The Iconic Makeup Trends of Every Decade

80 years might not seem like a particularly long time, but over the course of beauty history, a lot has changed since the beginning of the 20th century. It’s the difference between thinly plucked arches and thick fluffy brows, a sheer wash of colour and an extreme contour, or a classic black cat-eye versus the neon flicks you might be wearing right now. 

Scroll down to take a look at some of the most iconic beauty looks from every decade from the 1940s onwards. 


Although the war affected product availability and meant the majority of the decade was defined by a minimal approach to makeup, there’s no denying that a rounded red lip is the first thing that springs to mind when you picture a 1940s makeup look. 

Image credit: @aimeestantonmakeup

Get the 1940s look


In the fifties, women looked to glamourous beauty icons and movie stars like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn for their makeup inspiration. We have Marilyn Monroe to thank for making the cat-eye liner look famous – most often paired with bold red lips and elegant curled updos. 

Image credit: @_naomi_nd_

Get the 1950s look


Eye makeup – especially thick mascara and heavy eyeliner defines the sixties look. Pale blue and white eyeshadow was popular, lower lashes were emphasised and defined, and women contoured their eyes to create a hooded, rounded effect. 

Image credit: @kanchatbmakeup

Get the 1960s look


Things were pared back in the seventies when in line with the women’s liberation movement and an increased interest in the environment, a more neutral and bohemian look was favoured. Bronzer was used to create a warm, healthy glow, and hair was worn long and loose. 

Image credit: @josalynandromeda

Get the 1970s look


Triggered by big changes in politics and economics, excess returned in the 1980s and makeup ping-ponged back to a glamourous extreme with bold, bright colours, heavy makeup, and big hair taking centre-stage. Heavy blush and jewel-toned eye looks were worn for a vibrant rainbow effect. 

Image credit: @echo_michaela

Get the 1980s look


In a backlash to the glamour of the eighties, nineties minimalism was born. Over-lined glossy lips, neutral tones, half-up-half-down hairstyles, over-plucked brows, and glittery smoky eyes were just a few of the popular trends that defined this decade. 

Image credit: @mlmakeupby

Get the 1990s look


The 21st century began with an evolution of the nineties look – poker straight hair, pastel eyeshadows, nude glossy lips, and heavy eyeliner. ‘Pop princess’ was the vibe as the age of celebrity well and truly kicked in and people copied looks worn by the likes of Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Lopez, and Kim Kardashian. 

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Get the 2000s look


Thanks to social media, beauty trends became more accessible and achievable than ever. From the ‘Instagram brow’ through to the heavily contoured look popularised by Kim Kardashian, tutorials and product recommendations were just a swipe away. 

Image credit: @_byandra

Get the 2010s look


So far, the 2020s are all about experimentation. Bright colours are back and makeup is well and truly considered an art form. You’ll even notice many MUAs taking inspiration from previous decades to create the looks that are trending on Instagram and TikTok… 

Image credit: @mandydoeshermakeup

Get the 2020s look