Life in the 50’s: Lipstick Brands of the 1950’s

Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.

Hello mes amies, and Welcome once again to Life in the 50’s!

This time we’re going to have a look at one of my favorite topics concerning that era: Fashion and Beauty. What could be more synonymous with 1950’s fashion and beauty than lipstick?!

In that decade, lipstick took a front seat in the Beauty World. Eyes were kept simple with winged liner and basic mascara, but eye shadow was subtle and did not take center stage. Blush was a simple wash of pink, so the only true pop of color came from lipstick, mainly in bold reds, but in pinks and corals as well.

So what did lipstick look like in those days? Did they have the same brands as we have now? Yes and no. Let’s have a look:

Ca. 1950’s Revlon lipstick ad.

The first name you’ll recognize is Revlon. Not only do we still have Revlon today, they still make lipstick shades that were originally introduced in the 1950’s! Love That Red (1951), Certainly Red (1951), Cherries in The Snow (1952) Fire and Ice (1952) and Love That Pink (1955) can still be found in stores where they sell Revlon products.

A higher end name that still exists in fine department stores today is Elizabeth Arden. In the ad below, they’re introducing the new “click-change” tube which would allow ladies to change out shades. What you’ll also notice is the rounded, bullet shape of practically ALL lipsticks of that era! Today, we’re used to the standard “lipstick shape”, a bullet with a tip cut at an angle so that it fits the shape of our lips when we apply it. But in those days, most lipsticks were just rounded, with no defined tip.

Just like today, cosmetic companies used beautiful Stars to advertise their products. But unlike today, you’ll notice that when they matched haircolor to the proper shade of lipstick, they had a category called “Brownettes”– A “Brownette” was a lady with brown hair on the lighter side, not quite as dark as a “Brunette”. I spent most of my 20’s with light brown hair, but I never heard of the term “Brownette” — only the standard Blonde, Red Head and Brunette. What happened to “Brownettes”? It makes perfect sense to have that category since when it comes to hair color we have the light shades of brown and dark shades of brown and black!

Ad for the new Elizabeth Arden “Click-Change” refill case, 1957.

Finding the perfect shade of red was a must for a fashionable woman in the 50’s. Many companies claimed to have that perfect shade. Helena Rubenstein and Tangee are two companies that no longer exist today, but were all the rage in the Beauty World in the Age of Glamour.

Helena Rubinstein ad for “Bed of Roses”, a new red hue.

Tangee ad for a “brilliant, bright, clear red”.

In the glamorous age of the 50’s, what you carried your makeup in was as important as the makeup itself. Pretty compacts were available and existed not only for face powder, but for lipsticks too!

1959 ad for Max Factor lipstick compacts

Trends may come and go, but nothing’s quite like the glamour and romance of the ruby, rose colored lips on the ladies in The Best Era Ever.

Early 1950’s ad for Cashmere Bouquet lipstick.

I hope you enjoyed this post! You can follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era ever here on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82

Voting is now open in the final round of our ninth annual Grooveyard Great 88 survey.   Pick your 15 favorites in each of the three polls, covering songs that were hits in 1957 and earlier, 1958-1960 and 1961-1963.  You can vote daily through December 12th at 10 PM.  Results will be announced during a special five-hour edition of “The Grooveyard”  on December 26th starting at 7 PM.

Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island or by clicking the 88.1 FM link on, via the TuneIn app. or the  WCWP app on your iPhone or Android device.  You can also follow us on Twitter. and on the Facebook groups for the show and WCWP.

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