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1930s Makeup Colour Charts

Here are some makeup colour cards from the 1930s. They were designed by the various cosmetic brands to use in retail outfits, or included in makeup products for reference. As you can see, there were limited colour options available to women during this decade.

Colour cards – or swatches – were useful in allowing women to see what options were available. Furthermore, some brands co-ordinated their products and colours into groups to help women decide which shades would be best for them, based on their hair colouring, skin tone or eye colour. Likewise, costume colour would be a deciding factor in what shades to wear.

Guides to makeup application and beauty advice help us to understand the beauty ideal of the era and what the fashionable or desirable looks were.


Extracts from a beauty book by Virginia Vincent, simply called “Makeup”. Below that is a Max Factor colour chart for face powders.

1930s makeup colours
From Virginia Vincent's book "Makeup". Here are makeup shades for different hair colours (1932).
Advice on applying makeup from Virginia Vincent (1932).
Max Factor face powder colours (c.1932). From https://cosmeticsandskin.com.


“Covermark” was a concealing product by Lydia O’Leary. It was designed to cover blemishes, veins, birthmarks and any other aspects one wanted to conceal. It could be used on the body, as well as the face.

Colours available in the "Covermark" range by Lydia O'Leary (1936).

The Elizabeth Arden colour charts are from about 1936-7, but exact date is unknown. The V&A Museum acquired the book in December 1937 and estimated the publication date to be c.1936.

1930s makeup colours
Elizabeth Arden colours (1936-7). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Colours from a 1936 Avon catalogue.

Avon colours from their 50th anniversary catalogue (1936).


What colours to choose. Excerpt from Helena Rubinstein's "Beauty in the Making" (1937).


Makeup charts organised into “colour harmony” groups. 

Colour advice for the pale ladies from the brand Harriet Hubbard Ayer (1938).
More colour advice for ladies from Harriet Hubbard Ayer (1938).


Max Factor’s Pan-Cake was initially developed in 1935 for the requirements of Techicolour film. Actresses loved it so much, they took it home with them for personal use. Max Factor saw the potential and, with a few tweaks to better suit everyday usage, released it to the public a few years later.

Max Factor's new makeup colours for the end of the decade (about 1939).

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1930s makeup colours