1940s Makeup Ultimate Tips and Tricks

In another post, I explained the nuances of 1950s makeup which is quite different than makeup looks that are popular today. I decide that I might as well do another post about 1940s makeup (and perhaps other similar posts concerning makeup from other decades). The thing about 1940s makeup is that it does share quite a lot of similarities to 1950s makeup which isn’t all that surprising since they are chronologically not at all far away from each other.

However, there are a few important differences between vintage makeup looks in these two decades. These small details can make all the difference between making a vintage makeup look seem authentic or not quite right. But what kind of details makes 1940s makeup unique?

1940s Makeup: Eyes

The main difference between 1940s and 1950s makeup has to do with the eye makeup. In the 50s, far more eye makeup was used compared to the 40s. In the 40s, eyeshadow wasn’t very popular at all. If any eyeshadow was used at all, it would usually be very neutral such as brown. For the evenings, it might be more extravagant such as gold or silver. Eyeliner was almost never used.

Instead, the big thing was mascara. Mascara would come in shades of black or brown. Fair-haired women would often use brown mascara since black would make their eyes and complexion look too harsh. Back then, mascara came in the form of a cake (much like foundation today) instead of a handy tube. After adding some water to that mascara cake, a woman would be able to use a special brush to apply the makeup to her eyelashes (and sometimes to her eyebrows).

Speaking of eyebrows, arched eyebrows were all the rage in the 1940s. This didn’t change in the 1950s. The eyebrows would be relatively natural, but stray hairs would be plucked to accentuate the arch. An interesting vintage makeup trick from this era that I’ve started to use is to put a bit of Vaseline on your eyebrows. This makes your eyebrows darker and a bit shiny.

Vintage Makeup: Face

There were not many foundation colors available in the 1940s, especially not for women of color. Women of color usually had to create their own foundation colors. White women had an easier time, but even then, some often still had problems finding the right shade. Foundation during this time was quite thick and dewy which allowed face powder to stick well to the face without falling off.

Women chose foundation that matched their skin color as closely as possible, that way, a woman could achieve a natural look. Pan-cake compressed foundations were especially popular during this time since they were still quite new and had proven themselves to be quite effective at providing an airbrushed look. But what about blush?

In the 1940s, blush was called rouge. Rouge was more prominent in the 40s than it was in the 50s. Cream rouge was especially popular since it was easy to blend and gave a women beautiful rosy cheeks. Powder rouge was another popular choice.


Red lipstick was essential in the 1940s. It was worn as an everyday color. Darker reds were more popular for the evening. In some cases, women would also wear pink during the day, but this would be a rich or dark pink rather than a light pink. Light pinks only became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

Orange-red lipsticks were also popular during this time. Lipstick was especially important during World War II since it acted as an affordable little luxury that women could enjoy, even in the harsh times of rationing. The ideal lip shape was called the Hunter’s Bow Lip which emphasized the arches of the top lip and created a symmetrical shape. Sometimes, Vaseline would be used over lipstick to give it a shine. This was an especially popular trick among Old Hollywood actresses.

Women applied their lipstick without a lip pencil since that wasn’t invented until 1948.

1940s makeup

1940s Makeup Conclusion

1940s makeup was quite unique and had many aspects that we don’t see today. For example, the lack of eyeliner, lip liners, the Hunter’s Bow Lip shape, and other aspects were all characteristic of the period. While makeup has changed a lot since then, there are still products that are similar to products that were available then that can allow you to get the same vintage look.

Click here to explore some great makeup options.

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