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Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview

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1960s 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 elegance nestled inbetween. The 1960s was a youth-oriented decade. The “baby boomers” were coming of age and defined the decade as their own. Here we look at what influenced makeup styles in the 1960s, including the people, places, the popular colours and products.

The London Scene

Yardley advert with top model Jean Shrimpton, who was the face of the brand for a few years.

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

The mod love for bold geometric patterns and black and white spilled over into the white eyeshadow and black eye crease look. This was seen on highly-influential model Twiggy.

Quant, Makeup & Models

Mary Quant makeup
Cheeky advertising was the mark of Mary Quant makeup, along with cool colour options and simple packaging (Vogue, June 1968).
Twiggy was the face of Yardley, all part of the "London Look".

Mary Quant was instrumental in the whole “swinging sixties” youth movement with her fun fashions. In 1966, she launched a cosmetic range which, like her clothing, was aimed squarely at young people.

Packaging was humble yet efficient and always featured the Quant daisy logo. Products were affordable and came with little “how to” instruction leaflets. 

The whole range was colourful, was fun and had interchangeable components. Quant makeup had tongue-in-cheek names and advertising – very different to most makeup on the market.

Yardley was also instrumental in the whole London scene and produced a popular range of colours and products. 

The phrase “The London Look” was used in their adverts, with trendy British models Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy as its poster girls. 

They were the top models of the era and their faces were known worldwide, influencing a generation of women with it.

Music & Television

Youth-lead fashion was inspired by music. Everything from rock and roll, Motown, pop, mod and psychedelic rock influenced the style and amount of makeup worn by the masses.

1960s music 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.

Film Stars

Films 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.

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

Feminism

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).

Hippie Culture

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

1960s Makeup Summary

Makeup look from 1963.

The start of the 1960s saw a continuation of the 1950s makeup look. 

This involved a flicked upper eye line, matte eyeshadow (primarily in greys, greens and blues) on the eyelid, very soft blusher and lipstick ranging from browns and soft reds to corals and pinks. 

Just a few years later, the focus had really shifted to the eyes, when more dramatic eyeshadow application and colours took off. Conversely, the rest of the face was kept more soft, natural and understated.

This high-fashion look revolved around a pale, pastel-coloured eyelid with a dark eyeshadow in the socket crease. False eyelashes were really in, as was lashings of mascara. Lips were pastel or pale. This look became all the rage for the younger women and it created a sort of “baby doll face” look with its big lashes and pink lips. Older women would likely stay with the more familiar (and more becoming) look of the early 1960s.
(L to R): Diahann Carroll, Cher and Jean Shrimpton.

1960s Makeup Elements

Blusher

Pastel colours in coral, pink and peach were the fashionable colours, and the look geared towards natural and soft. However, various shades of red, from carmine to raspberry, were also available.

Applying blusher to more than just the cheeks started in 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. It was also used to contour the face.

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. Colours were matte and free from shimmer and glitter.

Eyebrows

Brows were groomed, shaped and defined with a brow or eyeliner pencil. The thickness of the brow and amount of pencil used ranged from a more natural look (like Twiggy) to a heavier pencilled and more solid brow (for example, Elizabeth Taylor).

During the hippie years and for those that were part of this subculture, eyebrows would have been left more natural and not pencilled in.

Eyeliner

Continuing on from the 1950s, the flicked upper eyeline was in vogue. There was also the “doe-eyed look” where the full eye was lined with a little flick at the outer corner. There was a trend in about 1967 to wear a line of white eyeliner behind the black eyeliner on the upper lashes.

Eyeliner came in pencil, cake and liquid formats in a variety of colours. However, if someone didn’t have an actual eye liner, block mascara was a good substitute. 

If false lashes were worn, eyeliner could be used to cover over the edge of the lash strip. Liner could also be used to paint on bottom lid eyelashes, like Twiggy was sometimes seen with.

women's 1960s makeup
Showing early 1960s eyeliner fashions with the harder-edged socket crease (from a Dorothy Gray leaflet, c.1963).

Eyeshadow

women's 1960s makeup
Typical 1960s eyeshadow colours - taken from brands colour charts.

Powder eyeshadows were matte. There were also cream, crayon and liquid formulations, some of which had a slight pearlescent sheen or iridescent shimmer to them.

Eye makeup came in various containers, including tubes, pots and compacts containing several colours.

It was generally advised by makeup brands to match eyeshadow to eye colour. So, for example, green and blue-green eyeshadow was for green and hazel eyes. Blue eyeshadow was for blue and grey eyes. Greys, beige and brown eyeshadow was for grey and brown eyes.

