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The Roaring 1920s: A Makeup Revolution

The 1920s, often termed the "Roaring Twenties", wasn’t just a decade of jazz, flappers, and prohibition; it was also a pivotal era for the world of makeup. From the silver screen to the city streets, women were expressing their newfound freedoms, and makeup became an indispensable tool for self-expression. Here’s a closer look at the defining makeup trends of the 1920s.

  1. Pale Complexion: The ’20s woman sought a pale complexion, a throwback to Victorian ideals of beauty. Women would use creams and powders to achieve a flawless, porcelain-like face. Max Factor’s "Pan-Cake", although introduced a little later, became iconic for its ability to give a seamless finish on camera.
  2. Dark, Dramatic Eyes: In stark contrast to the pale face, eyes were meant to stand out. Women heavily lined their eyes with kohl, giving a smudged, smoky look. The crease was often dramatically darkened, and shadows with hues of grey or dark blue were popular. Mascara, previously made at home using a blend of Vaseline and coal dust, became commercial with products like Maybelline’s cake mascara.
  3. The "Cupid’s Bow" Lips: Perhaps the most iconic trend of the ’20s was the "Cupid’s Bow" lip. Lips were exaggeratedly lined to resemble a bow, with the upper lip peaking in the center and curving down dramatically. The favored shades were deep plums, reds, and even blacks. This made the lips look smaller, pursed, and doll-like.
  4. Thin, Rounded Eyebrows: Eyebrows were plucked into thin, rounded lines, often extending downwards towards the temple. This gave the face a perpetually surprised or sad appearance, considered fashionable at the time.
  5. Rouge in Abundance: While contouring was not in vogue, blushing cheeks were. Rouge was generously applied on the apples of the cheeks, often in circles. The preferred shades were roses and raspberry.
  6. Hair and Accessories: While not makeup, the Bob haircut and finger waves became iconic of the era. Women also began to accessorize with ornate headbands, often studded with jewels or feathers, accentuating the overall look.




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Behind these trends were a combination of factors. The end of World War I brought with it a sense of liberation. Women gained the right to vote in many countries and began working in roles previously reserved for men. The societal shift reflected in their desire to break free from earlier beauty norms. Moreover, Hollywood played a crucial role. Silent film stars like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks set the beauty standards, their dramatic makeup ensuring facial expressions were visible on camera and alluring off-screen.


Additionally, advancements in makeup production and the growth of consumer culture made cosmetics more accessible. Brands like Max Factor and Maybelline emerged as household names, shaping beauty trends for generations to come.


The 1920s were more than just a revolution in fashion and culture; they marked a significant shift in the beauty industry and makeup trends. The bold and dramatic styles of the ’20s reflected the spirit of the decade – rebellious, free, and unapologetically glamorous. Today, almost a century later, the influence of the Roaring Twenties is still evident, with many of its trends resurfacing and continuing to inspire modern makeup artistry.

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