Beauty by the Decade: The 1920s Hair and Makeup Trends
Beauty by the Decade: The 1920s Hair and Makeup Trends
1920s beauty

Our newest series, “Beauty by the Decade” explores beauty trends from the past and transfers them into wearable, updated ideas for hair and makeup. In case you missed them, see our guides to 1970s hair and makeup, 1960s hair and makeup, and 1950s hair and makeup.

The Roaring Twenties were a time of dancing the Charleston, The Great Gatsby, flappers, jazz, and Old Hollywood. They were also a time of fabulous fashion and beauty – the iconic looks of the ’20s have been repeated over and over in the years since then. These classic beauty looks are fun to recreate, adding a touch of dramatic Old Hollywood to your modern day routine.

Whether you have a ’20s party to go to or just want to add some Old Hollywood glam to your look, below is a guide to the 1920s hairstyles and makeup trends, plus how to get a 1920s beauty look at home.

1920s Hair

Finger Waves

Bobbed hair with finger waves was extremely popular in the 1920s. Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, and Marion Davies, considered the “it girls” of their time, were all pioneers of this look.

Although finger waves look a bit more authentic on bobbed hair, this ’20s style is still doable with long hairstyles. Here is a great video tutorial on how to create a faux bob that’s very 1920s.

How to do a quick, updated version ’20s finger waves hairstyle:

  1. With your hair parted at the side, make a bun at the nape of your neck. The bun should be a little off-center. Use bobby pins and hair spray to keep it intact. Make sure you leave a little hair out of the bun on the “heavy” side of the part (the side with more hair on it) — that way, you have some hair to frame your face.
  2. Take the hair you left out and create finger waves with a flat iron. To do so, clamp the iron down on the piece and do a half rotation outwards. After holding it in place for a few seconds, move the iron down the piece and do a half rotation inwards. Alternate this pattern until the piece is finished. Remember – practice makes perfect!
  3. Spritz your hair with some hair spray for staying power.
  4. Take bobby pins and pin the waved piece to the side of your face.

1920s Makeup

Two makeup staples of the 1920s were dark lips and kohl-rimmed eyes.


In 1920s hairstyles and makeup industry was relatively new, and women were just beginning to purchase cosmetics on a regular basis. Dark red lipstick was the hot ticket because it was the only color available.

One of the most iconic beauty looks of the ’20s was dark lipstick that outlined and emphasized the cupid’s bow of the upper lip.


The market was flooded with a huge variety of skincare products, including those designed to remove wrinkles and whiten the skin. One popular best seller throughout this decade was good old cold cream – its creamy texture helped create that smooth base onto which powder could be applied for flawless results.

Face Powder Base

The 1920s were a time of change, which meant many new innovations. One such invention was face powder for women to help them achieve the Hollywood celebrity look that they wanted so badly – one without any wrinkles or imperfections thanks in part to this innovative product!

Face powder in the ’20s came in limited colors – just four shades, in fact: light pink called ‘flesh’, dark sandy orange called ‘brunette,’ Charcoal grey (yes, really), and of course white.

Powder was used to contour the face and conceal any blemishes. Powders could also be mixed together for custom colors as well – this allowed women to create a wider variety of shades. The color options were definitely slim, though. The women of the ’20s would marvel at Rihanna’s 40+ shades of Fenty foundation!


In the 1920s, women’s eyebrows were a fashion statement. In order to achieve that sleek look popularized by movie stars of that era such as Clara Bow or Mary Pickford, women plucked their brows into a smooth curve with the ends sloping down beyond where nature had intended – commonly called “heavy” arching. In the movies, this look was often paired up with heavy eyeliner for extra drama on screen!


Eyelash products were first sold in the 1920s as beautifiers and darkeners. These early cosmetics would add shine to your lashes, but they also had other uses such as adding volume or acting like a mascara for more dramatic looks depending on how you applied them!

Mascara was far from today’s tube and wand combo — it came in a cake of wax that you added water to in order to create a paste you’d brush onto lashes with a small brush. These products could also be used on top of other types like eye liner or eyeliner pencils too!


Brow pencils were used as eyeliner in the 1920s — there weren’t separate products like we see today. Color options like brown and black made up the basic color sets in this category, but racier colors such as red or blue also existed for those who wanted them!

The most popular eye look was cat-eyes or long flicks, but oftentimes the eyes were smoked out with a finger to add dramatic effect. (More on the smoky eye look below!)


The smoky eye was created in the ’20s to make movie stars look more dramatic on screen. An ordinary woman would wear eyeshadow for evening functions or formal parties but not during the day.

The smoky eyeshadow look of the 1920s was achieved by blending eyeshadow over the eyelids with a finger. A rounded shape was the most popular style of the time.

Women of the ’20s had a surprising number of color options when it came to eyeshadow. Colors like grey (for those who wanted to go more natural), black, plum, and brown were available in most makeup kits.

How to do your lipstick and lip liner 1920s style:

  1. Line your lips with a dark lipliner, emphasizing the bend in your upper lip. For an authentic look, create an outline that is shorter than the width of your mouth.
  2. Apply matching lipstick (preferably of a darker, wine color) within the outline and blot.

How to recreate the dark, kohl-rimmed eyes of the 1920s:

  1. Start by choosing a shadow with a slightly gray base. This is more wearable than a black eyeshadow, which could come off too strong.
  2. Apply a dark eyeshadow on your eyelids. Sweep a little eyeshadow up and outward beyond the edges of your eyes (almost in a “cat eye” look) for a little dramatic flare.
  3. Line your upper and lower lashes with a black eyeliner, smudging the bottom lines for a more blended look.
  4. After giving your eyelashes some lift with an eyelash curler, apply a few sweeps of mascara to your upper and lower sets of lashes.

Your Thoughts?

Would you incorporate the beauty trends of the ’20s into your beauty routine? What’s your favorite look from the ’20s? What decade would you like to see next in “Beauty by the Decade”? Let us know in a comment!

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  • Beauty by the Decade: The 1960s

By Hà Phương

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