Vintage beauty products

By Liz Coggins

Granny's glamour tricks are making a welcome return to today's boutiques. Make-up artist and beauty writer, Liz Coggins, investigates the retro revivals returning to our dressing tables
Vintage beautyVintage beauty

It all started with an apology to my hairdresser about my tangled locks from the night before. You see when I want to turn my poker straight hair into a mass of lasting curls it's not rollers, tongs or the hot brush I reach for, but some good old fashioned steel curling pins that once belonged to my gran.

“My great gran gave me a box of those and I didn’t know what they were for,” confessed my trendy crimper, after hearing my explanation. But after trying them out she now admits, “They’re the best thing since sliced bread.”

Beauty products, like any other trend or fashion, have come the full circle and many products out there on the beauty counters, although they may have been repackaged and slightly re-formulated, are what our grandmothers used.

Roses in your cheeks

In 1912 Bourjois produced their first powder compact rouge to bring a little colour to the cheeks and it's still going strong today. The recipe has barely changed from the original with its natural retro rose fragrance and fine powdery finish and it’s still presented in a round compact.

Pan-stik and powder cream

The thirties saw Max Factor Hollywood bring to England his 'Cosmetics of the Stars'. The range consisted of a powder, lipstick and rouge. Later, in 1947, Max Factor Pan-Stik was launched. Max Factor Jnr had a specific motion picture in mind when creating Pan-Stik - MGM's Forsyte Woman starring Greer Garson. From that day to this, Pan-Stik has been a favourite with both women and make-up artists. Later, in 1953, their pressed powder, Creme Puff became a 'must have' in every woman's handbag and like Pan-Stik has become a cosmetic legend.

Cream to powder foundation has a long history dating back to Velouty's Powder Cream. Applied as a cream it dried to give a smooth matt powder finish. Recently, new formulations that give the same result have enjoyed a resurgence with products such as Clinique's Superfit Makeup.

Vanishing cream reappears

When it came to skincare, two kinds of cream were popular in mum and granny’s day. Cold Cream for cleansing and as a night cream and Vanishing Cream as a moisturiser. Cold Cream Cleanser is now in trendy cosmetic house MAC’s range whilst Lush manufactures a Vanishing Cream. And to keep those lips kissable a lip salve such as Guerlain’s Baume de la Fert, which dates back to the 19th century, and is still available today, was used.

Blot away that shine again

To stop T-Zone shine mum and gran used blotting papers and they are still the most effective method on the market today enjoying popularity in both Marks and Spencer's and Bobbi Brown's product ranges.

Block mascara

The first mascaras came in block form with its own little brush and was then overtaken by the wand. But after years of the false economy of the product drying up, many cosmetic firms have now reverted to offering a block mascara within their range. The Kryolan Cake Mascara in a compact with a brush is available by mail order from Charles Fox of London, call 0870 2000 369 for more information.

A French manicure that doesn't come in a box

When it came to their nails mum and granny would buff on a shine and apply white pencil under the nail to give a natural 'French Manicure' look. The traditional chamois buffer and nail white pencil can still be found in Marks and Spencer's Shiny Nail Care Kit.

A dab of scent

For cooling down on a hot day, 4711 - created at the end of the 18th century by Carthusian Monks - was the order of the day. Still a firm favourite, the 4711 cooling stick, fragrance and dusting powder are just as granny knew them. A little luxury at bathtime came in the form of bath salts and L'Occitane's Lavender Bath Salts and Citrus Verbena Bath Salts in their retro packaging are such that even granny would approve.

In the world of fragrance some perfumes have stood the test of time while others died with their era. Guerlain's Misouko dates back to 1920 and Shalimar is 90 years old. Chanel No 5 was launched in the 1920s and Jean Patou's Joy in the thirties. Despite the passage of time, all remain popular today. Floris still has fragrances available that were first sold over 200 years ago, updated to modern tastes, and the Yardley Lavender range hardly ever changes. And talking of bringing this back, this summer Chanel has re-invented Sycomore which dates back to the thirties.

Finally, at over 55 years old, Estee Lauder's iconic fragrance Youth Dew has sold over 250 million bottles worldwide and recently became a must-have fragrance amongst celebrities, supermodels and the younger trendy set - proving there's no ageism where fragrance is concerned!


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  • maria sheehan

    Posted: Sunday 25 March 2012

    thank you for sharing


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