Beauty through the ages: ’40s and ’50s

The ’40s and ’50s were a time for glamorous beauty and have been made popular again by stars such as Dita Von Teese and Megan Fox.

Think old-school Hollywood when recreating the look: a perfect, natural complexion with emphasised eyes and red lips. But how do you best achieve this retro vibe? Read on for a history of this era and how to nail the trend.

The ’40s were all about keeping things as natural as possible while still highlighting your best features. This makes the vintage look a great choice for daytime. Rather than caking on orange foundation to look tanned, the idea was to find a base as close to your own skintone as possible. A light dusting of powder is good enough if you have a generally clear complexion. Foundation from Bare Minerals can also be used to achieve the look. To boost the fresh-faced feel, pink or red blusher was used on the apples of the cheek to create a subtle flush.

Unlike the very thin brows of the ’30s, the decade after was a fan of perfectly preened, yet natural eyebrows. Eyes were defined thanks to muted brown tones, brown or black mascara and a small amount of liner.

Lips were probably the boldest part of the look, with almost all shades of red in favour. If you need some inspiration, look to Dita Von Teese, who has retro glamour nailed and knows just how to work a ruby lip. Your local beauty counter can advise you on a lipstick shade to match your complexion.

The turn of the ’50s saw pastel shades come into their own. Hollywood icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly influenced the beauty looks of most women and favoured colours such as pale pinks, greens and blues.

For skin, pale was in fashion, with an English Rose look much more popular than today’s perma-tanned ideal. Brands such as Elizabeth Arden and Max Factor were the favourites and can still be used today to achieve the look. While in the ’40s women could often only afford powder, foundation became a staple in most make-up bags.

While eyes were kept bare besides a lashing of mascara, lips were doing all the talking. Mouths were bordered with liner to make them look voluptuous and plump. Blondes were reaching for orange-red, while brunettes picked up purple tones. Long-lasting lipstick was finally reaching the markets, with Hazel Bishop introducing the first hugely popular lasting lipstick, inspiring the brands with staying power we use today.

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