Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview

1960s-Makeup-TNThe 1960s was a youth-oriented decade – the “baby boomers” were coming of age and defined the decade as their own.

Makeup looks were at both ends of the scale, from the au naturel look of the hippie brigade to the dramatic black and white eyes of mod high-fashion, with pastel colours making their mark on the masses. 

Here we look at what influenced makeup style in the 1960s, the popular colours and products, and false lashes.

Influences on Makeup


Max Factor Shadow Cream

The youth had a big influence on fashion. Since the 1950s, the young had disposable income to hand and it was spent on looking stylish.

London had led the way with the mod look (“modernist”) since the late fifties, and new stores catering to the fashion tastes of the younger generation popped up all over, notably in Carnaby Street and Kings Road.

The mod look peaked between early 1964 and mid-1967. During this time, youth-orientated television shows, magazines and films united young people all around the world.

The mod love for bold geometric patterns and black and white spilled over into the white eye shadow and black crease look, as exemplified by 1960s model Twiggy on the cover of many magazines.

Hippie Culture

Later in the 1960s, the hippie counterculture made its mark with a taste for more natural faces and products, though face and body painting, synonymous with the “flower power” movement, was a riot of colour.

The feminist movement re-emerged in the sixties and was primarily focused on equality for all and the end of discrimination. Some feminists viewed makeup as objectifying women as sex objects and so wore very little; others embraced makeup and wore it as a badge of honour (as had their lipstick-wearing suffrage sisters decades before).

Music, Television and Going to the Dance

Music went hand in hand with youth-lead fashion and everything from rock and roll, Motown, pop, mod and psychedelic rock influenced the style and amount of makeup worn by the masses.

Music in the 1960s took on the messages of the youth and the era – it gave the young permission to rebel, express and assert themselves. Dances were incredibly popular, so being fashionable and dressing up to the nines was all part of the scene.

Television had new music shows like Ready Steady Go! (first aired in 1963) and Top Of The Pops (first aired in 1964), where the viewer could see their favourite artists and follow their styles. People wanted to dress like their favourite bands.

Movie Stars

Movies both influenced and embraced the trends of the day. Elizabeth Taylor‘s makeup in Cleopatra (1963) is a good example of  how “current” was mixed with “historic”, creating a trend-setting 1960s Cleopatra! The Cleopatra phase started before the film’s actual release, with companies like Revlon leading the way with Cleopatra-inspired makeup colours and design.

Magazines often featured the glamorous looks of stars like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn to indie girls Brigitte Bardot and Edie Sedgwick.

1960s makeup
All about the eyes! L to R: Brigitte Bardot with flicks; Mod girl Edie Sedgwick; Screen beauties Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren

Popular Makeup Brands

Max Factor Eye Talk adverts
A collage of Max Factor “Eye Talk” adverts showing 1960s eye makeup

Max Factor had been at the forefront of innovation in makeup for several decades and its products were as popular as ever.

Covergirl, Maybelline, Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Coty were also popular brands.

Mary Quant launched a cosmetic range in the late ’60s.

Quant’s makeup was specifically designed for their young mini-skirt wearing customers, taking them away from the cosmetic products worn by their parents.

Packaging was in black and silver, and always featured the Quant daisy logo, products were affordable and contained little “how to” instruction leaflets.

Yardley, whose phrase was “The London Look” (sound Rimmarkably familiar…?!), had trendy British model Jean Shrimpton as its poster girl featuring in magazine adverts and commercials during the mid-’60s. Yardley produced a popular range of colours and products.

1967 Yardley ad
Yardley advert (model: Penelope Tree) showing the eye makeup looks and lip colours of the era. The Cleopatra influence can be seen in the last look!

1960s Makeup Elements

Makeup in 1963
Makeup from 1963 (from an article in Family Circle magazine)

The start of the 1960s saw a continuation of the 1950s makeup look – a flicked upper eye line, matte eye shadows (primarily in greys, greens and blues), soft blusher and lipsticks ranging from soft reds to corals and pinks.

Just a few years later, the distinctive pale lid with a dark eye shadow crease came in. This was matched with pale lips. Pastel colours were in, and this look became all the rage for the younger women. Older women would more likely stay with the more familiar (and more becoming) look of the early 1960s.

1960s high-fashion makeup became all about the eyes – the rest of the face was kept more soft and natural, or pale and understated.

False lashes were incredibly popular – the accessory of the decade.

