1920s makeup

Hey beautiful people! Let’s take a ride through history and talk about 1920’s makeup and hair.

The use of cosmetics predates written history but we can safely assume the existence of a paleocosmetology in all our ancestral prototypes. (1)

It’s safe to say, they paved the way for all makeup enthusiasts ad we talk about them in detail today.

Key takeaways: 

Red lip color was the norm in 20s. 

Face powder and black liner was the most sought-out combo. 

1920s Makeup

The makeup and cosmetics industry was thriving by the 1920s, thanks to the influence of Hollywood.

Theater Scholar Marlis Schweitzer says, “Actresses had graduated from social pariahs to trendsetters. Actresses were seen as desirable—and they were more than ready to help cosmetics companies sell their wares.” (2)

Actresses such as Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, and Louise Brooks helped promote the makeup industry, creating 1920s makeup history.

Soon, the entire city was full of makeup counters and makeup artists. Beauty products were rife. Brands such as Max Factor and Coco Chanel were blooming.

Classic 1920s Makeup Look

Now, let’s talk about the easy 1920’s makeup that all the beautiful women took extraordinary care in.

1. Lip color:

A must-have 1920s makeup item was a bold red lip color. This was the biggest makeup trend in authentic 1920s makeup.

Even though the New York Board of Health considered banning it in 1924, fearing it might poison men who kissed the women who wore it, the popularity of lip shades did not fade. (3)

In every 1920s makeup tutorial, you will most definitely see a unique lip shape. That’s because the rounded shape of lips was quite popular during the time.

2. Face powder:

Face powder is a must-have in the 1920s authentic makeup guide. These beauty enhancers were used liberally on all skin types with a powder puff and came in limited, basic shades.

It was used to create a base for the skin tone and used after a cold cream, another very popular item. Wearers would find accurate colors and rub them on the skin for a youthful glow.

3. Dark eyeshadow:

A smoky eye shadow was the rage in 1920s eyeshadow, a must-have item for women.

Brown and blue eyeshadow was the most prevalent eye color, not only among stage performers but housewives too.

This is mostly owed to movie stars that exaggerated actresses’ natural beauty through bold makeup applications.

4. Black eyeliner and mascara:

Eyeliner in pencil forms was loved during the 20s. The history of makeup shows people with dark eyeliner to enhance their eyes.

Even though there was no black mascara yet, people got creative and used a cake form, a formulation of soap, and black coloring to color their lashes.

4. Thin eyebrows:

Another aspect of the beauty regimen is taper thin eyebrows which wearers would enhance with a brow pencil.

Beauty adverts in magazine articles usually showed film stars with thin arch shape brows.

5. Pink blush tones:

The rouge compartment came in cream, dry powder, or liquid form and usually came in shades of pink. The antique 1920s flapper movie stars applied rouge liberally to enhance their cheeks.

It was generally applied with a soft brush after. Although most products were for fair skin, there were shades available for black women too.

You may want to check out this historically accurate 1920s makeup tutorial for ideas. 


1. What color lipstick was popular in the 20s?

In the 1920’s make-up revolution, every average woman wore deep ruby lip shades or other beautiful shades of red lip color.

2. Was there eyeliner in the 1920s?

Oh yes! Bold eye makeup with black kohl eyeliner was prevalent in the beauty routine of every modern woman.

3. Did they have mascara in the 1920s?

No. But people opted for natural colors in a cake mascara, a formula made with soap and black to color their lashes.

4. Why did makeup become popular in 1920s?

Thanks to the Hollywood movie industry, makeup products were used as powerful tools to enhance one’s beauty and show off feminine power.


And that concludes our 1920s makeup article. The history of makeup shows that the 20s was a vibrant community of beauty services and enthusiasts.

People were just beginning to embrace makeup as beauty enhancer and didn’t miss a chance to truly shine.

Although the makeup industry has come a long way, some trends of the 20s, such as bold red lips and dark eyeshadow still prevail.


1. Parish LC, Crissey JT. Cosmetics: A historical review. Clinics in Dermatology. 1988;6:1–4.

2. Schweitzer M. “The Mad Search for Beauty”: Actresses’ Testimonials, the Cosmetics Industry, and the “Democratization of Beauty.” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era [Internet]. 2005 [cited 2022 Dec 7];4:255–92. Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25144403?mag=how-makeup-went-mainstream#metadata_info_tab_contents

3. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49282703_Why_women_wear_lipstick_preliminary_findings