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

The fashionable dark socket 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. However, the crease line was blended a little bit for a less dramatic look to create a more everyday makeup look.

Using a darker colour in the eyelid crease hadn’t really been done before the 1960s, along with using a lighter shade under the brow. Similarly, colour was being used in the inner and outer corners of the eyes to create different looks. This fashion continues today, albeit with a lot more blending.

Mod high-fashion eye makeup ideas from Yardley advert (1967).

False Eyelashes

False eyelashes were the fashion accessory of the 1960s (from about 1964 on) and fashionable girls wore them everyday. Some even wore two or three sets, one on top of the other.

Lashes (both upper and lower) either came on a long strip that you cut to length, or else as ready-to-wear individual sets – and there was quite a choice of styles from more natural to thick and full. The continuous 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 seal.

Colourwise, lashes mainly came in black and brown, but other colours were available. Likewise, some came decorated with rhinestones and glitter.

Twiggy and that 60s mod look - a dark defined crease line, false eyelashes and painted bottom lashes.

Foundation

Foundations came in powder, cream, and liquid formulations which collectively provided a range of coverage from full to more sheer tinted products. 

In about 1967, products with a sheen to wear over foundation or on their own became available. For example, Revlon had Face Gleamers and Yardley had Face Slickers. A move towards a more natural look, where skin shone through, meant that the matt and powdered finish was over for some.

Lipstick

Yardley lip colours (1967).

Reds, pinks and browns were fashionable at the start of the decade and came back in again about 1966. Corals, pastel pinks and peach were fashionable colours, as well as beige-pink nudes. 

Traditional lipsticks were mainly matte, though Vaseline or lip products with a sheen could be used. For example, Yardley’s Lip Slickers added a hint of sheen and could be worn over or under lipstick, or just on its own. Similarly, Revlon had Moon Drops, which gave lips a wet-look sheen and, in 1965, Max Factor had UltraLucent Creme lipstick.

When worn over regular lipstick, the “slicker type” products made the final colour much softer – transforming it to a pastel.

Lipsticks came in the standard tube and the lipstick itself was rounded at the tip, shaped like a bullet. Long and slim tubes were a fashionable design. 

Max Factor lipstick colour chart (from about 1962).

Mascara

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 layer upon layer.

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

Products like Revlon’s Fabulash were now lengthening the lashes, as well as colouring and curling them. 

Mascara came in a selection of colours. Taken from brands colour cards in the 1960s.

Nail Polish

Throughout the decade, nail polishes came in various shades of red, pink, coral, peach and apricot. In 1964, fashionable nails were pale and colours like ivory, pearl and tan were used. This trend continued for a few years too. In 1966, bright reds were once again in fashion.

1960s Makeup Fads

There were a few fads and short-lived trends during the 1960s. Here are just some of them:

  • 1961 – The uplifted lip, where the outer corners of the mouth are over-painted with lipstick in an upward turn.
  • 1962 – The Egyptian look with heavily-lined eyes and brows in black pencil. Lips were bold and Nile-green was the eyeshadow colour.
  • 1964 – The exotic look, with theatrically-painted eyes. Designs included butterflies and flowers.
  •  1967 – The Harper’s Bazaar look, where eyes were over-accentuated with false eyelashes, both painted and stuck on.
  • 1969 – the fad for painting on freckles and creating polka dots with eyeshadow on the eyelids.

Find Out More

Sources:
Corson, R. (2004).  Fashions in Makeup: From Ancient to Modern Times. Peter Owen.
Sherrow V. (2001).For Appearances’ Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty and Grooming.Greenwood.
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28 thoughts on “Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview”

  1. Looking for the orange color lipstick that the stars would wear in the 1960s I’m pretty sure it was put out by Revlon I would love to know the name of it

  2. Great source of information! Very helpful. I woood like to know if dewy or matte skin was the most popular in the 60s? and what products were used?

    1. Foundations in the 1960s were matte. Max Factor’s foundations were popular, like the best selling Pan-Cake. Covergirl, Maybelline, Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Coty were also popular brands. Compacts were very popular.

  3. do you happen to know what percentage of women didn’t wear makeup in the 1960’s as I am looking up info for makeup in school as part of an assessment thanks
    M xx

    1. Hi Mia, sorry we’ve no idea on percentage. All we can say is that the percentage would depend on the age group and what specific year you’re looking at. For example, younger women during the “mod era” would most likely wear makeup; whereas, during the hippie movement in the later 1960s, women who were part of this culture may now be going without makeup. Older ladies in the 1960s would most likely have carried on wearing makeup, similar to what they did in the 1950s – as making up one’s face was simply part of daily life. Good luck with your assessment 🙂

  4. Looking for the brand name of a red lipstick from the 60’s that sounded like the word Versailles only it started with an M. Brown casing, letters on the side in gold. Can you help? My mother wore it and I have yet to find it. She was in California in the 60’s.

