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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.
Influences on Makeup
The London Scene
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, as exemplified by highly-influential model Twiggy on the cover of magazines worldwide.
Later in the 1960s, the hippie counterculture emerged and made its mark with a taste for more natural faces and products. Although 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 and 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.
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.
Quant, Makeup and Models
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, had interchangeable components and was fun, with its 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.
1960s Makeup Summary
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 soft reds to corals and pinks.
Just a few years later, the focus had really shifted to the eyes, when more dramatic eyeshadow application 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 in, as was lashings of mascara. Lips were pastel or pale. This look became all the rage for the younger women. Older women would likely stay with the more familiar (and more becoming) look of the early 1960s.
1960s Makeup Elements
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.
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. Colours were matte and free from shimmer and glitter.
Brows were groomed, shaped and defined with a brow 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).
Continuing on from the ’50s, the flicked upper eyeline was in vogue. 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 lashes, like Twiggy was sometimes seen with.
Powder eyeshadows were matte. You could also get eyeshadows in cream, crayon and liquid formulations, some of which had a pearlescent sheen or iridescent shimmer to them.
Eye makeup came in various containers, including tubes (e.g. Revlon’s Eye Velvet, a matte product available in several shades of green, blue and purple), pots and compacts containing several colours.
The mod eye makeup look, exemplified by Twiggy, was the distinctive black eyeshadow line in the socket crease, teamed with a pale eye lid. White was the colour to have, though other colours were worn as well, especially 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 could be blended for a less dramatic look.
Using a darker colour in the eyelid crease hadn’t really been done before and this fashion continues today, albeit using various colours and usually a lot more blending.
False eyelashes were the fashion accessory of the ’60s (from about 1964 on) and fashionable girls wore them everyday. Some even wore two 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. 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, and some came decorated with rhinestones and glitter.
Corals, pastel pinks and peach were the fashionable colours, as well as beige-pink nudes. Reds, pinks and browns were still available, being fashionable at the start of the decade and coming back in towards the late ’60s.
Lips were naturally defined with the lipstick and not lined with a lip pencil.
Traditional lipsticks were mainly matte, though Vaseline or other such products could be used to add a sheen if wanted. There were lipsticks with a sheen. 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.
Lipsticks came in the standard tube and the lipstick itself 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.
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.
Lash curlers were available, though recalled as “torture instruments that, if not placed quite right, really nipped your eye lid.”
Find Out More
- Women’s 1960s Hairstyles: An Overview
- Hair and Beauty Adverts from the 1960s
- Vogue Covers 1930s to 1980s