How to Recreate 1920s Makeup Trends: A Step-By-Step Guide

Whether you are attending a costume party, or just wish to change up your own look, you can recreate 1920s makeup trends to look like a Great Gatsby girl!

If you’ve ever been curious about how to recreate the glamorous ’20s makeup trends’, this is the article for you. Whether you are attending a costume party, or just wish to change up your own look, you can create a 1920s style that will make your eyes captivating and your lips charming.

We’re going to guide you through all the steps of recreating these looks so that by the time we’re done, you’ll have a brand-new look on your face. Let’s get started!

Who made makeup popular in the 1920s?

Makeup had been deemed inappropriate for many decades and only worn by a certain type of woman (tarts and floozies!) and stage performers. In contrast, skincare was altogether a different matter and it was acceptable to look after one’s complexion and hair. In fact, not doing so was deemed irresponsible.

While many Victorian and Edwardian women did use makeup, it was used very discreetly to remain socially appropriate. It wasn’t until the 1920s that makeup came back with a vengeance.

At the start of the decade, makeup was still on the more cautious side, especially the wearing of lipstick. However, by the mid-1920s, makeup was openly worn and applied in public. 

By the end of the decade, not only was wearing makeup fashionable and respectable, it was de rigeur. Here’s what influenced this trend.

Film Stars

The appearance of the cinema at the beginning of the century has inevitably influenced the way men and women dressed. Not only did actresses and their on-screen personas influence makeup and hair fashions, but they set the beauty standards for modern women.

The symbols of the 1920s were Clara BowGloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, and Greta Garbo.

Cosmetic manufacturers were quick to reap the benefits of the silver screen. As a result, film stars were used in adverts to promote the products. Magazine advertising increased dramatically throughout the decade. 

The average woman may not have had such an adventurous lifestyle as portrayed by the leading ladies in films, but they could at least attempt to emulate how the stars looked.

Film Studio Makeup Artists

Max Factor, Cecil Holland, and the Westmore family were the main Hollywood makeup artists of the day. They were instrumental in creating the film stars’ looks.

Max Factor, in particular, revolutionized screen makeup. Theatrical greasepaints did not work well for the film, so he set about creating products that did work. He consistently developed new products, which later became available to the public. He is also generally acknowledged as the creator of the cupid’s bow lip shape, as seen on Clara Bow.

In 1920, Max Factor began referring to his products as makeup, taken from the phrase “to make up one’s face”. Until then, the broad term “cosmetics” had been used in polite society.

Helena Rubinstein, another popular makeup artist, developed cupids bow lip, a self-shaping lipstick intensely popular and the image of the 1920s woman with her bow lips and dark eyes peering out from under her cloche hat has defined the look to this day.

Read more:

What was happening in the 1920s

How To Recreate a Classic 1920s Makeup Look

The classic 1920s makeup look has a smooth, natural complexion with a rosy cheek. Lipstick created a dainty lip shape, and thin eyebrows were film stars fashionable. The eyebrows were sometimes drawn curving beyond the natural brow line.

Women wore obvious makeup during the day. However, bolder colors and heavier applications were saved for evening events. In particular, a dark smoky eye – often seen as essential 1920s makeup – would not have been worn by the average woman during the day. 

A smoky eye and heavy makeup were also the “film star flapper” look. It is worth remembering that film makeup was exaggerated to create dramatic characters and features.

Step 1: Start with a great foundation.

Before you can begin to create your 1920s makeup look, it’s important to start with the right foundation.

  • Choose a shade that matches your skin tone. If you’re unsure of what color would work best for you, ask for help from a salesperson at your local Sephora or Ulta–they will be able to help match your skin tone perfectly!
  • Make sure that the foundation doesn’t have too much yellow or orange in it; this can cause unnatural-looking skin tones and make it harder for other cosmetics products (like blush) to look natural on top of them later on in this tutorial process.
  • Try out different types of mattes until one works well enough with both SPF protection and coverage level needed by someone who wants something more subtle than heavy coverage but still needs some coverage due to acne scars or hyperpigmentation issues like melasma caused by sun damage over time without proper sun protection measures being taken beforehand such as wearing sunscreen daily under moisturizer every morning before heading outdoors into dangerous UV rays coming directly overhead during summer months as well (which happens pretty much anywhere except maybe far north where there are fewer hours per day available).

