Beauty Standards Throughout The Decades: The 1970s

The 1970s was not just the era of emerging trends, new dance moves, and funky styles.

By Simone Sydel5 min read
Beauty Standards Throughout The Decades: The 1970s

It was a traumatic economic decade of stagflation, a term used to describe high unemployment and high inflation simultaneously. Yet, despite some headline-grabbing crises, the 1970s was also a decade of rising living standards, the growth of credit, and rising property prices.

Besides the bad, there are also many good things about the ‘70s, including good music that came in vinyl, cassette, and 8-track, heading to the video arcade with a pocket full of quarters, and, of course, Star Wars.

And let's not forget about the new and innovative things women used to beautify and improve their looks during this time. Therefore, in this article, we will take a look at some of the most influential beauty standards and fashion moments that shaped the "decade of hell."

The Culture in the 1970s

The 1970s, much like the 1960s, were a tumultuous time. In some ways, the decade was considered a continuation of the 1960s since protests and unrest didn't die down with the beginning of the new decade. Many marginalized people continued their fight for equality, and many Americans joined the protest against the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Personal liberation and rebellion against authority became the key themes of the 1970s.

It can be said that personal liberation and rebellion against authority became the key themes of the 1970s, as Americans sought individualism through new outlooks on religion, traditional values, and popular culture.


Although no year was better for the armchair music lover than 1965, which delivered rock 'n' roll teen parties like Shindig, Shivaree, and Where the Action Is, the 1970s ushered in another wave of groovy music and dance series that brought the discotheque into the living room. Funk, soul, R&B, hard rock, soft rock, and disco all carved out their place in the music world during the 1970s.

The late ‘70s also witnessed the birth of another young music style: hip hop, which was perhaps one of the biggest cultural resets on the music scene ever.


And let's not forget about how movies in the 1970s really pushed the envelope, covering any and all subject matters.

The beginning of the decade brought Stanley Kubrick's legendary A Clockwork Orange, which was a great success despite its extremely bizarre and violent depictions and is still a popular movie today.

In 1972, Marlon Brando mesmerized audiences with his flawless performance in The Godfather, which is an eternal classic.

Beauty Routines in the 1970s

Having introduced multi-step skincare routines in the 1960s, women in the 1970s were already using cleansers, exfoliating soaps, toners, and moisturizers to nourish their skin.

The demand for skincare grew, which boosted the skincare market; therefore, many new brands were born and flourished during this time. However, the few classics such as Oil of Olay, Ponds Cold Cream, and Erno Laszlo's products remained the golden standard for both everyday women and celebrities like Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Diane Keaton, and Yoko Ono.

Another brand that spread like wildfire throughout Europe in the late ‘70s and is still incredibly popular today was Biologique Recherche, a French skincare brand created by biologist Yvan Allouche to help women of all ages achieve flawless skin. Their iconic Lotion P50 1970 can still be purchased in the U.S., but sadly, it was banned in Europe due to containing phenol, which forced the company to create a slightly different version without the controversial ingredient.

Anti-aging products also became increasingly important, and retinol was recommended to women with acne-prone and problematic skin.

Lastly, the 1970s was the decade when the sun protection factor (SPF) rating system that's still used today was first implemented.

Reports were reaching the media about the damage caused by sunbathing, and dermatologists started seeing the skin damage done to the sun worshippers of the 1930s and 1940s. Subsequently, the beauty industry responded by making tanning lotions with more sun protection as well as products to counteract sun damage.

However, despite knowing about the danger of excessive tanning, or the links made to cancer, many people just ignored the warnings and carried on sunbathing without due care.

Makeup Trends in the 1970s

Western cosmetics and makeup trends in the 1970s reflected the modern woman of the time. For the first time since 1900, makeup was chosen situationally and individually, and although certain things were considered trendy and desirable, such as a tanned and glowy look, women pretty much did whatever they felt like with their makeup on any given day.

The era's two primary visions were the feminist-influenced daytime natural look and the evening aesthetic presented by European designers and fashion photographers. In the periphery, punk and glam were also two styles that were very influential during the 1970s.

When it comes to foundation and other complexion products, having a sheen or pearlescent glow to the skin was very popular and a part of the natural, youthful look. To achieve this, women slathered moisturizer on their faces, used shimmers on the cheekbones, and very lightweight foundations to cover up imperfections but not necessarily hide them.

