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Eye Makeup Trends Through History

Posted by Blank Canvas Cosmetics on

Just like clothes have come in and out of fashion over the last century, so have different eye makeup trends. From the early 20th century to today, trends have varied from dramatic, bold liner and colorful eyeshadows to bare, understated looks. Curious about what was trendy when? Read on for a complete list of eye makeup trends through the decades.


Makeup was not widely available in the early 20th century. Mascara wasn’t invented until 1915, when Maybelline started to offer a dry mascara that required water to make it into a paste. It was considered in poor taste to wear obvious makeup. Modesty was king in this time period. While some women might wear a bit of blush, most did not wear eye makeup. If they did, it would be a subtle yellow, brown, or gray paste on the lid.


The roaring ‘20s introduced a new, bolder look for eyes. With women securing the right to vote and the flapper look coming into vogue, women were ready to step up their makeup game. Dark shadow around the eyes became the most popular makeup look of the area due to the wider popularity of movie stars and people moving from the country into cities. These dark eyes were paired with red lips and a stylish bob.


The 1930s were marked by the Great Depression, a period when so many people lost everything that they had, that they needed a way to escape more than ever. This led to more popularity with going to the movies, where stars like Greta Garbo were rocking pencil-thin brows. Movie stars would tweeze or completely shave off their brows and then draw on skinny brows. If women could afford it, they would pair their thin brows with pastel eyeshadow and thin black eyeliner.


World War II marked a time when women were headed into the workplace as men went overseas, and the eye makeup reflected the new, professional women. Eye makeup was very understated and practical; nude-colored eyeshadow (if any), mascara, and sometimes balm to tame thicker brows. Pin-up girls also popped up during this time, so many women wore bright red lipstick and defined eyes to vamp it up.


In the 1950s, winged eyeliner was popularized by movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Fashionistas paired their winged liner with neutral shadows and pink or light red lips.


The ‘60s were all about being young and wild, with new music, short skirts, and more skin. Mod was all the rage, and models like Twiggy popularized long, dramatic fake lashes. The lower lashes were dark and long, sometimes clumping together for a spidery look. The top lashes were often paired with white eyeshadow and thin black liner.


In the ‘70s, the women’s liberation movement, the hippies, and the environmental movement led to a focus on naturalness, and this was reflected in the makeup trends of the time. In an effort to be more “earthy,” many women ditched cosmetics all together for a natural look.


With the ‘80s came a return to excess, with hedonistic nightclubs and a booming economy, and women responded with their eye makeup. Bold, pigmented eyeshadows were all the rage, with blue, pinks, and golds being the most popular color choices.


In response to the boldness of ‘80s eye makeup, the ‘90s introduced understated makeup looks. Natural, effortless beauty was the goal, as demonstrated by such beauty icons as Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow. The popular eye makeup look was neutral eyeshadows and light mascara.


In the 2000s, long, feathery eyelashes came into vogue after Jennifer Lopez rocked red fox fur lashes with lots of mascara on the red carpet. This started the creation of “lash bars,” where women could go and have fake eyelashes applied professionally. Mascara started offering thickening and lengthening formulas.


In 2012, British model Cara Delevingne became the It girl, making everyone want her thick, bushy eyebrows for themselves. Women everywhere ditched their tweezers and started regrowing their brows, using darkening pencils, powders, gels, and pomades to more define their brows. Now instead of lash bars, salons have a new slew of brow services.

What’s next for the future of eye makeup looks? Time will tell! In the meantime, if you need eye makeup brushes, shop Blank Canvas Cosmetics. Our eye makeup brushes are of the highest professional quality to ensure that your eye look pops, regardless of the current trend. See our collection of eye makeup brushes here. 

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