Makeup 1930S


The 1930s era, often referred to as the “Golden Age of Hollywood,” was a time of glamour, sophistication, and societal change. It was a decade marked by economic turmoil due to the Great Depression, yet it also witnessed a significant shift in cultural norms and beauty standards. Fashion and beauty played a pivotal role in providing an escape from the hardships of daily life, and makeup became an essential tool for women to enhance their features and embody the ideals of the era.

The Roaring Twenties to The Great Depression: A Brief Overview

The 1930s followed the exuberant Roaring Twenties, characterized by flapper fashion, short bob hairstyles, and bold makeup looks influenced by Art Deco. However, with the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that led to widespread unemployment and financial instability across America, society underwent a drastic transformation.

The extravagant spirit of the previous decade gave way to more conservative values during this period. As people faced economic hardships during the Great Depression, frugality became a necessity.

This shift affected various aspects of life, including fashion trends and cosmetics consumption. While prosperity declined for many individuals during this time, women still sought ways to maintain their appearance as a means of boosting morale and projecting an image of success despite challenging circumstances.

Shaping Beauty Standards: The Power of Makeup

Makeup played an instrumental role in shaping beauty standards throughout the 1930s. It became more than just a tool for enhancing one’s features; it became an empowering symbol that allowed women to express themselves artistically while conforming to societal expectations.

During this era, makeup acted as both camouflage for imperfections caused by stress and hardship while also providing a sense of escapism into a world filled with glamour and allure. Advertisements emphasized that wearing makeup was not only desirable but necessary for self-preservation and maintaining a sense of femininity, even in the face of adversity.

Furthermore, Hollywood’s influence on beauty standards cannot be overstated. As the film industry reached new heights during the 1930s, movie stars like Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow became icons whose looks were emulated by women worldwide.

Their flawless complexions, perfectly shaped eyebrows, and bold makeup choices set the standard for beauty in that era. The 1930s were a transformative period in history marked by economic struggle and shifting societal norms.

Makeup emerged as a powerful tool for women to cope with difficulties while also embodying the ideals of glamour and escapism prevalent during this era. The influence of Hollywood on beauty standards further propelled makeup into mainstream culture, making it an essential aspect of femininity and self-expression in the 1930s.

Pale Complexion and Matte Finish

The Quest for Porcelain-Like Skin Tone

In the glamorous era of the 1930s, achieving a flawless, pale complexion with a matte finish was considered the epitome of beauty. To attain this desired look, women turned to foundations that would create a porcelain-like skin tone. These foundations were typically light in color and had a thicker consistency compared to modern-day counterparts.

They were often made from ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or talcum powder mixed with oils or creams. Women would meticulously apply these foundations using their fingertips or makeup sponges, ensuring an even distribution across their faces.

The goal was to have a smooth canvas for further makeup application, while also masking any imperfections such as blemishes or uneven pigmentation. The result was a visage that appeared ethereal and radiant under any lighting.

Powdering Techniques for an Alluring Matte Effect

To enhance the desired matte finish and set the foundation in place, powdering techniques played an essential role in 1930s makeup routines. Loose face powders were commonly used to absorb excess oil and provide longevity to the overall look.

A translucent powder would be gently dusted over the entire face using large fluffy brushes or handheld puffs made from natural fibers. This step not only helped control shine but also created a soft-focus effect that blurred imperfections and helped maintain a flawless appearance throughout the day.

Women paid special attention to areas prone to oiliness such as the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin), ensuring they were well-powdered without appearing excessively matte. This careful balance allowed for both sophistication and radiance in the finished look.

Emphasis on Well-Defined Eyebrows

Shaping and Darkening Brows: The Hollywood Influence

The 1930s witnessed a significant emphasis on well-defined eyebrows as they framed the eyes and added depth to the overall makeup look. Inspired by Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, women aimed for arched brows that exuded elegance and allure.

To achieve this desired shape, women used eyebrow pencils or powder in shades that harmonized with their natural hair color. They would carefully outline and fill in their eyebrows, often elongating them slightly to create an elongated arch.

The result was a perfectly sculpted brow that enhanced facial symmetry and complemented other makeup elements. Darkening the brows was crucial for a polished appearance.

This was achieved by layering pencil or powder gently over the natural brow hairs, gradually creating a bolder yet refined look. Women took great care to ensure the final result appeared natural without any harsh lines or unnatural shading.

Dramatic Eye Makeup

Earthy Toned Eyeshadows and Subtle Winged Liner

Eye makeup in the 1930s leaned towards drama while maintaining an undeniable elegance. Eyeshadows were predominantly earthy tones such as browns and grays, creating soft yet sultry looks that accentuated the eyes’ depth.

Women carefully applied eyeshadow using small brushes or their fingertips, blending shades together to create a seamless gradient effect on their eyelids. The aim was to enhance their eye shape without overpowering other facial features.

To further intensify the gaze, eyeliner came into play. A thin line of liner along the upper lash line was favored – subtle yet impactful.

Many women extended this line outward into a gentle winged shape, elongating their eyes for added allure without veering into excessive drama. The resulting eye makeup of this era exuded sophistication and charm while celebrating individual eye shapes and enhancing natural beauty.

