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The Rise of Hollywood, 1900-1929


Revolutionary Makeup
It took a few years for the twentieth century to take hold of the Western world, but when it did, there was no turning back. The beginning part of the new century saw women becoming increasingly independent and increasingly active. This was apparent in both their attitude toward skin care and their attitude toward health in general. Even before the automobile took off, newfangled modes of transportation were en vogue. Women would hike up their skirts so they could ride bicycles through town. Going to the beach was also popular, although women rarely bathed in public and were very careful to keep their skin shaded from the sun. Nevertheless, exercise, diet and fresh air were all considered to be part of a healthy beauty regimen.

As women explored their independence, using cosmetics became an increasingly political practice. Most makeup was still seen as immodest and proper ladies were supposed to avoid it. In 1912, however, a group of suffragettes marched through the streets of New York campaigning for the American woman's right to vote. Each of them had brightly painted lips, a symbol of their independence and their refusal to conform to society's view of propriety. Three years later, lipstick was mass manufactured and sold at reasonable prices to the public. Every woman wanted a piece of the revolutionary action. (You can read more about revolutionary lipstick here: http://www.cosmetic-business.com/en/showartikel.php?art_id=1409)

Style of the Silver Screen
By the end of World War I, women had earned more independence than ever. Not only had they held down the fort while the men were off fighting the war, but they had made some money doing it. The 1920's was a time of jubilation in Europe and North America. For the first time in centuries, the human body was seen as something to be celebrated and women began to dress accordingly. Skirts became shorter and clothing was made from loose materials that clung more readily to the body and sparkled in the low electrical light of the jazz clubs, cabarets and speakeasies. Women began to see themselves as glamorous instead of proper and they modeled themselves on their favorite silent-era film stars. Women began using a number of skincare products to achieve this new look. Razors were a mandatory part of every fashionable powder room. For the first time, women began to shave their legs and underarms religiously.

Razors were not the only beauty products needed to achieve the new look. A variety of cosmetics, anti aging and skin care products were bought by every fashionable woman. Although face powders had been available under the counter for some time, movie stars began to popularize their use by the general public. Max Factor, makeup artist to the stars, was the first to sell face powder to the masses. His perfumed powder was an overnight sensation in the United States and was soon being sold in Europe as well. (You can read more about Max Factor here: http://www.cosmeticsmakeupskincare.com/makeup/the-history-of-makeup/) Thick, "vamp" eyeliner, bee-stung lips and dramatically rouged cheeks were all part of the movie star look of the 1920's.

In the Vanity Room
Women began to spend so much time putting on and taking off their makeup, that homes were built to include special powder rooms or vanity rooms. Even small apartments often featured a vanity room where the women of the house could apply their skincare treatments and attend to their cosmetic needs. This was the place where eyeliner and lipstick were applied before a night on the town, and it was also the place where it was removed. In fact, cleanliness was very important to the vamps and flappers of the twenties as well as to the average wives and mothers. Palmolive soap was commonly used to clean the skin and was advertised as being good for the complexion. The Palmolive company itself recommended using it both at noon and night, before bed. Pond's cold cream was also commonly used to remove makeup and keep the skin looking youthful, fresh and clean. "Beauty cream" lotions were manufactured in France and shipped around the world. (You can check out some beauty ads from the 1920's here: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/beauty-and-hygiene-ads-1920s )

Dirt was not only seen as hindering beauty, however, but also as a health hazard. Mothers were urged to keep their children free from the dangers of dirt with a wide selection of manufactured soap products. Many products stressed the purity of their ingredients and advertisements presented scientific arguments for the benefits of the product. Over the next few decades, health, science and advertising would prove to be driving forces in the skin care industry.


© 2013 J.K. Knowles

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