April 24, 2024


Long gone are the days where a woman seen wearing some makeup was perceived as a harlot.

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, women scarcely wore makeup as it was seen by society as appropriate only for actresses, but often also seen on prostitutes. Truthfully, however, most women wore a little bit. They learned to excel at the “no-makeup” makeup look, appearing natural to the public eye.

Lemon juice was commonly used as a face toner. Most women’s primary beauty desires back then were to look youthful and feminine. Tanned skin was said to have been considered lower class.
Often, the go-to product was a little pot of rouge, created from minerals and naturally occurring beetle or vegetable extracts to create the colour. This was applied to the cheeks and lips for a rosy, natural glow.

Then came the “Roaring Twenties,” a new decade full of economic prosperity that redefined what a woman should and could look like.

During this pivotal decade, makeup was no longer done conservatively; women started powdering their faces even in the most public of places. Brands like Maybelline and Tre-Jur surfaced. Almost every pharmacy now carried makeup products. The stigma behind wearing makeup had vanished.

During these years, it was extremely difficult for a woman of colour to find makeup to match her skin tone, as powders and creams were only made in shades for very pale skin. The powder compact was created, then called a pan-cake, which came with a soft sponge or puff for patting.

Eyebrows were plucked, mascara was created and lipstick in brighter shades began to sell. The most popular looks amongst flappers were defined cupid’s bow lips and kohl eyes, a dark smoky look created by grinding sulfide minerals.

The 1920s were only the beginning, however. The makeup industry continued to change, each decade bringing new and unique products, tools and looks.

“It’s an ever-evolving industry,” said Courtney Lackner, owner of Peachy Keen makeup studio in Elmira. “You can gather inspiration from any trend in any year. There truly are no rules.”
By the 1950s it was obvious that makeup was there to stay. The war was over and the cosmetic industry began to grow, producing more colours and products than ever.

Max Factor and Revlon were big brands during this decade. It was also the beginning of the luxury cosmetics industry – women were now willing to spend greater amounts on their products.
Makeup ads often targeted married women who wanted to look good for their husbands. For example, a woman in the ad would be seen vacuuming the living room in a dress, heels, curled hair and completely done-up face.

Skin care products aimed at fighting acne became more common and teens wearing makeup became acceptable during the 1950s as well.

With Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe as influences, women often preferred a natural glamour look. This was achieved by balancing lipstick in brighter red and pink shades with neutral eyeshadows in greys, golds and browns along with mascara.

“When applying makeup on my clients, the phrase I hear most is: ‘Just make me look natural,” said Bree Bigelow, a Kitchener-Waterloo makeup artist. “My own personal philosophy on makeup artistry is it is supposed to be a reflection of you, and an expression of your best self.”

“That being said, creating a natural look with makeup is one of the biggest challenges for makeup artists. What your makeup looks like after an application to the naked eye is different than how it will appear in photographs, especially when using flash photography. Colours have to be brighter so they aren’t washed out in pictures.”
The 1960s shifted focus to big, crazy lashes. They averted attention from women’s lips to their eyes, using nude lip glosses and lipsticks, focusing the look to their top and bottom lashes that was anything but natural. Twiggy was a major influence on this look!

Ten years later and the antipathy that once existed around tanned skin had vanished too. Bronzer became widely used by women trying to achieve a summery, sun-kissed glow. SPF products were introduced for the first time as protection and all-over tans became popular as well.

“The wonderful thing about the beauty industry, specifically dating back to when I first started wearing makeup as an adolescent, is that trends continue to come and go,” said Lackner. “When I first started, it was all about shimmer eyeshadow.”

Many of these beauty looks from the past are still practised today, though often women (and now men too) are using newer products and including a little revamping.
So, what will the 2010-2020 decade be known for?

“Without a doubt what comes to mind is contoured faces,” said Bigelow. “Right now there is a contouring craze going on. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube and Instagram showing dramatic transformations as a result of contouring.”

Contouring is a popular trend that requires several layers of cream foundations and powders in various colours. An entirely new nose, cheek bone or mouth shape can be acquired using shading and highlighting of various parts of the face, thus called a “transformation” as the person can look quite different.

“I am constantly asked, ‘Do you contour?’” said Lackner. “With the growing popularity of Instagram and the rise of fame with the Kardashians, many clients assume that contouring was made popular by these celebrities. This is absolutely false. Any seasoned artist can tell you that makeup has always been about contouring. Makeup is about bringing out your best features or for many, diminishing prominent features.”

Besides contouring, Lackner has noticed a trend in vegan and cruelty-free products over the last decade as well.

“TooFaced is a great brand that you can find at Sephora that offers amazing products but refuses to compromise their beliefs and values by testing on animals,” she said.
“The other trend that I see a lot of is HD brows – eyebrows that are filled, trimmed and tweezed to perfection,” said Bigelow.
“I hope that towards the end of this decade women will shift back to more of a natural look though as contouring videos and transformations make women feel as though they need to transform themselves to be beautiful, when that isn’t the case.

“I believe that makeup is there to accentuate our natural beauty, to highlight our best features, not attempt to create full lips when we don’t have them, or thick brows when we will never grow them. These trends set unrealistic expectations for women. So many women who ask me about makeup advice are quick to tell me what they don’t like and ask how to fix it. Everyone has something to show off. I’ve yet to meet a person who I cannot find something to complement with makeup, and I hope that women start to see that too when they look in the mirror. My hope would be that by the end of this decade we start to shift away from transformations and move towards focusing on flaunting our best features.”

“What I personally hope to see is more emphasis on natural beauty,” agreed Lackner. “I love makeup and eat, sleep and breathe my business, but I truly do love when individuals embrace their own beauty.”

Information about the makeup in the late 1890s and 1990s is from the website Glamourdaze.com/historyofmakeup.

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