Bold Lips and Cupid’s Bow Shape

Deep Reds, Plums, and Burgundy Hues for Alluring Lips

The 1930s brought forth a love for bold and captivating lip colors. Deep reds, plums, and burgundies reigned supreme, adding an air of mystery and sensuality to women’s makeup looks.

These shades perfectly complemented the pale complexion of the era, creating a striking contrast that demanded attention. Application techniques were meticulous.

Women would carefully outline their lips using lip liners to create a well-defined cupid’s bow shape – a distinctive feature of this time. The liner was then filled in with the chosen lip color, ensuring precise edges and seamless coverage.

The result was lips that appeared full and sensual, accentuating the natural curves with the help of expertly crafted makeup techniques. The vibrancy of these bold lip colors added an element of sophistication and allure to every makeup look during the 1930s.

As women embraced these trends in general makeup during the 1930s, they transformed themselves into epitomes of elegance and grace. Their dedication to achieving porcelain-like skin tone with a matte finish, well-defined eyebrows inspired by Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, dramatic eye makeup featuring earthy-toned shadows and subtle winged liner, as well as bold lips shaped into distinctive cupid’s bows using deep reds, plums, or burgundy hues set a timeless standard for beauty that continues to inspire even today

Skincare Routine in the 1930s

Cleansing rituals

In the 1930s, cleansing rituals played a vital role in maintaining a flawless complexion. The primary method for removing makeup was the use of cold cream, which had become a popular beauty staple. Cold cream was renowned for its ability to dissolve makeup gently and thoroughly.

Women would apply a generous amount of cold cream to their face, massaging it in circular motions to dislodge any traces of foundation, powder, or lipstick. Afterward, they would wipe off the cream with a soft cloth or cotton pad.

Toning with witch hazel or rosewater to refresh the skin

Following the removal of makeup and cleansing, toning became an essential step in the skincare routine of the 1930s. Witch hazel and rosewater were two popular toners during this era due to their refreshing properties.

Witch hazel’s natural astringent qualities helped tighten pores and reduce redness, while rosewater provided hydration and soothing effects. After applying these toners using cotton pads, women experienced a sensation of renewed freshness and clarity in their skin.

Moisturizing techniques

Moisturizing was considered crucial for maintaining youthful skin in the 1930s. Cold creams were not only used for makeup removal but also served as nourishing moisturizers.

Rich formulations containing natural ingredients like lanolin or almond oil were chosen for their hydrating properties. Women applied these creams liberally before bed or as needed throughout the day to combat dryness and keep their skin supple.

Massage techniques for improved blood circulation

To enhance the effects of moisturizers and promote blood circulation under the skin’s surface, massage techniques were employed as part of skincare routines during this period. Facial massages involved gentle upward strokes using fingertips or specialized tools.

This method stimulated blood flow, helping to bring nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells, resulting in a healthy and radiant complexion. Additionally, massages were believed to improve muscle tone and firmness, providing a natural lifting effect.

Overall, skincare routines in the 1930s revolved around thorough cleansing using cold cream, followed by toning with witch hazel or rosewater for a refreshing touch. Moisturizing with rich cold creams containing natural ingredients like lanolin or almond oil was a standard practice to combat dryness.

The addition of facial massages not only improved blood circulation but also imparted a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation. By adhering diligently to these rituals, women sought to maintain their skin’s health and luminosity during this glamorous era of beauty.

Special Occasion Makeup Looks in the 1930s

Glamorous Evening Makeup

In the 1930s, special occasions demanded an extra touch of glamour, and the makeup looks of the era certainly delivered. For evening events, women would opt for more dramatic and sultry makeup styles. One iconic feature of glamorous evening makeup was the emphasis on smokey eyes.

The use of darker eyeshadow shades, such as deep browns and rich grays, created a seductive and mysterious allure. To achieve the smokey eye look, women would apply a base color across their eyelids using a medium-toned eyeshadow shade.

Then, they would add depth by blending darker shadow shades into the crease and outer corners of their eyes. The aim was to create a gradient effect that intensified towards the outer edges.

Additionally, eyeliner played a crucial role in defining the eyes. A black or dark brown eyeliner was applied along the upper lash line and smudged slightly to enhance the smokey effect.


The 1930s marked an era of elegance and sophistication when it came to makeup trends. With pale complexions enhanced by matte finishes, well-defined arched eyebrows framing expressive eyes, bold lips with cupid’s bow shapes, and glamorous evening makeup featuring smokey eyes with darker eyeshadow shades – these beauty practices defined an iconic look that is still admired today. Though many aspects of beauty standards have evolved over time, we can still draw inspiration from these timeless trends from the 1930s.

The skillful artistry demonstrated during this period continues to influence modern makeup techniques while honoring vintage aesthetics. So embrace your inner vintage glamorista and experiment with these classic looks to add a touch of nostalgic charm to your own beauty routine!


What were the popular makeup trends in the 1930s?

In the 1930s, popular makeup trends included matte skin, thin arched eyebrows, and bold red lipstick.

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

The Great Depression led to a preference for more affordable makeup options and a focus on DIY beauty.

Were there any iconic makeup products or brands from the 1930s?

Yes, iconic products like Max Factor’s Pan-Cake makeup and brands like Revlon emerged in the 1930s.

What makeup techniques were used to achieve the 1930s Hollywood glam look?

Techniques like contouring, penciled beauty marks, and false eyelashes were used for the Hollywood glam look.

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