Fifties Fashion & Beauty

How To Do Your Makeup Retro 50’s in 6 Simple Steps

Hello out there, retro gals! It’s Retro Dee with some makeup tips for all you beautiful ladies who love the 1950’s glam look as much as I do!

In this post I’m going to list each essential look of the 50’s as well as recommend some of my favorite products. But first a Disclaimer: These are my own, personal, independent opinions and I do not get paid or compensated in any way by any companies to endorse any products.

Also, please remember that my favorite products might not end up being your favorite products… So all I can do is offer you ideas based on my experience.

Well, what experience do you have, Retro Dee? you ask.

Good question. I’m for sure no model, but I confess I AM a product junkie when it comes to all things beauty. I love my makeup the way an artist loves their paints! I’m one of those gals who can take out a second mortgage using my points at Ulta. (Kidding, of course!) But all jokes aside… I’ve been seriously into makeup since I was about 16, which is more years ago than I care to admit. 😉 However. Once I decided I was going to go totally “retro 1950’s”, I had to change up my collection and my routine.

So here they are: 6 Simple Steps To Doing Your Makeup Retro 50’s!

1. First, Review The Look:

We all love the iconic glamour of the 1950’s. It’s not hard to spot and it’s easy to find in many beauty books and articles on the subject: Lots of mascara, eyeliner that turns up into a seductive wing… full, shapely eyebrows with a high peak and, of course, the trademark bright red, matte lips.

Yes, you probably knew all that, but still you might want to review pictures of the actual look. By that I mean, look at stars from the 50’s era: Marilyn, Audrey, Elizabeth etc… Study their eyes, brows, lips, and if you can get color photos even better. Don’t study current-day retro models. While some of them adhere to the era, others have that updated “Rockabilly” look, which is fine, but if you’re going for true retro, they might be misleading.

Stick to the classic beauties when referencing true retro style!


2. Declutter Your Current Makeup Stash

Not to say you need to get rid of everything, no! However, you might want to “declutter” to make room for new items.

Some things you won’t be needing:

  • Lip gloss: 50’s lipstick was matte and came in traditional tubes. No gloss, no frosted colors. I used to be a gloss girl, so this took an adjustment… but styles always go back to matte anyway.
  • Anything with glitter or shimmer in it: Get rid of all the shimmery, glittery, frosty, metallic-like unicorn and mermaid crap. Or just store it away.
  • Neon colors and deep jewel-toned colors: That’s 80’s, not 50’s.
  • Neutral lipstick: The whole point of lipstick in the 50’s was to have noticeably red (or pink) lips. Also get rid of plum hues or anything that’s not a true red or pink. Coral, if matte, is passable.
  • Eyeliner that’s any color other than basic black: Other colors don’t give you the cat eyes black eyeliner will, and the 50’s were strictly about sultry cat eyes.


3. Find a Foundation

Start fresh and find a new foundation, unless you absolutely love the one you have, then by all means, carry on. You should go for a matte, medium to full coverage.  Foundation in those days was basic, not dewy or shimmery, so keep it matte. Liquid foundation was all the rage. I don’t really have any recommendations for foundation since we all vary so much in skin type.


4. Brush with Blush

Blush in the 50’s was pink. There weren’t a lot of other shades, and pink was definitely the go-to color. This is a conundrum for gals like me with yellow undertones who look better with coral blushes. I still wear a coral-colored blush most of the time, unless I’m going for serious retro and the color suits my outfit, I’ll use pink. I like Tarte Amazon Clay blush in “Dollface”.


5. Execute Expressive Eyes and Eyebrows

Eye makeup in the 50’s was all about mascara and liner. If you want to use eyeshadow too, you can, just keep it subtle and use lighter colors, like peaches and pastels. A little pearly shimmer works fine, but NO glitter and no metallics!

Mascara was much like today’s: used to make your lashes look thicker and longer. So layer it on! BUT the one thing to avoid are the bottom lashes. Leave those bare. If you use mascara on your lower lashes you will get the 60’s “baby doll” look, rather than the sultry 50’s look. This seemingly small detail makes a big difference.

The eyeliner in the 50’s was about making thick, sultry wings. I am not going to tell you how to make wings, I can barely get them to come out right myself! But do make sure they are thick enough to to show up without being scary. Today’s cat eyes are over the top. In the Fifties they were prominent, but more subtle. The Ladies of the Silver Screen from that era show great examples of this look. As with the mascara, leave the bottom lids bare, or just line them lightly.

