1940s Makeup – Beetroot Juice for Blusher!

Laci Fay - The Vintage Girl Next Door

In the 1930’s and 40’s makeup goes from being seen as tawdry, perhaps something only worn by women of ‘dubious’ nature, to an acceptable, even expected part of every woman’s daily beauty routine.

The 1940’s begins with a fashion for the ‘natural’ look. Despite this, beauty routines were lengthy compared to today’s standards. As the war continued and women replaced men in manual roles, society worried that they were losing their natural femininity. This led to a government campaign in which women were encouraged to maintain their looks to support morale. In dark times, it brought ‘brightness and positivity’ to see a beautiful and glamorous woman, they claimed. With slogans like ‘Beauty Is Your Duty’ the government teamed up with magazines such as Vogue, in addition to releasing a number of posters and leaflets instructing women to stay trim and well kept in the name of patriotism.

Shortages of crucial ingredients – fats, oils and glycerine – during World War Two meant that makeup was hard to get hold of and often expensive. Not to be deterred, women improvised. Beetroot juice made an excellent replacement for rouge (blusher) a little petroleum jelly on eyelashes made them seem longer and thicker. Cold tea or even gravy browning painted on the legs gave the appearance of stockings, the look completed by drawing a seam up the back of the leg with an eye pencil. This required a steady hand to say the least!

The power of marketing and the influence from actresses over in Hollywood produced the most iconic look of the 1940’s – the strong red lipstick. Cosmetic companies released shades of red with names such as Victory, Auxiliary and Home Front Ammunition. Actresses like Joan Crawford moved away from the smaller lip shape of the 1930’s to a fuller, curved lip named the ‘Hunter’s Bow’. Women welcomed these brighter shades of lipstick as an antidote to the utilitarian clothing of the times.

As war ended cosmetics became less expensive and easier to obtain. The beauty industry exploded with new products. Here are just a few ways that you can get the 1940’s look.


Before the war, foundation – or pancake as it was commonly called – was thick and required a lot of blending. It had a pink tone only suitable for white women so many women of colour learnt to make their own. In 1948, Max Factor launched Pan-Stik, a cream foundation in a tube that was simple to apply and required less blending. A natural, understated look remained fashionable throughout the decade.


Eyebrows were worn more natural than the 30’s, curved or arched, but not too thick. A little vaseline was advised to keep stray hairs in place and brow pencils could be bought to fill in thinner brows. Mascara came in a tube and was applied with a separate brush. It was available in black or brown, worn only on the top lashes. During the war eyeshadow stayed muted with tones of grey or brown. Later in the decade eyes became a major factor in evening make up with shades of green, blue, violet and even gold.


As mentioned above, red, full lips played a starring role in the early to mid 1940’s. After the war women embraced a greater range of pink, red and orange shades but the lip shape stayed pretty much the same throughout. Lip pencils began to make an appearance towards the end of the decade.

With a strong red lip and natural face, 1940’s makeup has become a classic look that remains popular today. Combined with glamorous hairstyling or a simple head scarf, it is a simple and effective look that still makes a great impression for day or night.

With thanks to Laci Fay – The Vintage Girl Next Door

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