by Angelina Barzey
Exquisite gold plated and encrusted diamond makeup compacts, Marilyn Monroe’s signature red lips, Greta Garbo’s flawless skin complexion… 1950’s was certainly a time where vintage makeup brands such as Max Factor, Maybelline, and Lancôme flourished in the industry. Today, people all around the world are collecting vintage makeup, and some have even sold for thousands of dollars. Read this article and learn more about antique makeup brands throughout history today!
Vintage makeup is simply “old” makeup. Makeup that is considered vintage has to be at least 20 years old and can be as old as from the end of the 19th century. Max Factor, Maybelline, Lancome, Elizabeth Arden and Revlon are all popular classic makeup brands that famous icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Sharon Tate used during their lifetime. The vintage makeup they used could range from Max Factor foundation, Rimmel London mascara, to the famous red lipstick by Revlon that Marilyn Monroe used consistently, and was sold at auction for $18,750 at Julien’s in 2016.
The youngest vintage makeup company on the list is CoverGirl and was launched in 1961. The brand actually originated from a skincare company, called Noxzema Chemical Company. The idea was to create beauty products that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also kind to the skin. Furthermore, CoverGirl was the first makeup brand to hire famous models in their advertisement, which turned out to be highly successful.
"The youngest vintage makeup company on the list is CoverGirl and was launched in 1961. The brand actually originated from a skincare company, called Noxzema Chemical Company".
The first beauty products that the company launched were a liquid makeup and a compressed compact powder. They also introduced the CoverGirl lipstick in the 1960s that came in various shades and was advertised as “Glamour that’s good for your lips!”.
The vintage cosmetics company startled the industry with their phenomenal makeup products, and became one of the most best-selling beauty brands overnight.
The original CoverGirl beauty products are highly valuable for collectors today. Do you have a grandmother that used to wear CoverGirl makeup, and maybe has old makeup products stored somewhere? If so, get a valuation by our experts at ValueMyStuff today!
Lancome is a cosmetics giant and was founded by Armand Petitjean in 1935. He started the company by selling perfumes, but expanded his business towards selling makeup and successfully launched the pancake makeup and rose scented pink lipstick, which became his best-sellers in the 1930s to 1950s. During this time-period long-lasting lipsticks were in fashion, however, a lot of lipsticks made the wearer's lips dry. As a result Petitjean created the rose scented pink lipstick he called Rose De France. This lipstick had a soft texture, wore well and actually moistened the lips.
A vintage powder makeup compact was sold at Julien’s for $875, in 2013. This compact was used by the famous artist Michael Jackson in the early 1990s, and the makeup is called Dual Finish makeup compact.
During the 1950s powder compacts were extremely popular and are highly valuable vintage collectible items today! Lancome launched a range of face powders that came in eighteen different shades from golden brown to ivory, and all of these powders came with collectible cosmetics compacts, since that was one of the 1950s makeup trends. During the auction Hollywood Legends at Julien’s in 2014, a Lancome compact, a cake mascara and other makeup items owned by Greta Garbo was sold for $896.
Do you have a vintage lancome powder compact?If so, get a valuation by our experts at ValueMyStuff today!
Revlon was founded in 1932 by two brothers Charles and Joseph Revson along with a chemist Charles Lanchman. In the beginning, the brothers only sold one product, a nail enamel, however, in the 1950s the company decided to launch lipsticks in different shades.
Makeup in the 1950s consisted of red lipstick, eyeliner, mascara and rouge as key elements to their makeup look. Revlon embraced the 1950s trends and launched many different lipstick shades with alluring names, such as Fire and Ice and Persian Melon. Famous 1950s icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Sharon Tate were known to use Revlon Makeup. For example, a Revlon eyeliner in white and one in black owned by Sharon Tate and other makeup items was sold for $2,500 from the Icons and Idols: Hollywood, Bob Mackie and Sharon Tate vintage makeup collection at Julien’s in 2018.
