Home » Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview

Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview

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 in between. 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 the popular colours and trends, as well as what influenced the 1960s style.

The London Scene

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

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 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.

Mods loved bold geometric patterns and black and white colouring. It influenced the white eyeshadow and black eye crease look, as seen on highly influential model Twiggy.

Yardley advert with top model Jean Shrimpton, who was the face of the brand for a few years.
Yardley lashes (1960s)
Twiggy was the face of Yardley, all part of the "London Look".

Quant, Makeup & Models

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

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

The whole range was colourful, fun and had interchangeable components. Quant makeup had tongue-in-cheek names and cheeky advertising – very different to most makeup brands 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 often used in their adverts, with trendy British models Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy as its poster girls. They were the top models of the era, along with Pattie Boyd. Subsequently, their faces were known worldwide, influencing a generation of women with it.

Mary Quant makeup
Cheeky advertising was the mark of Mary Quant makeup (Vogue, June 1968).
Women's 1960s makeup and Max Factor
Max Factor (1966-7)

Music & Television

Music inspired youth-lead fashion. Everything from rock and roll, Motown, pop, mod and psychedelic rock influenced the style of makeup worn. 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 an example of how “current” was mixed with “historic”, creating a trendsetting 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 glamorous stars like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn to indie girls Brigitte Bardot and Edie Sedgwick.

Brigitte Bardot with flicks and Mod girl Edie Sedgwick.
Screen beauties Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren.

Feminism

The feminist movement re-emerged in the sixties. It 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, however, embraced makeup and wore it as a badge of honour.

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

The start of the 1960s saw a continuation of the 1950s makeup look. It 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 shifted to the eyes, when more dramatic eyeshadow application and colours took off. Conversely, the rest of the face was kept soft, natural and understated.

This high-fashion look revolved around a 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. 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.

women's 1960s makeup
Diahann Carroll.
women's 1960s makeup
Cher and Jean Shrimpton.

1960s Makeup Elements

Foundation

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

In about 1967, products became available that added a sheen to the face or a makeup foundation. 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 heavy matte and powdered finish was over for some.

Eyeshadow

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

Makeup brands advised matching eyeshadow colour to eye colour. So, for example, green and blue-green eyeshadows were for green or hazel eyes. Blue eyeshadow was for blue or grey eyes. Greys, beige and brown eyeshadows were for grey or brown eyes. 

The mod eye makeup look had a distinctive black eyeshadow line in the socket crease, teamed with a pale eyelid colour. The fashionable colour was white, though pastel blues and greens were also popular.

For the mod trend, a dark socket crease line was a definitive line – meaning it wasn’t blended or smudged much at all and applied in an arch from the inner to the outer eye. However, for a more everyday makeup look, it was OK to blend the dark crease line as much as wanted.

Using a darker colour in the eyelid crease hadn’t been done before the 1960s. Likewise, using a lighter shade under the brow was a relatively new trend. Other colours were also being used in the inner and outer corners of the eyes to create different eye makeup looks. This fashion continues today, albeit with a lot more blending.

Mod high-fashion eye makeup ideas from Yardley advert (1967).
The latest eyeshadow colours from Max Factor in about 1962 (taken from a promotional booklet).

Eyeliner

The flicked upper eye line was in vogue (continuing from the end of the 1950s). The doe-eyed look involved a fully lined eye, finished with a flick at the outer corner. 

A trend in about 1967 was to wear a line of white eyeliner directly 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 eyeliner, block mascara was a good substitute. 

When false lashes were worn, eyeliner could be used to cover over the edge of the lash strip. A liner was employed to paint on to create bottom lid eyelashes – Twiggy sometimes wore this effect.

Early 1960s eyeliner fashions with the hard-edged socket crease (Dorothy Gray leaflet, c.1963).
The doe-eyed look (top) and a hard crease line.

False Eyelashes

False eyelashes were the fashion accessory of the 1960s from about 1964 onwards. Fashionable women wore them every day. Some even wore two or three sets, one right 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. There was also a choice of styles from more natural to thick and full. 

The continuous strip that bottom lashes came on could be annoying – so women would cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Lashes were made from human hair, synthetics, and animal hair like sable, mink and seal. Colour options were mainly black and brown, but other shades were available. Some also came decorated with rhinestones and glitter.

