Iconic Makeup Looks From Every Decade

Some classic makeup looks always remain in vogue. The techniques and styles of applying makeup have shifted significantly over the past few hundred years. There have been numerous trends in cosmetics, such as thin eyebrows in the 1930s and the heavy mascara look popularized by Twiggy in the 1960s. While some trends are best left in the past, others have become iconic and still impact modern beauty trends, both on and off the catwalk. 

Whether you're a fan of 70s makeup or just looking to experiment with some elegant and uncomplicated looks, you'll find a wealth of inspiration for your beauty collection here. Explore these picks to go on a nostalgic nostalgia trip and indulge in the defining beauty trends of every decade. 

The 1920S: Smoky Eyes and Crimson Lips

The Roaring Twenties were a dazzling period of luxurious excess, where the newfound freedom of women pushed the boundaries of beauty. Many Americans, especially young women, flocked to the cities during this era, leading to a flourishing of beauty standards that embraced the idea that more was always better. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1930S: Skinny Brows and Pancake Foundation

During the 1930s, Hollywood was the center of style, with iconic actresses like Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Mae West making pencil-thin eyebrows a popular trend that was emulated by all, regardless of their natural brow shape. The key was to ditch your eyebrows completely and draw on a thin, extended line that went beyond the natural length of your brow. In contrast, the top foundations of the time focused on achieving a matte, full-coverage look. The go-to choice was Max Factor's pancake foundation, introduced in 1937. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1940S: Ruby Red Lipstick

During World War II, women took over factory and farmland jobs traditionally held by men. Despite cosmetics restrictions, they kept their makeup simple, opting for modest looks. However, bright red lipstick remained in fashion and was even considered essential for boosting morale in the United States. This classic style of natural makeup with a bold lip has since become iconic and timeless. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1950S: Natural Glamour and Winged Eyeliner

The 1950s were considered the "golden era of cosmetics," focusing on glamor following the postwar period. Marilyn Monroe made winged eyeliner a trend, and Audrey Hepburn promoted fuller, more natural brows. Cream foundations were necessary for achieving a flawless, "masked" appearance, and lipstick shades transitioned from bold reds to softer pinks and peaches. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1960S: Graphic Eyes and Creamy Lips

The makeup trends of the 1960s reflected the era's recreational hedonism. Young people were at the forefront of a revolutionary movement that embraced short skirts, high heels, loud music, and vibrant art. Models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton helped to establish London as the fashion capital of the world, embodying the "London style" with bold eye makeup featuring thick layers of mascara, fake eyelashes, and painted-on bottom lashes.

Eye contouring became popular, with a pale eyeshadow on the lids and a black line drawn along the inner crease and lashes. Lips were kept creamy and colorless to emphasize the eyes. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1970S: Glittery Shadow and Lip Gloss

During the 1970s, cosmetics began to decline as a result of the women's liberation movement. The popular makeup trends of the decade included a natural, girl-next-door look or a disco-style aesthetic. To achieve a youthful, sun-kissed appearance, bronzer, cream eyeshadow, highlighting products, and lip gloss were commonly used. Bright and vibrant eye shadow shades were popular, along with glossy lips. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1980S: Bright and Powerful

In the 1980s, the prevailing message in cosmetics was to go bold and bright. This era saw a departure from the understated, muted tones of the 1970s, with a shift towards vibrant and color-clashing makeup. This change could be linked to the growing economy of the time. Icons like Madonna, Diana Ross, and Joan Collins embraced neon lipstick and a range of richly pigmented eye shadows. There was no such thing as too much in terms of makeup. The introduction of MAC Cosmetics in 1984 made highly pigmented products in a plethora of vivid shades easily accessible to all. 

Watch the Youtube Video Tutorial for this makeup look. 

The 1990S: Grayish Eye Makeup and Brownish Lips

As we transitioned from the vibrant and bold colors of the 1980s, the simpler and more understated looks of the 1990s emerged as the new trend. Classic styles such as frosty brown lipstick, blue-grey eyeshadow, thin eyebrows, glossy lips, and sparkles became popular during this time. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Campbell, and Drew Barrymore were considered the fashion icons of the era. 

The 2000S: Smoky and Heavy Kohl Look

Celebrities in the 2000s greatly influenced cosmetic trends, with a popular style being the combination of eyeliner and bold smoky eye shadow for a dramatic effect. Previous trends from the 1990s, such as pastel makeup, glossy lips, and bold lip liner, also made a comeback. Another trend that gained popularity was the frosted lip look, where a metallic, high-shine lip gloss was applied over a nude lipstick, creating a stunning effect. 

The 2010S: Bold Brows and Insta-Glam

The popularity of thick, bold eyebrows has surged thanks to supermodel Cara Delevingne. Her iconic brows, which gained attention after she landed a campaign with Burberry in 2012, have inspired a beauty trend for the decade. Models and makeup lovers have traded in their tweezers for pencils, pomades, and brushes to achieve the same full, masculine brow look. The rise of social media platforms like Instagram has also played a role in popularizing beauty techniques such as contouring, baking, and cut-crease eye makeup, with influencers like NikkiTutorials and Patrick Starr leading the way. 

The 2020S: Glowy Natural Skin and Lovely Contour

The main trend of the early 2020s has been achieving luminous and radiant skin. With the prolonged periods of lockdown due to the pandemic, people have become more conscious of their skin's health. This has led to a demand for soft textures, luminous highlighters, and high-quality cream blushes to enhance our newfound glow. 

The evolution of makeup over the years is truly captivating, with new iconic styles constantly emerging. Though trends may come and go, there are certain looks that have remained timeless. Whether you adore the classic cat-eye or favor a more subtle approach, don't hesitate to experiment with iconic makeup trends from various decades. The future of makeup trends remains uncertain, but only time will reveal the next big thing in the beauty world!