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Midcentury Cosmetics

Today’s ridiculous project is a series of midcentury makeup ad recreations for my every day tried-and-tested  favourite makeup products. I am never going to be a beauty influencer, that way lies madness. But, I have been doing 40s/50s makeup for years now and I have bought SO many things. These products are my favourites and they are all from 100% cruelty free companies and the majority are vegan too. None of the links are sponsored or affiliate or anything like that.

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Ah The blunt shame of a 1950s eye makeup ad! This format was very common and it made me laugh so I had to recreate it. 

Eyeliner: Elf H2O proof Eyeliner is the BEST. I can swim in this and it doesn’t budge. Also, and I’m not saying this is a priority when sadness strikes, but I have had full on sob-fests and my wings always still look flawless afterward. Witchcraft.

Mascara: Soap and Glory Thick and Fast mascara, the formula is great and the wand is excellent (specifically the Extensions Effect Lengthening Mascara one in the dark silvery tube). When I have another mascara to use up for whatever reason I almost always use an old wand from this mascara to apply it because it makes everything look better.

Eyeshadow: Inglot Freedom System refills are my favourite, they have a huge range of colours, the pans are massive, and there are loads of matte options. The only worry here is that Inglot stores seem to be closing at an alarming rate and I’m worried these might not be around forever. For now they are an excellent option for people who like to keep a minimal packaging makeup palette (as I do).

Midcentury Makeup Ad
Midcentury Makeup Ad
Midcentury Makeup Ad
Midcentury Makeup Ad
Midcentury Makeup Ad
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And now, the star, Red lipstick! I have two categories: proper lipsticks and transferproof liquid lipsticks:

Besame win for proper lipsticks, nothing else comes close and American Beauty is just the absolute best cool red shade. They all smell amazing, and they last all day. My other star lipstick by Besame is Waterlily Blossom Red which was only limited edition, but I covet the tube I have left.

UPDATE: While I still like Provocalips, a week after finishing this project I found Beauty Bakerie's Mon Chéri Matte Lip Whip and it has become my staple everyday red transfer-proof lipstick. People with slightly darker complexions might prefer the Cranberry stiletto shade for everyday wear. 

The second category is trickier. My winner is Rimmel’s Provocalips in ‘Kiss the Town Red’. It’s genuinely transfer-proof, lasts all day and has a lovely texture when dry. The colour looks unnervingly bright and warm when you first apply it, but it dried to a nice cool red. The applicator isn’t the best, but you get the hang of it. Honourable mention in this category goes to to Huda liquid matte lipstick in Miss America which is GORGEOUS but not transfer-proof enough.

Everyone’s skin chemistry is different so maybe what is transferproof for me won’t be for you, but if this review can save you money, then I’m glad. Here is why the other products lost:

  • A lot of people recommend Maybelline Matte Ink or their 24 hour superstay liquid lipstick, but Maybelline tests on animals so it’s a no go for me. When I have tried then, the matte ink formula feels horrible on me, and the superstay formula came in a great colour (Eternal Cherry) but tended to wear away by peeling off, so overall it was unpleasant.  Similarly MAC has a transferproof lipstick I haven’t tried, but they are not cruelty free.

  • Kat von D and Stilla also have ‘transfer-proof’ formulae and they are both cruelty free, but neither actually is transfer-proof. 

  • Le Keux Cosmetics have a good attempt in the Forever on your Lips formula in the shade Whistle Bait, but it’s not properly transfer-proof, and the bottle design leaves a lot of the contents inaccessible so it’s very expensive for what you can actually get to. 

  • Meet Matt(e) Hughes by theBalm was really popular in the retro scene for a while but isn’t transfer-proof.

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I spent years in very, very bad foundation and concealer. I have all the usual pale girl issues with finding a good colour match and I have naturally shiny/oily skin so it would all start sliding off around midday. Glamourous, I know!


About four years ago I decided to just abandon all skin covering liquids and just do it the old fashioned way. I use a vanishing cream (as opposed to a cold cream which stays visible on the skin, a vanishing cream absorbs into your skin and 'vanishes'), then a layer of mineral suncream, and finally a slightly tinted setting powder.

The cheapest and best solution I have found is Ben Nye's Luxury powders. I buy all three colours in this ad in giant bottles, and mix them together in a ratio of about 2 colourless : 1 Cameo : 1 Banana Light. I can then fill a big powder sifter on my vanity, and any travel compacts I need, with a colour that matches my skin, just like ladies used to make in fancy department stores (see video below).

Sidenote: Ben Nye really did start as a silver screen makeup artist and he was the makeup artist on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

Midcentury Makeup Ad
Midcentury Makeup Ad

And now for the final one, which is completely fake because I do not use this product at all, but my absolute favourite thing to listen to while I sew are old radio plays by the Lux Radio Theatre, and the adverts on these shows really are something else.


Every problem a woman could have in the 1950s seemed to be caused by her underthings not being clean enough, runs in her stockings, ugly hands from washing too many dishes, and COSMETIC SKIN caused by not washing her face properly. Lucky for her, every one of these problems was solvable with a LUX product that wasn't even that expensive, so really it was a moral failure on her part if she wasn't using it...

I don't have any particular allegiances in my face washes, I just get whatever I can that has good ingredients and is cruelty free, preferably in a big bottle to minimise plastic waste. So here is a complete fantasy ad for a product that doesn't really exist any more, but back in the day we are told '9 out of 10 screen stars' used it religiously.

Do I have a pump bottle with a me-made Lux Toilet soap label on it that I decant my face wash into, so I can pretend to myself that I use this product? Yes, yes I do. But that's a story for another time.

Lux Ad
Lux Toilet Soap
Lux Toilet Soap

And finally, there were a few things that I love, but didn’t make it into their own ad:

Lip balm:  All the lip balms by Luv Reece, 1000x better than any high street brand and so important if you’re wearing hardcore transfer-proof lipsticks.

Perfume: Lush’s Vanillary makes you smell like sugar cookies. I love it.

Suncream: Hawaiian Tropics Mineral SPF 30 This is a great daily suncream. I buy the body size bottle for my face because it’s cheaper and the ingredients list is identical to the face formula. For me this leaves no white cast, but I am something between Scottish blue and ghost white in complexion so really, not the right person to be judging such things. It’s also alcohol free, vegan, and coral reef friendly.

Thanks to Laurence Winram for the majority of the excellent photos of me used in these ads.

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