1930S Makeup

1930S Makeup


The 1930s was a pivotal era that witnessed significant changes in fashion and beauty trends. Coming on the heels of the extravagant and exuberant 1920s, the 1930s brought forth a shift towards more refined and elegant styles.

This period was marked by the influence of the Great Depression, which prompted a departure from excessive opulence to more practical and economical choices. As such, makeup in the 1930s played a crucial role in reflecting the societal mood and offering a means of self-expression amidst challenging times.

The impact of this era on fashion cannot be overstated. The economic downturn had far-reaching consequences, causing individuals to prioritize simplicity over extravagance.

This shift translated into fashion choices that were more pared-down yet sophisticated. Clothing became less flamboyant, with clean lines and modest cuts prevailing over elaborate embellishments and flapper-style silhouettes.

In tandem with these changes in clothing, makeup also underwent a significant transformation during the 1930s. While makeup had been popularized in previous decades, it was during this period that it truly came into its own as an essential part of women’s daily routines.

Makeup became increasingly mainstream and accessible to women across different social strata. During this era, beauty standards shifted towards an emphasis on natural-looking beauty rather than bold theatricality seen in preceding years.

The prevalent notion was to achieve a polished appearance that complemented one’s features without overpowering them. This approach encouraged subtlety, elegance, and refinement.

Moreover, beyond personal aesthetics, makeup also became an instrument for self-expression amidst the societal challenges faced during the Great Depression. Women sought solace through creative outlets like cosmetics to counterbalance economic hardships.

By enhancing their appearance with carefully chosen products and techniques, women found empowerment in presenting themselves confidently to others despite external difficulties. In addition to personal expression, makeup gained significance as a tool for societal influence.

Hollywood played a pivotal role in shaping beauty standards during this period, with glamorous movie stars becoming the epitome of beauty and style for millions. As films gained popularity and became a source of escapism, women sought to emulate the looks of their favorite silver screen icons.

The influence of these leading ladies extended beyond the silver screen into everyday life, permeating fashion and beauty choices. The 1930s was an era marked by economic challenges and shifting values that greatly impacted fashion and beauty trends.

Makeup emerged as both a means of personal expression amidst adversity and a reflection of societal influences shaped by Hollywood glamour. This decade laid the foundation for the refined and elegant aesthetic that continues to inspire us today.

General Characteristics of 1930s Makeup

Emphasis on a Natural and Polished Look

The 1930s marked a departure from the bold and heavily made-up looks of the previous decade. Instead, women embraced a more understated and refined approach to their makeup. The emphasis shifted towards enhancing natural beauty rather than creating dramatic transformations.

It was all about achieving a polished appearance that exuded elegance and sophistication. Women in the 1930s aimed to create a subtle yet flawless complexion that appeared almost untouched by makeup.

They sought to achieve a youthful glow, emphasizing their natural features without overwhelming them. This departure from the extravagant styles of the roaring twenties reflected the shift in societal attitudes towards conformity and modesty.

Soft, Matte Complexion Achieved Through Powder Foundations

To achieve the desired soft and matte complexion, powder foundations became an essential component of 1930s makeup routines. These foundations were typically lighter in consistency compared to their liquid counterparts, providing coverage while allowing the skin’s natural texture to shine through.

The powder foundations had a velvety finish that helped minimize shine while giving the face an airbrushed appearance. Women would carefully pat or brush on these powders after applying moisturizers or creams as primers, creating an even base for subsequent makeup application.

In addition to providing coverage, powder foundations were instrumental in color correction, evening out skin tone imperfections such as redness or discoloration. By utilizing these products judiciously, women could achieve flawlessly smooth complexions that looked natural yet enhanced.

Subtle Contouring Techniques

Contouring techniques during the 1930s aimed at subtly sculpting facial features rather than dramatically reshaping them like today’s contouring trends. The focus was on creating dimension and enhancing natural bone structure. To achieve this effect, women would use matte powders in shades slightly darker than their natural skin tone.

They would apply the powder along the hollows of the cheeks, jawline, and sides of the nose. This contouring technique helped define and shape these areas without appearing overly pronounced.

By employing subtle contouring techniques, women accentuated their best features while maintaining a natural appearance. The result was a soft definition that complemented the overall polished look sought after during this era.

Defined Eyebrows with an Arched Shape

Eyebrows played a crucial role in 1930s makeup as they framed and emphasized the eyes. Unlike the pencil-thin brows of the 1920s, women in the 1930s opted for more defined and arched shapes. To achieve this look, women would tweeze or shave their eyebrows to create a high arch that elegantly framed their eyes.

They then used eyebrow pencils or powders to fill in any sparse areas or to enhance the arch further. The aim was to create brows that appeared well-groomed, yet still retained a sense of naturalness.

Defined and arched eyebrows were considered fashionable during this era because they lent an air of elegance and sophistication to one’s overall appearance. The emphasis on well-groomed brows enhanced facial symmetry and drew attention to the eyes—the windows to one’s soul—adding depth and allure to every look.

1930s makeup embraced a shift towards a natural and polished look compared to preceding decades. Women aimed for flawless yet subtly enhanced complexions achieved through powder foundations and gentle contouring techniques.

