1970s Beauty


When I asked my mother how my father proposed, she said “I don’t know, honey. It was the 70s. We just kind of talked about it.” And that, I think, sums up the 70s…

No, I don’t mean that. There was a lot going on in the 1970s! The 1960s had brought controversy over racial relations, women’s lib, environmental concerns and involvement in the Vietnam War. These issues were intensified in the 70s, with tumultuous political issues and widespread distrust of the government.  The freedom that people started to fight for in the 60s tipped all the way to hedonism for some.

Seems a bit silly to talk about beauty after that last paragraph, huh? But this a beauty blog, not a history course. And hair, makeup and fashion looks are a part of history.  If you disagree, imagine any of the well known period piece films showing actors with modern hair, makeup and wardrobe. It just wouldn’t work.

So let’s get to it, (wo)man.

The soft and natural look, a la Farrah Fawcett, reigned throughout the decade. Sunkissed skin and tawny lips complimented the earth-toned eye makeup that was a go-to look for many women.

Frosted makeup was popular for lips, eyes and cheeks. And in the 70s, it wasn’t uncommon to see it used on all three areas at the same time. Shine bright like a disco ball…

Contoured eye shadow fell out of fashion in the 70s. There might have been some browbone highlight, but a defined crease–which had been popular in the 60s–was not on trend. White eyeliner was on trend in the 70s. It was worn on the top lashline, sometimes on its own, sometimes above a dark eyeliner. Obvious liner at the lower lashline was not as popular. If a woman wasn’t wearing a natural eyeshadow, there was a good chance she had on a pastel purple, green or blue.

Cake mascara was a thing of the past. All mascara came in tubes and colors like raspberry, turquoise and lavender were popular. It wasn’t applied as heavily as it had been in the 60s and with the exception of the Disco and Punk looks, it was concentrated on the top lashes. Typical mascara application was more fluttery and long than thick and layered. False lashes were not as popular as they had been in the 60s.

Eyebrows were on the thin side. In the early 70s, there was a revival of the 1920s look, thanks to films like Cabaret and The Great Gatsby. Your average 70s woman tweezed maybe a littttttle too much, and would opt for lighter over darker brows.

Pastel, peach and pink lipsticks, often with a shimmer or frost finish, were worn throughout the decade. Lips tended to be more glossy than matte. Red lips came into fashion during a 1940s look trend. Lipliners were not as popular as they had been in years past.

Blush was soft and natural until mid 70s. Then it became more prominent, striped on the cheekbones and not well blended. It came in powder, gel and cream formulations in compact, tube and stick packaging.

With disco music and dance clubs came a whole new type of makeup. It was shimmery, glittery and anything but natural. Smokey eyes and a dark red lip were de riguer at places like Studio 54, as were jewel toned eye shadows and shimmery cheek colors. Hair was big and soft and often center-parted.

Punk music and its subculture came on the scene in the late 70s. For makeup, heavy black eyeliner for men and women was a must. It was often drawn in a cat eye shape with an exaggerated flick. Red or black lipstick, often shaped into a point on the top lip was oh-so-punk. Bold striped blush was applied–screw the blending. If foundation was used, it was usually on the pale side.

The 1970s brought about lots of nail options. The French Manicure was created in mid 70s and plastic press on nails came onto the market. Rounded tips were the norm but square tips came into fashion later in the 70s. Some women applied white pencil under the tips of their fingernails–something my mother still does.

Feathered hair was popular, with its big curls flicked or winged out. Long, straight and center parted hair was popular in the early and mid 70s. The Shag, the Afro and the Pageboy were popular, as were cornrows, perms and wedge cuts.

Tans–both real and fake–were hugely popular. Tanning beds, baby oil and foil reflectors made deep, dark tans easily accessible. (My collagen is recoiling in horror as I think about foil reflectors.)

Revlon, Max Factor, Coty, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, Maybelline, Bourjois, Rimmel, Yardley, CoverGirl, Maybelline and Biba were the biggest cosmetic companies. Avon was the first mainstream makeup company to expand its color line to cover all skintones. Unfortunately, some cosmetic companies today still have not caught up.

It’s my personal opinion the 1970s gave us the last original truly glamorous makeup with the disco look. Sure, some of that was tacky as hell, but there were some undeniably glamorous looks–hair, makeup and clothing–that came out of that era. And as far as I am concerned, that kind of glamour has died. So thank you, 1970s, for that gift. It gives a little makeup artist like me some inspiration.

Have a beautiful day 🙂