I find it hard to make a good cat eye with a precise wing with a pencil (even though pencils are all they had in the 50’s) so I had to try a liquid eyeliner. I haven’t had much luck with liquid eyeliners in the past, but this time I tried Black Magic Eyeliner by Eyeko and it works pretty well.

The eyebrows are damn hard to get right, at least in my experience. If you don’t have a high natural arch, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. What’s more is if you draw brows too far outside of your own natural contour, you will look scary. If you were a young teen in the 1990’s, you might tend to shy away from thick eyebrows, remembering the days when eyebrows were thin and puny– like Kate Moss! But 1950’s eyebrows were thick, and if done right, very glamorous. For example, Elizabeth Taylor had some thick-ass eyebrows, but they were beautifully shaped and accentuated her other glamorous features:

Actress Elizabeth Taylor was the epitome of 1950’s glam.


I still haven’t perfected this, but I keep practicing. So while I can’t tell you exactly HOW to make and shape the iconic 50’s eyebrow, I can recommend my personal favorite brow tools: I like Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz pencil to make precise fill-in and lines. I also like ka-Brow by Benefit which has a tiny angled brush and product itself acts like a wax which holds your hairs in place.


6. Find Some Great Lipstick

Out of all the types of makeup there are, lipstick is my personal favorite. Let’s face it, lipstick is FUN! In the 50’s, the lipstick was matte. So if you are doing a retro 1950’s look, don’t even think about donning glossy or shimmery, frosted lips– you’ll ruin everything. Stick to matte. Matte was where it’s at!

Reds and Pinks were the two prominent colors. The Red Lip, particularly,  is synonymous with stylish women of the day. Whether you choose a blue-toned or yellow-toned red is up to you, but make sure it’s bright and bold like that cherry red ’57 Chevy convertible  we all wish we had. No dark, or brick reds. Keep it candy apple bright!

When you line your lips, go a little outside of the natural contour in order to make them look fuller. (Don’t most of us do that anyway? 😉 ) My favorite lip liner is Buxom Plumpline in “Restricted”. I also like Lipstick Queen’s liners but they keep discontinuing colors. Bastards.

Pink looks horrible on me, so I stick to those bright, classic reds. Nothing says “50’s Glam” like a good red lip! Mattes are notorious for being drying on the lips, but I think many companies are getting better at making less drying formulas. There are certainly a lot of matte lipsticks to choose from. Some of my favorites are: Winky Lux Matte Velour in “Heart”, Urban Decay Comfort Matte in “Doubt”, and theBalm Meet Matt(e) Hughes in “Loyal”.

Yes, I know Matt(e) Hughes is liquid lipstick, but the packaging is SO stinkin’ cute with two 50’s teens sharing a malt. Truth be told, the picture is the reason I bought it…  I didn’t even think I was gonna like it, but I was wrong! And it smells fantastic, plus it’s the least drying of all the lipsticks I’ve tried and stays on pretty well too!

Meet Matt(e) Hughes liquid lipstick from theBalm comes in a Nifty Fifties package and works great too!


Bonus Tip: What the hell, use Modern Day Cheats!

Many of the beauty products we have today were not available in the 1950’s. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them! As long as you avoid a lot of sparkle and excess shimmer, you can still use highlighters, contours and bronzers, to help accentuate cheekbones and add some color.

For highlighter, I like theBalm “Mary-Lou Manizer”. It’s good in both powder and liquid forms. I got it as a sample, and liked it so much I bought more. The package is cute too. For contouring, I use Benefit’s “Hula” in stick form, and for a bronzer, I like Tarte “Park Ave Princess”, although bronzer doesn’t work well on me since I’m so pale.  Once again, I don’t advise you use any of that unicorn stuff, that will take you out of the retro era and into the now. Just stick to what will help give you a natural highlight/contour and a touch of bronze for the summer.

Mary-Lou Manizer by theBalm is a great highlighter that comes in powder and liquid form


Okay, gorgeous, that’s it for now! Get out there and show ’em what a beautiful, classy lady looks like and Rock that Retro glam!

Oh and thanks for reading this post and stay tuned for more retro beauty and fashion tips here on Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era ever. Follow right here on Word Press and on Twitter @RealRetroDee and on Instagram @mariepascal82 .


– dee

Disclaimer: I DO NOT get paid or compensated in any way for endorsing any companies or products, nor am I affiliated with any companies or products. All logos, names, titles and image copyrights are retained by their original owners.

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