30S Makeup


The world of makeup has always been a fascinating realm where art and beauty intertwine. It not only enhances one’s features but also reflects the cultural and historical influences of a particular era.

The 1930s, marked by economic hardship known as the Great Depression, witnessed the rise of an unparalleled glamour in Hollywood that greatly influenced the makeup trends of the time. This article delves into the captivating world of 30s makeup, exploring its defining characteristics, historical context, and enduring allure.

Definition of 30s Makeup

30s makeup refers to the specific beauty practices and aesthetic preferences that were prevalent during the 1930s. It embodies a distinct blend of sophistication, elegance, and timeless beauty.

During this era, makeup became increasingly popular among women despite economic hardships. Women sought solace in glamour to escape their daily struggles and create an illusion of opulence.

The key components of 30s makeup encompass flawless porcelain-like skin with soft rosy cheeks reminiscent of youthful innocence. The focus was on accentuating natural beauty rather than creating dramatic transformations.

The eyes played a pivotal role with defined brows framing them while long lashes enhanced their allure. However, it was the classic red lips that truly captured attention with their boldness and sensuality.

Historical Context: The Great Depression

To fully comprehend the significance of 30s makeup trends, it is vital to understand its historical context within the Great Depression era. The 1930s were marked by economic turmoil around the globe as unemployment rates soared to unprecedented levels. However, amidst this dire situation emerged Hollywood glamour—a powerful force that captivated people’s imaginations and offered an escape from reality’s harsh realities.

Movies became an essential source of entertainment during these difficult times when individuals sought comfort in stories that transported them to glitzy realms far removed from their everyday struggles. Hollywood stars, such as Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, became iconic figures whose beauty and elegance resonated with audiences worldwide.

With Hollywood leading the way, the influence of glamorous film stars on women’s beauty ideals skyrocketed. Women sought to emulate the flawless complexion, alluring eyes, and sumptuous lips of their favorite actresses.

The silver screen’s allure created an insatiable demand for beauty products that promised to replicate the radiance seen onscreen. 30s makeup encapsulates a unique blend of elegance, natural beauty enhancement, and a touch of Hollywood glamour.

By understanding its definition alongside its historical context within the Great Depression era, we can fully appreciate how this era influenced women’s aspirations for timeless beauty. In subsequent sections of this article, we will explore in further detail the specific trends that characterized 30s makeup, including face makeup techniques and eye makeup styles that continue to inspire artists today.

The Influence of Art Deco: Bold Lines and Geometric Shapes

The 1930s was a time when the world was captivated by the Art Deco movement, which greatly influenced the aesthetics of makeup. This period was characterized by bold lines and geometric shapes that were reflected in various aspects of fashion and design. In terms of makeup, this meant clean, defined lines and strong contours.

One prominent feature of Art Deco-inspired makeup was the use of sharp, arched eyebrows. Women would meticulously shape their brows to create a high arch that accentuated their eyes.

This gave them a sophisticated look while also drawing attention to the eyes—the focal point of 30s makeup. Another aspect influenced by Art Deco was the emphasis on geometric shapes in eye makeup.

Women would experiment with angular and elongated eyeshadow designs, using shades that complemented their eye color. The use of contrasting colors like deep purples or cool grays helped create dramatic effects while maintaining an elegant appearance.

The influence of Art Deco extended beyond just eyebrows and eyeshadow; it also encompassed facial contouring. Women wanted to achieve a chiseled look, so they used shading techniques to emphasize their cheekbones and jawlines.

This added dimension to their faces, giving them an air of sophistication and glamour.

Emphasis on Natural Beauty: Soft, Flawless Skin and Rosy Cheeks

In contrast to the heavy theatrical makeup popular in previous decades, 30s makeup embraced natural beauty with soft, flawless skin as its foundation. Women aspired for a healthy glow that radiated youthfulness instead of heavily made-up faces.

To achieve this natural-looking complexion, women used creamy foundations with a satin finish that blended seamlessly into their skin tone. The aim was to create an even, luminous complexion without appearing overly made-up.

Max Factor’s Pan-Cake Makeup and Coty’s Air-Spun Powder were among the favored products of the time. Rosy cheeks were an essential part of 30s makeup, adding vitality and radiance to the face.

Women opted for soft pink or peach-toned blushes that mimicked a flushed, healthy glow. The application technique involved lightly dusting the apples of the cheeks, creating a subtle yet noticeable effect.