Marilyn Monroe used the Revlon bachelor’s carnation lipstick, a non smear type red lipstick by Revlon. She wore this red lipstick in the 1940s when she became famous. The exact Revlon lipstick she used was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $18,750 in 2016, "That's a really neat piece and it's like a time warp right back to the 1940s when Marilyn was just becoming famous," says Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's Auctions. The lipstick that Marilyn Monroe wore was from a non smear type collection with a refillable lipstick holder. The non smear type collection was highly popular at the time, and this lipstick is a popular collectible item today
Do you have lipstick from the non smear type collection at home, with a refillable case?
Volupté was founded in 1920, and initially produced loose-powder compacts and pressed-powder compacts. However, this vintage brand dominated the market in the 1940s to the 1950s when they expanded their product range to selling elegant and functional compacts, cigarette cases, vanity cases and carryalls which are highly valued by collectors today.
Volupté created the Golden Gestures compacts in 1946, which became their most popular item on the market. The Golden Gestures compacts were shaped like a woman’s hand, and you could store powder in it. Another items that were popular were their Novelty compacts.
The novelty compact was significant during this time-period. It is a makeup compact that also serves another function. Some examples from Volupté feature a compact that was also a music box, or The Petite Boudoir compact that resembled Marie Antoinette’s favourite dressing table.
Do you have a novelty compact stored somewhere? If so, get a valuation by our experts at ValueMyStuff today!
"Who would’ve thought that the billion dollar Company, known as Maybelline, wouldn’t have been created if not Mabel Williams had burnt her eyelashes and eyebrows in a kitchen fire?"
Who would’ve thought that the billion dollar Company, known as Maybelline, wouldn’t have been created if not Mabel Williams had burnt her eyelashes and eyebrows in a kitchen fire? After the fire, Mabel mixed ashes from a burnt cork, with coal dust and vaseline and made it into the first ever eyebrow and mascara enchancer. Her younger brother, Tom Lyle Williams (The founder of Maybelline), was intrigued by how this eye makeup enhanced his sister's eyes. He then later created the successful company Maybelline in 1915.
The first Maybelline product was the Cake Mascara and was the first modern eye makeup for everyday use. The Mascara was highly successful and shortly after it launched followed a red eyebrow pencil, coloured eyeshadows and complementary eyeliners. When looking into the history of makeup trends, it is shown that Maybelline started a trend where they encouraged women to enhance their eyebrows and eyes with their makeup products in the 1950s.
The most expensive Maybelline eye pencil ever sold was the Marilyn Monroe Personally Owned and used Eyeliner makeup that went for $3,840 at Julien’s in 2020. Marilyn Monroe also used other eye pencils from Maybelline that have recently been sold at Julien’s auction. For example, a light brown eye pencil sold for $2,880 in 2016, an eye pencil set in dark brown for $2,500 in 2015, and atlast an eyeliner in the shade velvet black for $1,664 in 2012.
Makeup was more commonly worn by performers and prostitutes in the beginning of the 1900s. However, this changed when Elizabeth Arden successfully marketed her beauty products and sold them to socialites, working women and the suffrages of New York. The cosmetics company offered a range of different products such as eyeliners, lipsticks, false eyelashes, and collectible cosmetics compacts. One of her most popular vintage makeup products was a red lipstick that she launched during World War II and called it V for Victory. The lipstick encouraged optimism and empowerment to women, but especially for the military women in service.
Elizabeth Arden Makeup products were popular among celebrities. As a result there have been a lot of vintage makeup items for auction. The three most significant Elizabeth Arden makeup items sold at auction were, interestly enough, owned by Marilyn Monroe. Firstly, a vintage powder compact with a beautiful design that was sold for $15,625 at Julien’s in 2016. The second most interesting piece is the “Click Change” lipstick that has a gold tone case and Elizabeth Arden engraved on the lid, and this item sold for $8,750 in 2016 at Julien’s. The third item is a simple lipstick brush that sold for $4,800 at Julien’s in 2012. What is interesting about this brush is that it has red lipstick stains on the bristles which tells us that Marilyn Monroe used this vintage brush for her signature red lips!