Eyelashes and Mascara

False eyelashes
A selection of false eyelashes for the ’60s woman (1969 advert)

False eyelashes were the fashion accessory of the ’60s (from about 1964 on) and fashionable girls wore them everyday. Some even wore two sets.

Lashes (both upper and lower) came on a long strip that you cut to length, or else as ready-to-wear individual sets.

The strip that bottom lashes came on could be annoying, so girls would cut them into smaller pieces.

Lashes were made from human hair, synthetics and animal hair like sable, mink and, er, seal.

Lashes mainly came in black and brown, but could be decorated with rhinestones and glitter.

Mascara could now be bought in a tube with a wand applicator, having been invented in the 1950s, but the solid block products were still used too.

Block mascaras were activated with water or, more realistically, spit, and mixed with the little brush that came with it. Max Factor’s block mascara could really be built up.

There was also cream mascara in a tube that came with a little wand brush. Some products were waterproof, others were not.

Lash curlers were available, though recalled as “torture instruments that, if not placed quite right, really nipped your eye lid.”

Eye Shadow

Powder eye shadows were matte. You could also get eye crayons and liquid eye makeup in a tube (e.g. Revlon’s Eye Velvet, a matte product available in several shades of green, blue and purple). Compacts containing several colours were available.

The mod eye makeup look, exemplified by model Twiggy, was the distinctive black eye shadow line in the crease with a pale eye lid. White was the colour to have, though other colours were worn as well, especially blues and greens.

The fashionable dark crease line was left as a sharp definite line – it wasn’t blended or smudged at all – and was applied in an arch from inner eye to outer eye.

Using a darker colour in the crease hadn’t really been done before and this fashion continues today, albeit using various colours and a lot more blending.

Get the Twiggy look
Twiggy and that 60s look: a dark defined crease line, false eyelashes and painted bottom lashes

Eye Liner

The Ronettes in the 1960s
American girl group The Ronettes with trademark black flicked eye liner and beehives, which later inspired Amy Winehouse’s hair and makeup look

Continuing on from the ’50s, the upper eye line was in vogue, flicked out and up at the ends.

Eye liner came in pencil, cake and liquid formats in a variety of colours.

If someone didn’t have an actual eye liner, block mascara or Max Factor’s Pan-Cake (black was no. 2880!) were good substitutes.

If false lashes were worn, eye liner could be used to cover over the edge of the lash strip.

Eye liner could be used to paint on bottom lashes (like Twiggy was sometimes seen with).

Eye Brows

Eye brows were groomed, shaped and defined with a brow pencil. The thickness of the brow and amount of pencil used ranged from a tweezed lighter touch (e.g. Twiggy) to a heavier pencilled look (e.g. Elizabeth Taylor).

Cheeks and Blusher

Pastel colours like corals, pinks and peach were the fashionable colours, and the look geared towards natural and soft.

The trend of applying blusher to more than just the cheeks started in about 1963, and was meant to create a natural glow to the face. A swoosh of colour was added to temples, the hairline and under the jaw to add warmth and subtle definition.

Blushers came in a variety of formulations including cream in a tube or pot, liquid washes, solid cakes and a cream that was applied with a damp sponge. Blushers were matte and free from shimmer and glitter.

Lips and Lipstick

Yardley Lip Slickers advert
Yardley Lip Slickers advert featuring top 1960s model Jean Shrimpton, who was the face of Yardley for a few years

Corals, pinks and peach were the fashionable colours, as well as beige-pink nudes.

Keeping the mouth understated, lips were naturally defined and not lined with a lip pencil.

Reds, pinks and browns were still available, being fashionable at the start of the decade and coming back in towards the late ’60s.

Traditional lipsticks were mainly matte (though Vaseline could be used to add a sheen if really wanted), though there were lipsticks designed to create a sheen. Yardley’s Lip Slickers added a hint of sheen and could be worn over or under lipstick, or just on its own.

Revlon had Moon Drops, which gave lips a wet-look sheen, and Max Factor had UltraLucent Creme lipstick.

Quite a few pictures in makeup adverts and fashion magazines show models wearing a soft red colour on their top lip and candy pink on the bottom lip (see first Yardley advert at top of page).

Lipsticks came in the standard tube and the lipstick was generally rounded at the tip, shaped like a bullet. Long slim tubes were a fashionable design. Lip brushes could also be used to apply the lipstick.

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