Beauty Standards Throughout The Decades: The 1960s

Following the classy, glamorous, and ladylike looks of the 1950s, the 1960s marked a new era of music, culture, style, and beauty standards.

By Simone Sydel4 min read
Beauty Standards Throughout The Decades: The 1960s

The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades in world history, marked by the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, antiwar protests, and political assassinations.

And although the decade started as the dawn of a golden age for most Americans, that golden age never materialized. On the contrary, by the end of the 1960s, it seemed that the nation was falling apart.

But as always, not everything was bad all the time, and there were some details from the 1960s that we can appreciate even today. Therefore, in this article, let's go back in time and take a look at some of the most influential beauty standards and fashion moments from this decade.

The Economy in the 1960s

By the 1960s, the post-war boom had flourished for over a decade and slowly begun to wane.

When John F. Kennedy swept into office, his energy and enthusiasm inspired Americans to take on foreign and domestic challenges. Kennedy's goals were to stimulate the economy, reduce unemployment, support growth and democracy abroad, and establish an important economic position on the international front. 

The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades in world history.

As the nation strove to achieve these goals, the economy suffered from their negative effects, and by the end of the decade, the economy was very different from how it was in the beginning. Growth was slowing, and inflation was rising, but nevertheless, there were positive changes as the United States had obtained greater access to trade with foreign nations.

The Culture in the 1960s

Television dominated the 1960s as the most important entertainment medium. By the end of the decade, almost all homes in America had at least one TV set.

Cinema in the 1960s reflected the decade of fashion, tremendous social changes, and transitional cultural values.

Social change was also reflected in the music of the decade. In the 1950s, America danced and sang to rock and roll music, while a decade later, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones started a new era of beat, blues, and pop music.

Towards the end of the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of young music fans gathered at Woodstock, New York to celebrate the largest pop festival ever held and to enjoy the music of the most popular musicians of the time, including Jimmy Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Janis Joplin, and others.

Beauty Routines in the 1960s

A beautiful complexion was considered super important and desirable in the 1960s, which is why women always removed their makeup at the end of the day by using a cleansing cream or a luxurious soap. To properly cleanse their face, women in the 1960s would lather a mild soap and gently work the lather into the skin, giving it a deep and thorough cleanse.

They knew that the pores have to remain clean at all times as to let the natural skin oils and perspiration flow through. If pores become clogged up, the oil is trapped and hardens, forming a blackhead or a pimple, which wasn't a good look back then and was generally considered to be the result of poor hygiene.

Women always removed their makeup by using a cleansing cream or a luxurious soap.

Women in the 1960s liked to wash their faces with lukewarm water and always patted their faces dry instead of rubbing with a towel. They never used products with alcohol for cleaning as they believed that alcohol robs the skin of special nutrients.

They also knew how important it was to avoid excess exposure to the elements, above all the burning sun, and they were aware that too much sunbathing would age their precious skin.

Makeup Trends in the 1960s

The early 1960s makeup look was all about dramatic eyes, pale cool hues, and lots of powder. By the mid-1960s, this evolved into a simpler girlish style, typified by the likes of British models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton.

The most notable trend of the sixties definitely was the dramatic eye and cool-toned eyeshadows like blues, grays, greens, and white. Women wore simple eyeshadows as these wouldn't take away from their beloved cat-eye or bottom lashes that were drawn in with a liquid eyeliner alongside several coats of mascara.

Red lips were also not as popular in the 1960s as they were in the 1950s, as women during this decade preferred wearing nude or pale lipsticks similar to their skin tone or pastel pinks if they wanted to add just a little bit of color. Many women, including Sharon Tate, often preferred to keep it even more natural by only applying a little bit of Vaseline to keep their lips soft and hydrated.

When it came to the complexion, women of the sixties wore a foundation with a matte finish. According to Vocal, women would apply pale cream foundation all over their face and set it with translucent powder to create a matte look.

Blush was also not a very popular beauty product in the 1960s and was used sparingly to add a little bit of color to the face and warm up the complexion with soft peachy tones.

The 1950s eyebrows – a strong arch and a decent thickness that varied from medium to very thick – were replaced by thin, long, and rounded eyebrows. Brows were neat and understated so they didn't compete with the bold and graphic eye makeup. There were a few exceptions to the rule during the decade, with Audrey Hepburn continuing to embrace her naturally full brows. Other stars, like Sophia Loren, had an even more unique approach to brow grooming that included shaving them off completely before drawing them back on by using eyeliner, a brow pencil, and short, thread-thin strokes.

Popular Hairstyles in the 1960s

As you might've expected by now, the 1960s held some major changes for hairstyles too.

At the beginning of the decade, beehives, bouffants, and styles reminiscent of the 1950s were still the dominant style; however, as the decade slowly took off, the slick pixie cut was also a popular hairstyle, thanks to style icons like Twiggy.

As the 1960s moved into the 1970s, the long, sleek hair seen on Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch (1969) began to emerge as the sought-after style.

However, the stars of New Wave cinema and Italian film were the ones who mainly influenced popular culture. As a result, Brigitte Bardot was catapulted to international stardom and is arguably the ultimate 1960s siren.

Other iconic actresses of the era include Julie Christie, Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Birkin, each with their own signature style and look.

Vidal Sassoon was the hairdressing star of the 1960s with geometric and asymmetrical cuts that revolutionized women's hairstyling. His popular styles were considered to be fresh, sleek, and sharp, much like the 1960s.

Fashion in the 1960s

Fashion of the 1960s, as pretty much everything else, was a pool of diverse trends in a decade that broke many fashion traditions, mirroring social movements during the time.

The decade started off with Jackie Kennedy as the style icon. Her style was clean, simple, well fitted, and embellished with perfectly matched accessories. She wore dresses without collars and jackets that buttoned with only one large top button. She wore low-heeled shoes and hats and put a lot of care into her look, which is why it's not surprising that many women in the U.S. and abroad copied her style with enthusiasm.

Around the middle of the decade, fashions arising from small pockets of young people in a few urban centers received large amounts of media publicity and began to heavily influence both the haute couture of elite designers and the mass-market manufacturers. Examples include the mini skirt, culottes, go-go boots, and more experimental fashions, less often seen on the street, such as curved PVC dresses and other PVC clothes.

Brigitte Bardot was the direct opposite of Jackie Kennedy, and she preferred wearing tacky, bold, and even silly clothes and accessories as opposed to Jackie's put-together, simple, and modest style.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the 1960s were full of hardships, unrest, and some of the most historical social movements, we can't deny the fact that people will always find a way to have a great time and make the most out of a difficult situation.

This is definitely something I think of when I think of the 1960s, along with the new styles and beauty standards that stepped on the scene after the glamorous 1950s.

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