    1. We can’t think what it is, sorry. So many brands have come and gone over the years too. Posted your question on our Facebook page, in case it jogs anyone’s memory there. Fingers crossed 🙂

  5. The 60’s look really appeals to me. I love watching the old shows like Twilight Zone and other black and white shows. I always study the eye makeup – those women looked so classy! Super pale lips don’t work for me, but a soft peachy matte lipstick works. I love the dark bold eyes –

  6. The photo titled “makeup from 1963” where did that come from? I’m trying to track down a vintage beauty book my mother had, and I could swear that picture was in it! 🙂 thanks!

  7. I still have a tube of Max Factor Waterproof Creme Mascara. Not in use, obviously, but it still smells ok. It came not with a wand but with a small turquoise brush with black bristles, very similar to the one supplied with Max Factor Block Mascara. I used it from 1966 until they stopped making it (early to mid 70’s?). I hated wand-type mascaras and still do. Always thought squeezing it from a tube onto a clean brush was more hygienic.

    I also have a brown Miners eyeshadow, again from 1966. However, it was used as a brow shaper rather than shadow,as it gave a much softer effect than the eyebrow pencils available then.

    Most treasured item was probably a Mary Quant palette, also from 1966, with eyeshadows, white and brown, black cake mascara, powder and pale lip gloss. Don’t recall a blusher, but as the aim was to look as pale as possible, with all emphasis on the eyes, I don’t think there was one. Still use the lipbrush occasionally,and now use the mascara brush for eyebrows. The palette was a very expensive Christmas present from my grandmother. I think she would be astonished to know that bits of it survive 48 years later.

    1. Hi Alyson – wow, that is an amazing collection of vintage makeup! If ever you get the chance to photograph it, we’d love to see it. Yes used mascara wands are not very hygienic and some are quite clunky to use! 🙂

  8. Very helpful – I’m researching for a play I’m working in where my character appears as a dream and is dressed 1962 circa. So makeup and hair are very important to get right. Thank you for this resource.
    Cheers,
    Jane Edwina Seymour
    Actor
    based in LA.

  9. Hi love this blog, I am doing a piece on Icon’s of the 60’s and would love to use this in a new on-line magazine. Are you interested? Urgent request as we are on a deadline… credit given.

    1. Hi Jules – we’ve sent you a reply to your email. Thanks for getting in touch, glad you like our webby and yes you may. Cheers.

  10. Lovely images and great information. My friend is having a 60s night and I needed to know what to do with my hair. Going for a Brigitte Bardot kind of look as I won’t be cutting it short for the evening!

    Great clear information about the make up. Got my false eyelashes ready to go and hope I am steady with the black eyeliner!!

    1. Hi Jane, Many thanks for your comment. Ah, the lovely glam BB! Love how she always looked slightly wind swept and “beachy”. Have a great night rocking those falsies!

    2. Hi Jane
      I went through the sixties just finished school and started work in london i was 15. I remember buying the sycadelic lipsticks i remember the was a whitish and pinkish pearl type ones and the tubes of the lipsticks had sycadelic circles on them in orange, pink and bright green. That was a great time better than today i think. Many thanks for letting me read statement. Thanks Alison
      Those were the years i met Marc Bolan in Kings Road. He was a great bloke to talk to.

      1. Hi Alison,
        Nice to hear from a bona fide sixties girl – and how lucky to have met Marc Bolan! Handbook Team 🙂

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I am attending a Vegas Rat Pack night tonight at my local and am dressing to conform to the era in block black and white! This has given me just what I needed to do my make up to complete the look! High hair and white nails included!!!

    1. Hi Helen, Sorry for mass delay in responding to you – the world of film took us away. Thank you for your comment. Hope the VRP night went well and you knocked ’em dead with your killer hair! 🙂

  12. I have really enjoyed reading this article and the photos of the eyes are especially interesting and will inspire me in the morning when I do my makeup, thank you so much x Donna

    1. Hi Donna,
      Awe, you’ve made us blush (a ’60s peach of course!). Thank you for your lovely comment – and we’re chuffed that our article has been useful to you. Sixties eyes are great aren’t they! 🙂

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