The history of cosmetics is as long as human history itself, and it’s one of my favourite things to research and read about. I love the idea that painting your body is some kind of primal impulse that we’ve carried with us for thousands of years, and seeing how ideals, products and expressions have changed over that time is fascinating. Today I won’t be travelling too far back, but the 1960s are a favourite period of beauty and fashion history of many, so it’s a wonderful place to start.
Mary Quant makeup ad – the brand has relaunched in Japan.
The youth revolution made the 60s a time of broken boundaries and bright new expessions – rock music, mini skirts, go-go boots and so on. And while the 60s teens were doing the twist and painting on eyelashes with black liner, new innovations in technology enabled colour television and space travel, which became a source of inspiration in itself.
An ad for Maybelline eyeliner, featuring a “cut crease” eye look
The 60s look was practically an inversion of the glamourous femininity of the 50s – red lipstick, “colour harmony” and glamorous maturity was out, ousted by youthful energy and funky eyeshadow colours paired with pale lips. Suddenly, you could get your hands on products that would have been unthinkable – lipsticks in beige, white or brown, pearlescent eyeshadows in any pastel shade you could desire.
A Yardley ad featuring a range of eye and lip looks
Eyes were a focal point with thick eyeliner and false eyelashes, often amplified by contrasting the black against a white base. Youth-oriented brands had officially dethroned the previously reigning revlon, arden and max factor, replacing them with yardley, cover girl and maybelline. Bright plastic packaging replaced the gilded compacts of yore, making these products more affordable for trend-setting teenagers. Some of the most striking adverts and packaging came from Yardley of london – they even made products in collaboration with Twiggy, perhaps one of the first celebrity-branded makeup collections?
A Yardley ad for “Twiggy” lashes
Today, references to 1960s makeup looks and packaging design are everywhere. The popular “cut-crease” look used by YouTube beauty bloggers was a typical eye makeup technique in the 60s, seen here in a Yardley ad. Nude lips, too, have their origins here. Furthermore, false eyelashes really came to their right, and today many wear them several days a week.
Anna Sui makeup packaging, 2011 and 2016 respectively
Packaging design, too, takes a lot of cues from the 60s – Anna Sui is a notable example of a strong mod influence with the “dolly girl” lipsticks and the more recent 2016 Tropical Summer Beach Collection. Marc Jacobs Beauty has a look that is more space age than youthful revolt: the sleek black plastic cases look like something you’d see on Barbarella’s vanity.
A promotional image for Marc Jacobs Beauty
If you’re interested in trying a makeup look from the 1960s, get your paws on some black eyeliner and light-coloured lipstick – this video from Lisa Eldridge shows a classic look inspired by the period. For a sharp 60s eyeliner look, try this clip from Desi Perkins!