick.


Not much was known about the common beauty treatments of the 1950s until recently when an old film was discovered. It showed women undergoing treatments such as suction cup massages, seaweed baths, paraffin wraps and facial steaming. It seemed as though the ladies of the 50s took great care over their appearance, willing to suffer for their beauty. While it wasn’t common to exercise strenuously, the stars of the time achieved a dewy, glowing complexion with facials and makeup.

key 1950s makeup styles

Heavily influenced by up-and-coming models and actresses, the 1950s look was designed to smoulder. Wartime austerity was over and makeup and beauty products became more widely available, giving women the freedom to really experiment – it’s no wonder it’s considered the golden age of makeup.

  • Eyes

Shadow was subtle, giving way to shimmering creams and highlighted brows. The cat eye or wing effect eyeliner became a popular look and is still regarded today as an iconic look of the 1950s. Mascara became the go-to product never to leave the house without and perfectly complemented the glamorous eyed beauties.

  • Base makeup

Thick, liquid foundation was applied to create a mask-like effect. Women favoured an ivory shade of foundation, set with flesh toned powder for a flawless complexion.

  • Blusher

Rose coloured blusher was applied to the apples of women’s cheeks to create a natural glow.

  • Lips

The first non-smear lipstick became available in the 1950s and it was all about the reds, plenty of lip liner and a slick of gloss over a heady rich red.


Recreate the 1950s look for yourself today with the helpful tips in this tutorial.


For more information about the iconic products and beauty trends of the 1950s, take a look at our Beauty Through The Ages infographic.


Posted July 18, 2020
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