1930s Makeup Guide: Tutorials & Tips To Get The 30s Trendy Look

The 1930s makeup look was more feminine and refined than the 1920s. Follow the tutorial and tips below to get the '30s trendy makeup look.

By Amanda Palmer
1930s Makeup Guide: Tutorials & Tips To Get The 30s Trendy Look

1930s Makeup Look

The 1930s was a very glamorous era. The stars of the silver screen resonated a charm, provocative mystery and an optical illusion which led the entire country to follow ensuite. Stars like Elizabeth Arden and Gretta Garbo ruled the silver screen and lived an almost artificial life. They were always spotted in immaculate clothes and perfectly applied makeup. The contemporary women of the 1930s too wanted to follow the similar fantasy world. In spite of the hardships like the Great Depression, Dust Bowl and World War II, fashion grew its own wings, and the art of women's makeup took off in new strides influenced by the Hollywood icons and the colored covers of the fashion magazines. 

Femininity was the new trend and women preferred to go 'soft' in their makeup. The makeup trends in the '30s was an extension of the trends in the '20s but with a whole lot of difference on the eye makeup. The makeup trend in the '30s got more refined when compared to the 20s.

It is fun to recreate the magic and charm of that glamorous bygone era for a fun party or a '30s themed party. You might need a professional to help you out with your eyebrows, but the rest is easy to apply. Just follow the detailed makeup tips and tutorial below.


Foundation trends changed drastically from the '20s to the 30s. A very light complexion with heaps of light pink blush on the cheeks was considered ideal in that era. Most of the film stars kept their skin very pale. To achieve this look, they applied rice powder or ivory-tinted powder on the top of their classic 'Vanishing Cream.' Some of us must have heard of the 'Vanishing Cream' from our grandmoms. The ladies back then used a 'so-called' cream as a base or a moisturizer on their faces. The cream got its name because it was greaseless and used to disappear when applied on the skin. These were beauty creams and were also used as a base for makeup. 

Women in the '30s carried a pale complexion. They used foundation powders with ivory hues on their face. Blush was next applied on top of the foundation. 


Blush was more understated during the '30s as compared to the 20s. Rouge or blush was used very sparingly. Bright pink cheeks just like in the '20s was no more in vogue. Women preferred to sport a pale look and hence applied minimal or very understated blush. A light application of cream rouge completed their makeup on the skin. The shades of the cream rouge varied from apricot during the day to rose for an evening event. 

To replicate the authentic '30s look, you can apply a bit of rouge in cream bases on your cheekbones and finish it up with some translucent powder. 


Eyebrows in the '30s were completely different and are still considered the major change in trend from the '20s to the 30s. The others were just mere extensions or evolvements of the past trends, but the eyebrows saw an extreme change. It was super-thin. The brow in the '30s was plucked into a single and thin curved line. In some cases, the women completely shaved off their brows and drew them with an eyebrow pencil. Thin eyebrows were considered more feminine, and stars even believed that they could express themselves better on screen with thin eyebrows. 

The brow of the 1930s is extreme — super-skinny. As was true in the 1920s, the brow is plucked into a single, thin line. In some cases, the brow is shaved off entirely, then drawn in with a pencil. The brow in the '20s was drawn a little lower in the temple and was often done straight across whereas in the 30s, the brow was shaped like an arch. The arch was made very high, forming a lofty half-moon type of shape with the outer edges in a winged-out pattern. 

Although while creating your vintage look, plucking your eyebrows just like the '30s would be an extreme step and is not recommended. This tutorial explains how it was done back then. You could camouflage your entire eyebrow with face paint and then draw the '30s eyebrows with a pencil because it will be very difficult for you to regrow your brows back again like before.


The eye makeup trends also saw some changes as the years marched on from the '20s to the 30s. Women back then used some petroleum jelly or olive oil on their eyelids to create a bit of shine. For some bold effects and night parties, women used flecks of mica or shades of deep blue, purple, blue and green also on their eyelids. The eyeshadows were applied in a pear-shaped way with sweeping lines outwards to enlarge the eyes. 