The emphasis on natural beauty extended to skincare as well. Women took great care in maintaining their skin’s health and appearance by following strict beauty regimens that included cleansing, moisturizing, and regular exfoliation.

This ensured a smooth canvas for their makeup application and contributed to their overall youthful appearance.

Accentuating the Eyes: Defined Brows, Long Lashes, and Smoky Shadows

During the 1930s, eyes took center stage in makeup looks. Accentuating and defining the eyes was considered crucial for achieving a glamorous appearance. Brows became a focal point in eye makeup during this era.

Thin eyebrows with high arches were immensely popular among women who wanted to achieve a polished look inspired by Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. These brows were often achieved by using brow pencils or dark eyeshadows to create sharp lines that added sophistication to one’s overall look.

In addition to defined brows, long lashes played a vital role in enhancing eye makeup during this period. Women would use lash-lengthening techniques such as curling their lashes with heated tools or applying multiple coats of mascara for added length and volume.

When it came to eyeshadow, smoky shadows were all the rage in the 1930s. Muted browns, taupes, grays, and purples were popular choices for creating sultry and mysterious looks.

Layering these shadows allowed women to add depth and dimension to their eyes while maintaining a soft yet captivating appearance.

Classic Red Lips: Matte Finishes and Deep Shades

No discussion of 30s makeup would be complete without mentioning the iconic classic red lips that defined the era. In contrast to the dark and dramatic lip colors of previous decades, the 1930s embraced more refined shades of red with a matte finish. Deep red lipsticks became an essential part of every woman’s makeup collection during this period.

The shades ranged from rich burgundies to vibrant crimson hues, perfectly complementing various skin tones. The matte finish provided an elegant touch that exuded confidence and sophistication.

To achieve flawless red lips, women used lip liners to define their lip shape before applying lipstick. Precision was key in creating well-defined cupid’s bow lips that added a timeless allure to their overall look.

The combination of perfectly defined brows, sultry smoky eyes, flawless skin with rosy cheeks, and classic red lips created a harmonious balance in 30s makeup. This overall aesthetic was not only influenced by the glamorous Hollywood stars but also reflected the desire for elegance and sophistication amidst the challenging times of the Great Depression.

Face Makeup in the 30s

Foundation: Creamy Formulas for a Flawless Base

In the glamorous era of the 1930s, achieving a flawless complexion was of utmost importance. To create a smooth canvas for their makeup, women turned to creamy foundation formulas. One iconic product that gained immense popularity during this time was Max Factor’s Pan-Cake Makeup.

This innovative formula, available in various skin tones, provided medium to full coverage with a matte finish. Another beloved option was Coty’s Air-Spun Powder, which offered a lightweight yet buildable coverage that left the skin looking velvety and refined.

Application Techniques: Brush or Fingers for Even Coverage

To apply foundation in the 30s, women had two primary techniques at their disposal: using brushes or their fingers. Many preferred using flat-top foundation brushes made from natural bristles for an airbrushed effect. The soft bristles ensured even distribution and a seamless blend into the skin, resulting in that coveted flawless base.

For those who preferred a more hands-on approach, using fingers was also common practice. The warmth of fingertips helped melt the creamy foundation into the skin, ensuring smooth application and minimizing streakiness.

Blush: Rosy Cheeks for a Healthy Glow

To achieve that signature healthy glow associated with 30s makeup trends, blush played an essential role. Soft pinks or peach-toned blushes were most popular during this era. These delicate hues added warmth and radiance to the complexion without overpowering other facial features.

Shades and Formulas: Soft Pinks or Peach Tones in Cream or Powder

Blushes came in cream or powder formulations depending on personal preference. Women who favored cream blushes enjoyed their seamless blending abilities and natural-looking finish.

Often packaged in small pots, these cream blushes were easily applied using fingertips or small dense brushes. Powder blushes, on the other hand, were also widely used.

They came in various packaging options such as pressed compacts or loose powders. The powder formulation allowed for buildable color intensity and precise application using fluffy brushes.

Placement Techniques: Lightly Dusting the Apples of the Cheeks

In terms of placement, women primarily focused on lightly dusting the apples of their cheeks with blush to create a youthful flush. The goal was to achieve a healthy, natural-looking glow rather than dramatic contouring.

Applying blush in a circular motion with a light hand ensured a soft and seamless blend into the skin. Overall, face makeup in the 30s aimed at creating a flawless yet natural-looking complexion that exuded radiance and elegance.

