Old Is New - 7 Centenarian Products That Still Seem Modern

Consumer cosmetics have been around for about 100 years and a lot of the makeup that seems bold or cutting edge today has actually been around for decades. From liquid eyeshadow to the charcoal tooth whitening craze, here are some of the most interesting makeup trends that have been around a lot longer than you’d think!

Color Changing Lipstick

Lipstick that looks like one color in the tube, but changes to a wildly different color on the lips seems like a modern invention. People before the Mood Ring era could never have experienced the magic of Make It Blue, Make It Pink, right? 

Actually, color changing lipstick has been around since the 1930s! Tangee made a name for itself on it’s apparently magical lipstick. In the tube, Tangee looked bright orange (hence the tangerine inspired name). Once on the lips, the color faded into a pretty reddish pink that looked a little different on every person. 

After Tangee, other color changing lipsticks followed, though the trend mostly died out by the late 50s. Since then, a color changing lipstick comes out at least once a decade and most of the time, people assume it’s a totally new invention.

While we’re on the subject of magical color changing lipsticks, see our early ‘30s inspired lipstick: Ink & Paint. From black in the tube to a lovely berry shade, it’s classic and modern all at once!

Colorful Mascara

Blue mascara has been around for a long time. No, not since the ‘80s — since the 1930s! Before the mascara tube was invented, companies carried makeup in a range of colors.

Above, you’ll see the insert that came with most purchases of Tattoo Cosmetics products in the ‘40s. It advertises a range of colors from Blue Hawaii to Opal Reef!

In a special letter from Good Housekeeping in 1933, they advise those with golden blonde hair to wear dark blue mascara to show off their features. And that’s not just for nighttime or avant-garde looks, Good Housekeeping wholeheartedly recommends blue lashes for everyday wear!

Royal blue, deep teal, and dark aubergine were available next to grey, black, and brown mascaras. It seems strange to imagine Rita Hayworth wearing Purple mascara, but it was a commonly made color at the time. 

Though that’s a fairly wide range of mascara colors by today’s standards, it represented the entirety of the eye palette. Eye shadows also only came in about six colors and historian Gabriela Hernandez (and founder of Bésame Cosmetics) suggests that companies took the same pigments they’d use for eyeshadow and turned them into a mascara cake! So in the 1940s, you had an extensive mascara range, but a pretty limited shadow collection.

To try one of these shocking shade from the past, check out our new Purple Cake Mascara.

Liquid Shadow

Quick, one swipe eyeshadow in a tube has grown in popularity in the last few years, but it’s roots have been around for quite a while. According to the Beauty Secrets of the Powers Girls (a pamphlet for Powers Cosmetics from the early 1950s), Fluid Eyeshadow was a regular part of any beauty routine. 

This pamphlet also give tips on how to sit gracefully, talk in a “well-modulated, unaffected voice,” and do exercises to rid yourself of “dowagers hump.” Though that advice is severely dated, the fluid eyeshadow is a version of the liquid shadows we use today. 

Black Lipstick

Black lipstick may seem like a recent, goth staple, it’s been around since the beginning of Hollywood. In the 1920s, it was difficult to get the right balance of color — even though the films were in black and white! Unlike the sophisticated film lighting we have now, they only had extremely harsh arclights to illuminate the scenes. 

This type of lighting required special makeup so that the actors would look somewhat normal on screen. Actors were given extremely pale makeup, as the normal variance in skin tone (ruddy cheeks, a touch of stubble on the chin) read as dirty looking on camera. 

With lipstick, a regular red color looked strange on film with the harsh lighting. So, they used black! Actresses often wore pure black lipstick on camera. On film, it looked glamorous. In person, they probably looked like they were headed to a The Crow convention.

Though lighting became more sophisticated over time, black lipstick was used in black and white films through the 1940s. In the 1960s, edgy brand Biba put out a black lipstick for commercial use. It wasn’t worn often by the general public and you didn’t see a lot of black lips at the office, but by the 60s, there was a definite market for more dramatic makeup.

False Lashes

 Actors have used false lashes for over 100 years. On stage, false lashes were sometimes used for specific character types of makeup, but in Hollywood lashes came around pretty much on day one. 

The stars of the 1920s through the 50s wore long lashes, all of which were made by hand. The video above shows a woman hand knotting every hair in place to create a line of very long, very thin lashes. 

Even men wore lashes...on stage at least. In this 1930 video, Charles Laughton goes through his complete stage makeup routine, including a set of lashes. 

Though regular consumers could buy false lashes as early as the 1920s, they were very expensive and not commonly seen. They became slightly more popular in the ‘50s, but it wasn’t until the ‘60s that false lashes in everyday life started to become a common occurrence. 

Charcoal Powder to Whiten Teeth

A couple years ago, activated charcoal started showing up in everything. Need something to deodorize shoes? Activated charcoal! Want weird black ice cream? Add activated charcoal! Want a whiter smile? Charcoal to the rescue!

Though this charcoal obsession seemed to come out of nowhere, using charcoal for your teeth has been around since 1866! In The Toilet and Cosmetic Arts in Ancient and Modern Times, the author recommends charcoal as a way to brighten your smile. Likely, the charcoal of 1866 was not “activated” and possibly full of stuff we’d never put in our mouth today, but the basic idea is the same. 

Cream Rouge

Whether it’s called cheek tint, cheek stain, cream blush, cheek paint, or cream rouge, many brands have jumped on the idea of a cream - based blush. Having a creamy tint you can use on cheeks and lips sounds like an idea for the busy modern person, but it’s as old as makeup itself.

Well, the very first kind of rouge was probably crushed up berries used as blush, but cream rouge was pretty early! Rouge was one of the first kinds of cosmetics used and at least as early as the 1920s, it was available in powder and cream form. In the video above, you can see makeup artist Ern Westmore teaching students how to use cream rouge in 1951.

It’s easy to pack a lot of pigment into a cream while still keeping it blendable, which is why we’ve carried Cream Rouge for years. Good for lips and cheeks, a fingertips worth of product will give you a natural flush that lasts all day.

For more insight into makeup’s fascinating (and surprisingly cutting edge) past, pick up Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup by Gabriela Hernandez.

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  • Deborah Denaro

    Very interesting facts.! The 1951 makeup demonstration by Mr. Westmore brought me back to the TV I knew as a kid. ALL that powder! It’s wonder she wasn’t choking !!!! Only two shades of eyeshadow should ever be used.. Mr. Westmore would have a heart attack if he saw all the color palettes out today. Thank you so much for your informative videos and articles. Everything old IS new again. I love your cream blushes. The apricot is my absolute favorite. Thank you.

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