10 things you probably didn’t know about 1950’s beauty

Updated: May 7, 2020

The 1950s birthed Hollywood Glamour. Think Marilyn Monroe, Bridgette Bardot and Audrey Hepburn. Think hourglass figures and bold lips; think creamy pale complexions, and bouffants and curls.

It was the decade of the pin-up and Playboy’s launch, a time where women were exposed to media pressures for the first time; to the ideal female body image, and the manufactured necessity of having to look good all the time. 

The 50s created the idealistic image of the alluring and effortless woman at home. A woman’s main and only concern was to find a man and have a family. Primping became necessity. Here is 10 things you probably didn’t know about 1950’s beauty. 


Image: 123 Inspiration


Women rarely showed skin 

Contrary to modern behaviours and fashion freedom, 1950’s women hardly showed much skin and instead used formal fashions to enhance an hourglass silhouette that was sought after, at the time. Small waists were emphasised with either a full or long pencil skirt, belts, three-quarter-length tops and neat sweaters. 


The A-Line dress, introduced by Christian Dior in the mid 50’s. Image: www.angelasancartier.net


Make-up got bolder 

Make-up was scarce during and after the war, so many women took advantage of the availability and new innovations in cosmetics a decade later. It was common to use a foundation base, in the form of all-in-one compact powder. Lips were enhanced with liner; pinks, and orange-reds were popular in the 50s.  Mascara added femininity to the face and brows were filled to create a higher arch. Winged eyeliner added definition and opened the eyes. Rosy rouge was often applied to the apple of the cheek. 

Audrey Hepburn doing her makeup GIF

GIF: nitratediva.tumblr.com


The brands we use today, were just as popular back then 

Revlon, Maybelline, Avon and Elizabeth Arden were all high-in-demand cosmetic brands during this glamorous era. In 1953, Maxfactor released the Crème Puff – the first cream-based powder followed by the iconic Wand Mascara in 1958.  


Image: art.co.uk


Exercise was nothing more than good, old-fashioned fun! 

Doctors had little to say about the significant link between good health and exercise during the 50’s. The decade brought the amusing fitness craze of the Hula Hoop and the Bongo board, however these tools were seen as nothing more than a toy. Instead, weight loss was promoted through wellness retreats; paraffin body wraps, cupping, herbal baths and regular massage. 

Weight loss treatments in the 1950s

Image: Dailymail


Beauty treatments were mostly DIY 

In a ‘Beauty Schedule for busy young wives,’ written in 1952, it advises an at-home routine of DIY pedicures and hair-care. On Tuesday’s, a pedicure was recommended involving foot exercises, following a nail polish. Body hair was to be removed with weekly shaving and hair was washed once a week, whilst giving the scalp a ‘rough, relaxing massage.’  

Beauty schedule for busy young wives 1950s

Image: www.allure.com


All-purpose soaps were a firm favourite 

Baths were a common thing in the 1950’s. All-purpose soaps like Palmolive, Carbolic and Pears Transparent were used to wash bodies and even to do the Laundry

soap washing hands gif vintage

GIF: okkult


Great skin was achieved with a simple routine 

In this 1950s beauty guide, posted by GlamourDaze it tells us that ‘some girls use a lubricating cream or lotion to prevent skin roughness or chapping. Expensive creams and powders however are not necessary – a healthy skin can be kept attractive with only a few, simple preparations.’ 


Cold Cream was used to cleanse 

Cold cream is a combination of water and particular fats (such as beeswax), designed to cleanse the skin by removing grime and make-up. The first noted uses of cold cream actually dates back to 1650, but was used centuries later to remove make-up prior to a bath. Women would apply the cream to a tissue or cotton wool, to rub away the dirt in the morning and evening. This method hydrated the skin and prevented moisture loss – a technique we still favour today in the form of high-street and pharmaceutical cream-based cleansers. 

1950s cold cream

Image: Pinterest


Hair-styling was more diverse than ever 

Compared to the 40’s, the following decade brought a flourish of different hairstyles and lengths. Hats were worn less. Natural was out. Hollywood glamour and the music industry influenced and popularised a wave of pixie cuts and Bouffant hairstyles. Advances in hair products led to a surge of setting, perming and styling. Women favoured short to medium-length hair. Backcombing, poodle-curl and outrageous volume became the norm.  

Elizabeth Taylor lighter gif

GIF: Maudit


Nails were natural or red 

The glamorous 50’s favoured neat, manicured nails at all times. Red was the preferred choice and natural nails were given a French Manicure. 

Secretaries look nail polish 1950s advert

Image: www.retrothing.com

If you enjoyed this article, tap here to explore the strangest beauty trends of the Victorian era. Follow aestheticsurge on Instagram. 

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