Defined eyebrows with an arch shape framed the eyes beautifully, adding elegance to every gaze. These general characteristics of 1930s makeup mirrored societal attitudes towards simplicity, modesty, and refined beauty ideals prevalent during this time period.

Face Makeup in the 1930s

Foundation: Creating a Smooth Canvas

In the 1930s, foundation played a crucial role in achieving a polished and flawless complexion. Cream or liquid foundations were commonly used to create a smooth canvas for makeup application. Popular brands such as Max Factor‘s Pan-Cake makeup and Pond’s Vanishing Cream Foundation gained immense popularity during this era.

These products provided coverage while maintaining a natural look. To achieve a seamless finish, blending techniques were of utmost importance.

Women would use their fingers or specialized foundation brushes to apply and blend the foundation into their skin. The goal was to ensure that there were no visible lines or streaks, creating an even-toned complexion that served as the perfect base for further makeup application.

Powder: Setting Foundation for a Matte Complexion

After applying foundation, powder was an essential step in achieving a matte complexion in the 1930s. Translucent loose powders like Coty Airspun became highly popular due to their ability to control shine without adding any additional color to the face. These powders helped set the foundation, ensuring its longevity and preventing it from smudging or melting off throughout the day.

Various application methods were employed to achieve an even distribution of powder on the face. Powder puffs were commonly used by gently pressing them onto the skin, allowing them to pick up just enough product before lightly dusting it over the entire face.

Velour pads were another option for those seeking more precision during application. Overall, powder played a vital role in enhancing not only the longevity of foundation but also providing that desired matte finish which was highly sought after during this era.

Remember these tips from The Glamour of Hollywood: “When applying powder after your foundation remember that too much makes one look old-fashioned; too little leaves your makeup incomplete.” Striking the right balance was key to achieving a flawless, sophisticated look. Face makeup in the 1930s revolved around creating a smooth canvas through foundations like Max Factor’s Pan-Cake makeup and Pond’s Vanishing Cream Foundation.

Blending techniques were employed to ensure a seamless finish. Additionally, powder was essential for setting the foundation and achieving a matte complexion.

Translucent loose powders like Coty Airspun controlled shine without adding color, while powder puffs and velour pads provided even application. These elements together formed the basis of 1930s face makeup, contributing to the era’s polished, refined aesthetic.

Eyebrows: The Arch of Glamour

One of the most iconic features of 1930s makeup was the thin, highly-arched eyebrows popularized by Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich. These eyebrow shapes were a departure from the fuller, natural brows of the previous decade, and they added a touch of glamour and sophistication to the overall look. Achieving the perfect arch required meticulous shaping using techniques like pencil drawing or brow powders.

The shaping process involved carefully plucking or shaving off excess hair to create a clean, defined line. Next, pencils or brow powders in shades slightly darker than natural hair color were used to fill in any sparse areas and enhance the arch.

The goal was to create an elegant curve that framed the eyes beautifully without appearing too harsh or unnatural. Despite their thinness, these highly-arched brows managed to convey expression and character.

They provided an air of mystery and allure that captivated audiences both on-screen and off. It is no wonder that even today, many people still draw inspiration from this timeless trend.

Eyeshadow: Captivating Neutrals

In the 1930s, eyeshadow took on a subtle approach with neutral shades applied close to the lash line. This technique allowed for depth and dimension without overwhelming the eyes.

Earthy tones like taupe, brown, or muted grays were popular choices as they complemented various eye colors while maintaining an understated elegance. The application method involved expertly blending these soft hues across the eyelid crease for a natural yet defined look.

Shadows were often applied with small brushes or fingertips using gentle sweeping motions. This technique brought attention to the eyes without overshadowing other facial features.

The goal was not to create dramatic smoky effects but rather to enhance the eyes’ natural shape and draw attention to their beauty. The result was a sophisticated, subdued allure that perfectly matched the overall aesthetic of the era.

Conclusion: Embracing Timeless Beauty

The 1930s were a truly remarkable time for makeup, as they brought new trends and artistic expression to the forefront. Thin, arched eyebrows and subtle eyeshadow shades bordered by captivating neutrals became statements of class and sophistication.

While fashion and beauty trends have evolved over time, there is still something undeniably alluring about the makeup styles of this era. Their timeless appeal reminds us that true beauty transcends decades and that embracing classic looks can be just as fashionable today as it was back then.

So let us take inspiration from the glamorous stars of old Hollywood and infuse our own modern twist into these elegant techniques. By doing so, we pay homage to an era that celebrated timeless beauty while embracing our own individuality.


What were the popular makeup trends in the 1930s?

In the 1930s, popular makeup trends included matte skin, red lips, thin arched eyebrows, and defined eyes with eyeliner and mascara.

What makeup products were commonly used in the 1930s?

Commonly used makeup products in the 1930s included rouge (blush), lipstick, face powder, mascara, eyeliner, and eyebrow pencils.

How did the Great Depression impact makeup fashion in the 1930s?

The Great Depression led to more natural and understated makeup looks as women sought economical ways to enhance their beauty.

Who were some iconic 1930s makeup influencers or celebrities?

Iconic makeup influencers and celebrities of the 1930s included Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Joan Crawford, who popularized the era’s makeup styles.

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