Eyeliner was a must in the 30s. Women used an eye-liner pencil and lined their upper and lower eyelids with a brown grease-pencil like eyeliner. 

The heavy kohl-eye look was passé, and in came the very demure look of the eyes with thin eyebrows and shimmery pink shadows. The '20s was all about doing thick kohl-lined eyes whereas the '30s was all about wearing grey or brown eyeshadow.  The mascara trend also saw some change in this era. The mascara was now applied only on the upper eyelashes, and the lower ones were left untouched. Mascara became an important makeup accessory in the makeup kits. 


Women in the '30s desired dark eyelashes, and they even used henna to create a stain that lasts longer. Thick lashes were no more the trend and women preferred to have sleek and slim dark eyelashes. A defined, separated lash either curled or sharp was desired with more importance given to individual lashes all clearly visible in a row. 

Women who did not want to wear eyelashes on a daily basis, created the similar effect with cake or cream mascara. Mascara was also called as Mascoro at that time.

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The 1920s had a popular trend of the 'bee-stung' pout while the 30's lip line was longer and sleeker. Women tried to exaggerate their upper lip into a sharp bow - a style made popular by Joan Crawford. She was the trendsetter for an 'overlip,' where the naturally pigmented part of an upper lip known as the vermillion is enlarged with opaque lip color. 

Sometimes, to get the desired contrasting shade in the early films, women also wore black colored lipsticks in front of the camera. But in real life, women wore only red colored lipstick which had to be applied with a lip brush. It was later blotted because the concoction was quite heavy. This procedure of applying dark red lipstick, then blotting and then reapplying created a lasting red-colored lip. Lipstick in the '30s became more thinned out and horizontal with some extra on the upper lip for evening functions. Women mostly applied shades of red such as maroons, dark reds, and raspberry shades. Some women still applied a cupid's bow shape, but it followed the natural shape of the lips more or less. If a woman wanted a bolder look, she occasionally elongated the bow to create a perfect pouty look. To get this effect, the lip line was contoured with a lip pencil. 


The trend for nail polish was same as that in the 20s. Nail paint was only applied to the center of the nail. What is now considered as chipped nail polish was actually a trend at that time. Nail polish was seen only in the center with the tip unpainted. This was done to ensure that the polish lasts longer. Women were seen leaving the crescent moon shape on the tip of their nails bare. The nail polish colors used mostly were reds, pinks, black, green, blues and yellows. 

Hair tips for the 30s look

Waves dictated the major hairstyle trends in the 30s. The sleek bob and the tight ringlets of the '20s gave way to the natural and soft waves in the 30s. Side parting and middle parting was the new trend with hair falling natural waves. The beginning of the era saw men and women sport shorter hair, but as the years went by, women started opting for longer hair. But all the hairdos had natural and soft waves. Finger waves were the trend of the decade. 

So next time, when you try to create a vintage look, do not forget the '30s hairdo. 

Fashion Icons who carried the 1930s makeup look beautifully

In the 1930s, the women took a lot of inspiration from the Hollywood film icons when it came to glamorous clothes and makeup trends. Fashion icons like Elizabeth Arden, Greta Garbo, Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford became household names and greatly inspired the makeup trends. 

Max Factor became a renowned brand for makeup products, and it was considered elite and fashionable to be wearing Max Factor products. The brand launched their lip gloss during this era, and the launch of Pancake water soluble Makeup in 1937 created a rage in the industry. Waterproof mascara was launched in 1939, and Helena Rubinstein launched the commercial. Lipsticks sales also reached the skies. Women started getting fashion conscious, and almost everyone possessed all the latest makeup products from reputed brands. 

Retro parties and vintage theme parties are a common occurrence these days. This time, dare to be different by having your own '30s only party. Have some fun dressing up in the fashion trends of the '30s and apply makeup just like the 30s. It is fun to create a vintage look sometimes. We get a deeper idea of how our ancestors lived and dressed up like.

So happy retroing!