Heavy foundation was frowned upon, especially for a day look, and many women stayed away from it, particularly during the hot summer months.

Two other complexion details that were very popular in the 1970s are blush and bronzer, as these were used heavily to create a warm, tanned, and bronzy look. The popular color for blush was a deeper version of a natural blush, like a vibrant peach or raspberry stain.

For an eye look, women used eyeshadow in pastel shades such as blue, green, and violet. Earthy tones were also popular, while pearlescent or iridescent whites and silvers were often used under the eyebrow to add highlight. Eye crayons were also available, although not that popular unless used for an evening or a punk look. Everything was blended, soft, and shimmery, with no harsh lines and dark shadows.

Additionally, thinner eyebrows definitely had their comeback in the 1970s as women often plucked them incredibly thin in a curve. Slightly thicker brows shaped with an arch were also loved by many, although thin, neat ones were the staple.

Lastly, deep fruity lip colors like plum, mulberry, and cranberry were super trendy in the 1970s but not as much as lipglosses with a beautiful sheen.

Popular makeup brands included Art Deco, Mary Quant, and Revlon, who then acquired smaller cosmetics firms like Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, and Helena Rubenstein. Additionally, independent businesswomen such as Adrien Arpel, Suzanne Grayson, and Madeleine Mono established small, consumer-focused companies to challenge mega-firms.

Manicures in the 1970s

The ‘70s was the era of artificial acrylic nails that were often worn long, especially by those who could afford to maintain them by frequently visiting nail salons.

Nails were typically manicured with a rounded tip, but square nails also started to come into vogue, possibly inspired by Cher.

In 1975, Hollywood had a heavy demand for a natural nail look that actresses could wear with any piece of wardrobe, and one American man delivered just that. Jeff Pink, the founder of a nail lacquer and treatment company named Orly, created a simple natural nail style that consisted of soft pink nails with white tips that instantly took over the fashion runways and beauty industry. Soon the style appeared on the runways of Paris, and everyone wanted the “French Manicure.”

Popular Hairstyles in the 1970s

Hairstyles in the 1970s, like any other decade, were also influenced by film and celebrities. The gorgeous Farrah Fawcett-Majors was one massive influence on late 1970s hair with her beautiful feathered layers and big flicked sides.

A few other popular hairstyles were the shag as seen on Jane Fonda in Klute, credited to the famous hairdresser Paul McGregor, as well as the wedge famously created by British hairdresser Trevor Sorbie in 1974.

Besides that, hairstyles that encouraged the black community to embrace their natural hair structure continued to be popular throughout the 1970s, and the afro was one of the most popular styles of the decade. The afro was worn by both sexes throughout the decade and by other ethnic groups besides the African-Americans.

A flicked-back fringe was another unisex hairstyle adored by both men and women who were using heated styling tools to create flicks and wings of all lengths.

Blunt bangs, long curled, and the classic 1970s straight hair with a part in the middle were also standard during the decade.

Fashion in the 1970s

The hippie look of the 1960s carried over to the early 1970s. Popular styles included bell-bottom pants, frayed jeans, midi skirts, maxi dresses, tie-dye, peasant blouses, and ponchos.

Women in the early 1970s who didn’t go for the hippie look often chose a dressier or dressy casual wardrobe. This look included tight t-shirts or dresses with a fitted wide lapel blazer, flared pants, sweaters, cardigans, and boots. Pastels were popular colors, especially baby blue, yellow, mauve, and peach.


By the mid-1970s, the hippie look fell out of fashion for both men and women, making way for a more casual everyday style. Fitted t-shirts rose in popularity, with elaborate designs, slogans, and sports logos.

In the middle of the decade, women began to enter the workforce at a higher rate, which led to more tailored business styles, such as tailored blazers, midi skirts, and fitted blouses with high heels.

And lastly, by the end of the decade, disco took over fashion with styles that included jersey wrap dresses, tube tops, sequined shirts, spandex shorts, and high slit skirts with boots or chunky heels.

Closing Thoughts

Despite the economic hardships and social unrest that spilled over from the 1960s, the 1970s were still a cool decade many remember fondly.

Whenever I think of the 1970s, I think of beautiful hairstyles, crazy and creative makeup, glowy faces, tanned, athletic bodies, and great music, along with new and daring styles, which were a true expression of how people lived their lives back then.

If you enjoyed this article, check out what the 1950s and the 1960s looked like!

Readers make our world go round. Make your voice heard in the official Evie reader survey.