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Characteristics and history of makeup from the 40s

1940's Makeup: History and Characteristics

The characteristics of makeup and the look in the 40s were closely linked to the historical events that took place during this time. The economic crisis and World War II were two of the events that most influenced the vintage fashion, clothing, makeup and its trends.

In this blog post we tell you all about the fashion and makeup look from the 1940s, also known as the Baby Boom era. You can then create your very own unique and irresistible look with your makeup!

History of 1940s makeup

In World history, the 1940s was unfortunately noted as being one of the bloodiest in history. The Second World War that was being fought in Europe brought with it a huge economic crisis that affected practically every country.

This economic crisis was the cause of a notable decline in many sectors such as the film, fashion and beauty industries amongst others.

Trends that marked the makeup of the 40s

Icons of this Vintage Era

Despite the notorious fall in the North American film industry compared to other decades, the big screen had the pleasure of seeing important Hollywood movies, gems like Casablanca and Citizen Kane were released. Likewise, the creation of cinema in Technicolor was a great change and altered the image of many actresses.

Amongst the most prominent personalities of the 40s were beautiful women such as Rita Hayworth, the demure and classic Marlene Dietrich and Lauren Bacall, the actress and model Veronica Lake, Betty Grable and of course who would become the quintessential pin up icon of the 50's? Marilyn Monroe.

Characteristics of makeup from the 40s

As an inevitable consequence of World War II, society and therefore the world of beauty and makeup, acquire a dull, sad tone and lacked colour. The shortage of raw materials (since everything was designated for weapons and equipment for war) made this decade one of the simplest and most austere.

Face and Skin

As we mentioned, the typical makeup of the 40s becomes somewhat minimalist and simplistic. The in look for women 's skin remained smooth and flawless with the use of foundation makeup but for the first time we saw the use of contouring to shape the face through products such as shadows and highlighters and red toned blush. This resulted in a somewhat rigid and even sad face that was synonymous with the vintage glamor of women in this era.


In the eye area, a more exaggerated and striking look with false eyelashes began to be used, as well as a much more marked, pronounced and thick eyelid starting with makeup from the upper eye lid. The goal was to achieve a sad look to the eye area.

It should be noted that in Europe the shortage of makeup was so serious that women turned to shoe dye to use it as a substitute for mascara.

The makeup of the 40s and how it influenced fashion


One of the most noticeable and prominent elements of 1940s makeup is women's eyebrows. A thin and natural eye brow was greatly popularised and was called a “dove wing”, as it was similar to the wing of a dove when it was flying. In contrast, bushy or thick eye brows were not synonymous with hair, makeup and beauty in the 40's.

Lips and lipstick

Women of this time enlarged their mouth and lips with the help of products like pencils and lipstick. The lip line became more marked from the corner to the centre, leaving a full lip that almost simulated a "mouth of disgust". It was very common to see women with their lips made up with this look in photographs of Hollywood celebrities. In terms of lipstick tones used on the lips brown, red and dark shades predominate.


For the first time in the history of makeup, women did something different with their makeup on their cheekbones. Blush lost importance and the appearance of contouring with makeup allowed a different type of look. Highlighting the cheekbones and creating shadows with makeup on the cheeks refined the face.


As for manicures, there were no major changes in trends. Unfortunately nail polish was also in short supply, but women who could afford it still painted their nails. Red was 'in'. Also, the popular half moon manicure emerged, which is what later became known as the French manicure.

Undoubtedly, the events of the 1940s had great consequences for the beauty industry that would last until the early 1950s. However, despite the serious crisis that occurred, some beauty and makeup trends survived that even today are still a must-have for many women who love makeup and fashion.

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