Marilyn Monroe is widely credited with saying, “A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear” — but a smile was the only makeup most women in America wore through the early 1900s in the United States.
“In the early turn of the century, makeup wasn't necessarily an acceptable accessory for women … and it seemed more like you weren't being truthful to the opposite sex by wearing makeup because you were presenting something that wasn’t actually real,” explained Hernandez.
It might be unimaginable for many people in the 21st century — when makeup sales reached $8.1 billion in 2018 — to not see makeup as part of the daily fabric of society. According to the Bésame Cosmetics founder, however, 1920s Hollywood propelled the United States from a culture of very little makeup to what would be the omnipresence of cosmetics and a billion-dollar market we see today.
“So when we actually started making motion pictures in Hollywood and started to have actresses wearing makeup … then the looks that they were sporting, [and] wearing makeup, became a more popular, acceptable look,” said Hernandez. “And that translated into being worn by more women.”
Flappers further influenced how women wore cosmetics with looks that included dark makeup around the eyes and a defined shape in the lips aptly called a “Cupid’s Bow,” according to Hernandez. She added that the look was characterized by a pointed upper lip and then a much smaller lip outline on the bottom.
While makeup production decreased during World War II, cosmetics saw a major rebound in the 1950s. Hernandez told Fox News that it was due to the “kind of explosion of women wanting to marry, be attractive to the opposite sex, and have kids when men got back from the war.”
Hernandez explained that more cosmetics began to hit the market on the heels of World War II due to the prosperity of manufacturing. She added that the ultra-feminine makeup complemented soft pastel colors, the cinched-waist dresses, pointed bras, and big, flowy skirts.
“The lips became more voluptuous and larger as we moved on into the 50s and the eyebrows also became thicker and more defined, as well as the eyeliner which became really more of the cat eyeliner, which was thicker and more pronounced,” said Hernandez. “There was a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way, and to kind of never be really comfortable in yourself. You always had to be playing the role of the perfect wife so you couldn't really be off.”
To learn how cosmetics transformed during the 60s and beyond, watch the interview above for more with Bésame Cosmetics founder and makeup historian Gabriela Hernandez.
Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.