Step 2: Choose a bold blush and apply it to the apples of the cheeks.

  • Choose a bold blush and apply it to the apples of the cheeks.
  • The color of your blush should be the same as your skin tone, or very close to it. It’s also important not to go overboard with this step–you want the color of your blush to be noticeable, but not overpowering or unnatural looking.
  • Apply a small amount on either side of each apple for an even application that looks natural and fresh (not overdone).

Step 3: Apply eyeshadow.

  • Apply a neutral shade to the crease of your eyelid. This will help make your eyes look more awake and alive, which is important considering that 1920s makeup trends were all about making people look more “vivacious” (a word that’s become synonymous with “excited” or “energetic”). The key here is to use an eye shadow that’s not too dark and not too light–you want something in between those two extremes.
  • Use a light shade on the lid, blending it out to the brow bone. You can also apply this directly underneath your eyebrow if you want to add some definition there as well; just make sure not to go overboard with anything else because otherwise, you might end up looking like Morticia Addams!
  • Use an even darker shade at the outer corner of your eye (near where it meets up with your temple) so that when combined with step #1 above creates an inverted V shape along each side of each lid – this helps give off another 1920s vibe because it reminds us all those classic Hollywood actresses who wore these types of styles back then!

Step 4: Define your eyebrows.

Step 4: Define your eyebrows.

Take a light brown eyebrow pencil and define the shape of your brows, starting at the inner corner and working outward. Next, use a spoolie brush (a small brush with soft bristles) to brush up and out until they reach their ideal shape. If you have blonde or red hair, skip this step!

Finish off by using a brow gel or setting powder on top of the penciled-in shape so it lasts all day long!

Step 5: Outline your lips.

Now it’s time to outline your lips. You’ll want to use a lip liner and fill in the entire shape of your lips with it, then blend any harsh lines with a brush or fingers. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using two different shades of lipstick for an ombre effect that would look great on any 1920s flapper!

Once you’ve got your colors set up on both sides of your face (or if you’re going for just one side), go ahead and seal the deal by applying some gloss over top of them both–you’ll be left with gorgeous 1920s makeup without having to worry about smudging or fading away throughout the day!

Step 6: Color in your lips with a bold shade.

You can use a lip liner to outline your lips, and then fill in the color with lipstick. If you want to add shine, apply a gloss over top of it. Finally, apply some balm on top of everything else to keep your lips moisturized during the day!

Step 7: Rock your new ’20s look!

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get out there and show off your new look!

  • Use a mirror to check your makeup. Are there any spots where the black eyeliner needs touching up? Do all of your lashes look equally dramatic and glamorous? Is there too much red lipstick on one side of your mouth, or does it look perfectly symmetrical? If so, great job! Now go show off those pearly whites!
  • Use a lip liner pencil to outline the shape of your lips before filling them in with a lip brush (or just use the pencil). This will help ensure that everything lines up perfectly when you’re done painting on some color–and remember that nothing says the 1920s like an exaggerated cupid’s bow! Once again: take care not only to fill in each part but also make sure each section is even with every other section (this means no gaps between upper and lower lips). Lastly…
  • Apply some gloss overtop everything else for shine and shine alone (we don’t need anything else!).

1920s makeup can be recreated easily with the right products and steps

1920s makeup should be bold and dramatic.

It’s very different from modern-day makeup, but it’s also a great way to express your personality! You may have heard that the 1920s were all about high cheekbones and full lips–and this is true! However, there are some key differences between now and then: back then, eyeshadow was bolder than it is today; lipstick was darker; blush was more intense; etcetera…

It’s important to choose colors for your skin tone (you can find out what these are here). Different skin tones look better in different colors–for example, if you have fair skin like me then we would recommend using gold/bronze tones instead of copper because they complement each other nicely while still allowing me enough contrast between my eyeshadow color vs my blush color(s). Eyeshadow colors used back then were also different than today so make sure when choosing which shades work best under different lighting conditions before purchasing anything online!


We hope this guide has made it easier for you to recreate 1920s makeup trends. There are so many ways to do so and there is no one perfect look, but we think the important thing is that you feel good about yourself and your look! Make sure that whatever you do is what makes sense for your face shape as well as personal style preferences like bright colors vs muted tones. Have fun!


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