A makeup artist and engineer, by the name of Max Factor, created the number one vintage makeup brand in 1909 after he moved to the United States. At first he produced a light semi liquid grease paint, which enhanced the actors appearance in motion pictures. Then, he started selling eyeshadows and eyebrow pencils and in 1916 he launched a full set of cosmetics and called it “Make-up”. Max Factor’s key philosophy was that any woman could be glamorous given the right tools and make-up artistry skills.
Max Factor introduced a Satin smooth liquid foundation for the film industry in 1935, that came along with a satin smooth powder. In 1938 came the Pancake foundation which marks an important step towards moving away from grease paint makeup. This product was firstly aimed for the film industry, however, it was so successful that it also became general makeup. Following the pancake foundation came a line of “Society Makeup”, which was more applicable for everyday use. Some of the vintage products were the Super Indelible Pyramid lipstick packaged in an octagonal case, a rouge in cream and compact powder that came in different shades.
It is thrilling to see what the famous icons used for makeup during their lifetime. Greta Garbo used the vintage Max Factor foundation as well as the Max Factor Hollywood eye pencil. It is also known that Marilyn Monroe used the Max Factor Creme puff powder and Panstick foundation. It was not uncommon to use a Max Factor compact to put your creme puff powder in at the time. The company produced a range of vintage powder compacts for their customers that they could put their makeup and cigarettes in.
Do you have a Max Factor vintage compact in your old makeup bag?
This is the oldest vintage makeup brand on this list, and goes back to as far as 1834. Eugene Rimmel had become an expert in perfumery after working for many years as his father’s apprentice, and opened his own flagship store in Regent Street in 1834. At first, Eugine sold mostly perfumes but he later expanded his business to selling hygiene products and the first non-toxic mascara (there was mercury in mascaras at the time). When Eugéne died in 1887, his sons took over and introduced a line of eye enhancing products and their cutting-edge mascara became highly popular. Eventually, Rimmel became a household name around the world and is actually translated to the word “Mascara” in several different languages.
"Eventually, Rimmel became a household name around the world and is actually translated to the word “Mascara” in several different languages".
During the auction Property from the estate of Greta Garbo, the vintage icon’s Rimmel products, makeup brushes and mascara sold for $3,200 at Julien’s in 2012. It is also known that Greta Garbo used the Rimmel London mascara in her daily routines during the 1950s. Greta Garbo’s Rimmel eyelash beautifier and other makeup items were sold for $896 at Julien’s during the Hollywood Legends auction in 2014.
If you are looking to purchase some vintage makeup or expand your vintage makeup collection, here are some tips you should know:
1. Look for vintage cosmetics that are in great condition, preferably unused and in its original vintage packaging.
2. Find unique vintage makeup that is iconic for their era. For example the Volupté Novelty compacts are significant for their era, and each piece tells a unique story.
3. Look for revolutionary products that are the first of their time. For example, you could look for the first edition of Rimmel mascaras that were produced.
Storage: When storing your vintage makeup, make sure to keep it in a dry, dark room and with normal room temperature. Keep your vintage cosmetics away from humid spaces since it damages the makeup.
Handling the makeup: When handling your makeup it is important that you wear plastic gloves to minimise the amount of bacteria that the makeup is exposed to.
Cleaning: You can gently clean your vintage compact mirrors with a soft cloth but also remove the dust from your other vintage makeup products.
Do you have any vintage Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, Revlon or other retro makeup brands at home? In that case, submit your makeup to ValueMyStuff and get it valued from our experts. It is always good to know what your collections are worth if you are looking to sell them at auction or just out of curiosity!