Creamy foundations like Max Factor’s Pan-Cake Makeup or Coty’s Air-Spun Powder provided women with the means to achieve this desired aesthetic effortlessly. Paired with rosy cheeks delicately dusted with soft pinks or peach-toned blushes, women in this era truly embodied timeless beauty and sophistication through their impeccable choice of face makeup.

Eyebrows: Thin, Arched, and Highly Defined

In the 1930s, eyebrows took center stage in the world of makeup. The prevailing trend was for thin, arched brows that were meticulously shaped and highly defined.

Women would pluck their eyebrows to achieve a high arch, creating an elegant and polished look. The desired shape was often achieved by following the natural curve of the brow bone and removing any stray hairs outside that line.

Tools Used: Brow Pencils or Dark Eyeshadows

To enhance the shape and definition of their brows, women in the 30s relied on specific tools. Brow pencils were commonly used to fill in sparse areas or create a more pronounced arch.

These pencils were often soft in texture and came in shades that matched natural hair colors, such as dark brown or black. Alternatively, some women would use dark eyeshadows to define their eyebrows.

Applied with an angled brush, these shadows could be blended seamlessly for a natural-looking result. Popular shades included deep browns or charcoal greys that mimicked natural hair colors.

Shaping Techniques: Plucking to Achieve a High Arch

The shaping techniques used during this era involved precise plucking to create a high-arched look. Using tweezers or other hair removal tools, women would carefully remove unwanted hair below and above the brow line to achieve a clean and distinct shape. It required patience and attention to detail but contributed significantly to the overall aesthetic of 1930s makeup.

Eyeshadow: Subtle Neutrals with a Hint of Drama

Eyeshadow during the 30s embraced subtlety with muted neutrals while still infusing a touch of drama into eye makeup looks. The most popular colors for eyeshadow included muted browns, taupes, grays, and even purple tones. These hues harmonized well with the overall natural beauty aesthetic of the era while adding depth and intrigue to the eyes.

Muted brown shades were particularly favored in eyeshadows during the 1930s. Soft earthy tones like taupe and gray were also commonly used.

These neutral colors complemented a wide range of skin tones and worked harmoniously with other elements of 30s makeup. Additionally, some women opted for more statement-making looks by incorporating subtle pops of purple shadow to create a hint of drama and allure.

Application Techniques: Layering Shadows for Depth

Applying eyeshadow in layers was key to achieving depth and dimension in eye makeup looks during this period. Women would start with a light base shade – such as cream or ivory – applied all over the lid to create a smooth canvas.

Then they would layer on darker shades like browns or grays in the crease or outer corners to contour and add definition. This technique allowed for an exquisite play between light and shadows that enhanced the overall allure of the eyes.

Mascara: Long, Luscious

In the 1930s, mascara began gaining prominence as an essential component of eye makeup routines. The desire was to achieve long, luscious lashes that beautifully framed the eyes without appearing too heavy or clumpy.

Application Techniques: Achieving Long Lashes

The application techniques for mascara during this era aimed at maximizing length without sacrificing elegance. Women would delicately apply mascara using handheld brushes equipped with bristles made of natural fibers.

Each lash would be carefully coated, starting at the base and moving upward to achieve desired length and separation. Multiple coats were applied if necessary, allowing for a buildable effect while still maintaining a natural appearance.


The 1930s marked an era of timeless beauty and sophistication in makeup trends. The attention to detail put into eyebrow shaping, the choice of eyeshadow colors that blended subtlety with drama, and the quest for long, luscious lashes all contributed to an enchanting look that continues to inspire today.

Despite the challenges faced during The Great Depression, women found solace in the art of makeup as a means of self-expression and empowerment. Looking back at 30s makeup trends reminds us of the resilience and creativity present even in difficult times, leaving us with an optimistic appreciation for beauty and its enduring power.


What is 30s makeup and its characteristics?

30s makeup refers to makeup styles and trends from the 1930s, characterized by bold lips, defined eyebrows, and soft, smoky eyes.

How can I recreate a classic 30s makeup look?

To recreate a classic 30s makeup look, start with a matte foundation, create arched eyebrows, apply red lipstick, and use neutral eyeshadows with a smudged eyeliner.

What were the popular makeup brands in the 1930s?

Popular makeup brands in the 1930s included Max Factor, Revlon, and Elizabeth Arden, known for their iconic products like Pan-Cake foundation and lipsticks.

Are there any modern variations of 30s makeup?

Yes, modern variations of 30s makeup incorporate contemporary products and techniques while still capturing the essence of the era, allowing for a fusion of vintage and current styles.

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