Twiggy and the 1960s mod look.
Twiggy and women's 1960s makeup
Twiggy's false eyelashes and painted bottom lashes.

Mascara

Mascara was now available in a tube with a wand applicator (invented in the 1950s), but solid block products were still used.

Block mascaras were activated with water (or more realistically spit) and mixed with the little brush that came with it. 

There was also cream mascara in a tube that came with a separate brush in a small bag. Some products were waterproof; others were not. 

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

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

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).

Women that were part of the hippie subculture would likely have left their eyebrows more natural and not pencilled in.

Blusher

Blusher was not a main feature of 1960s makeup – it was applied delicately and sparingly to create a natural and soft glowIt could also be applied to add warmth and subtle definition/contour to the temples, hairline and under the jaw. 

The fashionable colours were the pastels, such as coral, pink and peach. Various shades of red – from carmine to raspberry – were also available.

Blushers came in various formulations, including cream (in a tube or pot), liquid washes, solid cakes and a cream applied with a damp sponge. Colours were matte and free from shimmer and glitter.

Lipstick

Red, pink, and brown shades were fashionable at the start of the decade and came back again about 1966. Corals, pastel pinks and peach were fashionable colours throughout the decade, as well as beige nudes

Traditional lipsticks were mainly matte, though it was possible to add a sheen with Vaseline or specialist lip products. For example, Yardley’s Lip Slickers added a hint of pearly 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. In 1965, Max Factor had UltraLucent Creme lipstick.

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

1960s makeup colours
Excerpt from a Yardley lipstick advert (1967).
1960s makeup colours by Max Factor
Max Factor lipstick colour chart (from about 1962).

Nail Polish

Nail polishes came in various shades of red, pink, coral, peach and apricot. 

During the first half of the decade, pale nail colours were also fashionable. It peaked in about 1964 with pale colours such as ivory, pearl and tan. 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 was a thing. Here, 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 (painted and stuck on).
  • 1969 – Painted on freckles was a fad, along with creating polka dots on the eyelids with eyeshadow.

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.

31 thoughts on “Women’s 1960s Makeup: An Overview”

  1. Very interesting & helpful article – I actually worked one summer in the early 70’s at Elizabeth Arden, as a student… As a young teen in the late 60’s I remember the blue eyes, black lashes & pink lips. Twiggy & Mary Quant still loom large, as does the mystic of Carnaby Street… although I was more a hippy chick! However, my question relates to people of colour – which cosmetic lines, especially in lipsticks and eye shadow, would have suited darker skin? Would a compact be found in a young ladies bag in 1969, do you think? I know they were a traditional gift. Thank you.

    1. Hi Ginny – thanks for sharing your late 1960s memories. Always good to hear from those that were there. A mirrored powder compact came in all sorts of fancy metal cases to Mary Quant’s more simplistic “daisy logo” plastic ones – so choices were there for anyone who wanted a compact in the handbag, as they were convenient to use while out and about. So yes women did have compacts in their bags. As for women of colour, the mainstream brands catered mainly to Caucasian skins – the range of foundations in particular was often limited from pale to “sunkissed”. Avon were a little ahead of the crowd with some choices for black women. However, in the 1970s the needs of women of colour began to be more recognised, and new brands popped up such as Fashion Fair Cosmetics (1973). As for which brands women of colour “made do with” in the 1960s or preferred – I do not know. Perhaps if a lady of colour is reading this, they could share their personal 1960s makeup experience? Have a good day 🙂

  2. 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

  3. 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. However in the later 1960s, products could be used that added a gleam to makeup, including foundation, so the option for a sheen was there then.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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 🙂

    2. It could possibly be called cover girl medicated lipstick its in like a goldy/brown case and its quite a deep red x

  6. 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 –

  7. 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!

    1. Hi Stephanie – the pic is from an article in “Family Circle” magazine. Hope that helps 🙂

  8. 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! 🙂

  9. 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.

    1. Hi Jane, Thank you – happy our info was useful. All the best with the play, have a great time 🙂

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

  12. 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! 🙂

  13. 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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