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Pin-Up Girl Makeup Tips

Updated on October 18, 2012

Release Your Inner Bombshell

The beauty of vintage pin-up girls is timeless. Their look is every bit as sexy today as it was back then. The vintage pinup girl wore makeup that accentuated her natural beauty in a sultry, yet classy style. Gorgeous rose-stained lips and velvety soft skin reigned supreme in the days before shimmery bronzers and thick, sticky lip gloss.

If you're looking for a break from the norm of today's style, give the vintage look a try and really let out your inner bombshell! This guide will take you through the basics of vintage makeup application from the 40's and 50's. You'll also find product recommendations for a flawless retro look.

Whether you're getting ready for a retro-inspired party, special occasion or just to try something new, you'll find everything you need to know about vintage pin-up makeup here.

Rita Hayworth 1940's makeup tips
Rita Hayworth 1940's makeup tips

The 1940's

The 40's were all about natural beauty. Makeup was used to enhance what Mother Nature had given. The ideal result was a perfectly flawless face that allowed for your own natural beauty to shine through.

Face – A perfect 40's face started with a matte foundation in a shade just slightly darker than your natural skin tone. Then, a soft luminous powder was used in a shade lighter than your natural skin tone. The combination of the darker foundation and the lighter powder made for a perfect, airbrushed effect.

After foundation and powder comes rouge. Cream rouge was popular in the 40's, however you may use powdered blush if you have difficulty applying rouge. Rouge was usually applied to the top of the cheekbones and blended upward toward the temples to create a soft triangle shape. Popular colors of rouge in the 40's were red with pink undertones, bright pink with fuchsia undertones and vibrant rose shades.

Eyes – A light natural color such as beige or light tan in a cream formula set the base for eye color. Then, a dark brown or soft gray cream or powder shadow would be applied to the crease. In the 40's, eyeshadow wasn't usually applied to the brow bone, so skip that area all together.

Lightly line your top lashes only with a thin line of soft black or brown pencil eyeliner. Then finish off with a few sweeps of a lengthening mascara to both the top and bottom lashes. The idea here is to make your lashes as long and flirty as possible. A lengthening mascara is preferred over a volumizing mascara.

For brows, leave them full but well trimmed. Pluck or wax your brows to a nice pointy arch. Apply a touch of brown powder to darken your brows. Use a little pencil to define the point in the arch and then finish up with a tiny dab of Vaseline applied with a brow brush to keep them looking neat.

Lips - Red was the hot color of the decade. Women painted their pout in nearly every shade of red from deep brick reds to bright corvette red and everything in between. Lips were center-stage in the 40's and practically every woman carried a tube of red lipstick in her purse. To recreate the bold lips of the 40's, focus on creating a full, natural shape with extra emphasis on the upper lip. Line your lips with a soft red lip liner, making sure to draw just slightly outside of your natural lip line on the upper lip to create fullness. Then fill in with a creamy red lipstick, using a tiny lip brush for a perfect finish.

1940's Makeup Application Video Tutorial

Sophia Loren 1950's Makeup
Sophia Loren 1950's Makeup

The 1950's

The 1950's brought glamor to the everyday woman. Makeup styles leaned towards the dramatic, thanks to gorgeous starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren. Eyes became shimmery, lips became bold, skin became glowing and everything worked together to emphasize the power of feminine beauty.

Face – Flawless skin was in. Every girl wanted a blemish-free face like the stars! Pancake makeup was the choice of women in the 50's. This cream foundation provides very heavy coverage to mask even the worst flaws. Pancake makeup isn't easy to come by these days and takes a lot of practice to get right. For easier application, try a compact foundation or cream to powder formula. Aim for a shade that matches your own skin tone or is slightly lighter. Apply your foundation with a sponge. When finished, set with a translucent loose powder.

Beautifully contoured cheekbones were all the rage in the 1950's. To create this look, use a tawny colored matte powder applied lightly, just below your cheekbones. Choose a rose color blush starting at the center of your cheekbones swept towards your temples. Then apply a light, shimmery pink to the top of your cheekbones toward the apple of your cheek. Finally, use a very soft, fluffy brush to blend all three colors carefully together for a seamless finish.

Eyes – Eyeshadow was kept neutral for the most part in the 50's, in order to balance out bold lipstick and also to make the lashes stand out. Start with a color just slightly lighter than your skin tone on your eyelids. Next, apply a brown or gray shadow to your creases and blend upwards and outwards with a small brush. Finally, top it all off with a slightly pearlescent white or champagne colored shadow just below the arches of your brows and in the very center of your eyelids.

In the mid 50's, winged eyeliner became extremely popular amongst Hollywood actresses and everyday women alike. Choose a liquid liner in black or dark brown and line your top lash line starting from the inside corner working out, gradually thickening the line as you go. When you get to the outside corners of your eyelids, flick the liner upwards just so slightly to get that cat-eye effect. Curl your lashes with an eyelash curler and apply a few coats of a conditioning and volumizing mascara for dramatically sexy eyes.

For even more Hollywood glamor, consider using a set of false eyelashes, taking extreme care to blend them in well with your natural ones.

Pluck or wax your eyebrows to a dramatic point and then fill in with a pencil to add shape and definition. Blend the color with an eyebrow brush to soften the effect and set with a brow defining gel to keep it all in place.

Lips – Red lipstick was still very popular in the 50's as it was in the 40's. The main difference was that the more muted orchid and brick reds became less in style than the brighter, true red hues. So start by lining your lips with a red pencil liner, paying close attention to create a cupids bow shape with your upper lip. Lightly color in your lips with the pencil. Then, using a small lip brush, paint on a coat of matte red lipstick. Blot with a tissue to set.

1950's Makeup Application Video Tutorial

Questions? Comments? Let me hear 'em!

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      This is great! I'll feature your page on some of my pin-up lenses. I have quite a few of those. Love those vintage pin-up girls.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Great make up tips!


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