The Harley Medical Group

Beauty through the ages - 1970s

As in the 60s, the beauty trends of the 1970s were diverse. The beginning of the decade saw the continuation of the flower power trend of the sixties, before evolving into a retro glamorous look, harking back to the 1920s.

Next came disco – a glittery dance look associated with the likes of Donna Summer. Towards the end of the 1970s, a new look took off – punk. This rebellious and dramatic look was short lived and echoed the social and economic unrest at the time among the working class population.

Women fought for equality

The 1970s saw women’s liberation groups and feminists around the globe demanding equality for women at home and in the work place – to great success. In 1972, five formerly male-only colleges at Oxford University allowed women to study. Women were on the floor of the London Stock Exchange for the first time in 1973, while two years later, the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act were passed in Britain. In 1979, Britain welcomed its first female Prime Minister – Margaret Thatcher. It will come as no surprise to hear then that the women’s liberation greatly influenced women’s makeup styles.

Four major influences on makeup styles

  • Women’s liberation

The cosmetics industry made a smart move in the 70s. On seeing the influence of the women’s liberation groups, makeup trends focused more on empowering women and catered to the new independent working woman. Feminist groups hit back, claiming that liberated women shouldn’t feel as though they were a sex object, which led to a growing trend for natural makeup looks. This allowed women to still wear makeup without feeling as though they were on show. Phrases such as ‘barely there’ and ‘invisible’ reigned during the early part of the decade.

  • 1920s nostalgia

Nostalgia played a big part in influencing makeup trends in the 1970s, which saw a huge 20s revival. The release of films such as The Great Gatsby (1974) and The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) re-inspired women to recreate the doll-like faces of the 1920s.

  • Films and music

The mid to late 1970s saw an emergence of disco fever, characterised brilliantly by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977). Unlike the barely there natural look of the early part of the decade, disco encouraged gloss, glitter and shimmer.

  • Social and economic situation

The young people seemed to be most affected by the difficult economic and social situation during this decade. This dissatisfaction contributed to the punk movement, a look characterised by pale skin and dramatic eyes and cheeks.

The 1970s look

If you’re hoping to recreate the makeup trends of the 70s for yourself, follow this step-by-step guide. We’ve explained the individual elements below.

  • Eyes

Green, blue and purple were popular shades for eye shadow during the 70s, with many favouring pearlescent and iridescent finishes. Eyeliner wasn’t worn much in the first part of the decade, although it was applied heavily and dramatically towards the end by those creating the punk look. Mascaras were now available in a tube and wand combination (much like they are today) and came in a range of colours, including: brown, black, grey, green and blue. They were also bright shades of mascara such as raspberry, lavender and turquoise. What’s more, it was worn on both the upper and lower lashes. Unlike the previous decade, false eyelashes were not popular in the 70s.

  • Lips

Lip colour varied greatly during the 70s, and ranged from pastel pink and peach, to plum, cranberry and red. Glossy lips were big in the 1970s.

  • Blusher

Though worn fairly naturally in the first half of the decade, blusher became a more prominent part of the makeup look from the mid-seventies onwards. It was now available to buy in gel, cream or powder form.

  • Nails

The French Manicure was born in the 1970s, created by Jeff Pink who came up with the idea after having seen Parisian models using white pencil underneath their fingernails. Other popular nail varnish trends were glittery and pearl-effect.

The punk look

As the punk look was so different to the rest of the 1970s, here is a quick guide to recreating the look for yourself.

  • Eyes

Eyes were dramatic – think exaggerated cat-eyes with big and bold flicks. Dark colours were favoured for the eyes, including reds, blacks and blues.

  • Lips

It was common for women to apply lipstick with a pointed edge effect on the upper lip, while others preferred to draw it on in a rollercoaster effect. Red and black were the lip colours of choice.

  • Foundation

A pale base was necessary to make the rest of the bold makeup pop. This was a stark contrast to the tan skin which characterised other 70s looks.


For more information about iconic beauty trends through the ages, check out our infographic.


Posted July 18, 2020
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