If you don’t fancy pinching your cheeks every five minutes to attain the rosey-red affect as the perseverant Forties women did, there is another vintage way to achieve that healthy glow. Red lipstick – made famous by the previously mentioned iconic female stars – had more uses than perfecting the pout. Women would rub a little of their lipstick onto a rag and then rub in circular motions onto the cheek.

This can be done now with a cheap red lipstick and it gives an immediate rose-tint. Face powders were used too – though we do not recommend covering your freckles up, as they did. Their powder was essential as it doubled up as a tool to create a matte base if going out after working in a boiling hot factory.


As previously mentioned, lipstick was used. The war-time colour was, without any doubt, red. This patriotic shade enabled women to show their support for the war effort and it made them feel more confident (it also went down well with the soldiers!) If re-creating the 40s vibe, which also involved lips looking full and soft, the only shade to paste onto your lips is a ruby red – and be generous on the upper lip to get the popular plump pout. Alternatively, use a lip-liner for trickery to change the shape of your lips – a method often used.


Colour-coordinating your nails to your outfits is not a new idea. Women during WW2 were famous for their colour-matching. To capture the look of the Forties on your nails, copy their style and apply the nail polish to your nail but leave a half-moon shape at the base of your nail. The Forties lady also had a secret solution for ingrown toe-nails that still works wonders now. Cut the nail across the top – but not the sides, and then bathe in warm water, inserting some cotton wool beneath the nail where it is digging in. This loosens the nail and shortly corrects the problem.

Shhh…other beauty tips

There were all sorts of other beauty secrets women of the war possessed. From removing vegetable stains on their hands with lemon juice, to oiling themselves up to tan (this, we most certainly do not recommend). We have listed some of our favourites below:

American forces introduced British home front women to nylons which enabled them to create stockings and suspenders. As nylons became increasingly necessary for the war effort though, women were forced to resort to other alternatives. In order to get the much sought-after, sophisticated and somewhat saucy stocking effect, women would paint their legs with gravy browning and draw a line down the backs of their legs with charcoal to create the effect of the seams.

Another method similar to this was by taking four or five teabags, soaking them in warm water and then applying this mixture to your legs to give the effect of tights. This trick can be used today as a cheap, but effective, method of self-tanning – we think the teabag technique may be slightly more appealing than the gravy browning one!

If going out for drinks or for dinner, women always wanted to look their best. Puffy eyes – from lack of sleep or constant worrying – were solved by dabbing the trusty petroleum jelly under the eyes at night time. This is one trick we at QueensOfVintage swear by!

Following with the trend of women wanting to look their best, they faced competition from the beautiful pin-up models – all with full breasts. We’re not sure we agree with their method of stuffing tissue down their bras (far too risky of causing embarrassment) but if times are dire, it’s worth a shot.

Despite living on rations, some women put beauty before belly and used a mixture of sugar and a little warm water or lemon juice to act as a skin exfoliator. Follow this money-saving tip and you will achieve the same affects as your most expensive bottle of the scrub!

Working all day in a factory was never good for their hands so women would take some petroleum jelly with them to work to apply before going home. This kept their hands soft and supple and is easily re-created by keeping a small tin of Vaseline in your bag for all emergencies.

For a glowing face, prepare a bowl of iced water and soak a cloth in it, wring the cloth out and place on your face then rub an ice cube over all of the curves and repeat this for ten minutes every day. The proof is in the pudding.

So, there we have it – the top beauty secrets of the World War II female. They are secrets that were stuck to rigidly and became beauty regimes that shaped their war-time lives. These tricks cast a bright light onto just how beauty-bound women were 70 years ago and how remarkable the rituals were that modern women of today can even use them. Spending less clearly does not mean sparkling less! Try them out for yourself and see if you could have survived as a Forties woman.

Go on, go vintage, darling…

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17 Responses

  1. wilma

    Greaaat ! some of these where used by mom ^^ as the sugar -lemon skin exfoliator ^^
    I loved the tea bag tip!

  2. isabelle

    Queens of vintage est génial.Je suis tombée par hasard sur ton blog vintage.J’adore surtout les années 60 (makeup et accessoires),je viendrais faire un tour de temps en temps.Bye

  3. veronica

    petroleum jelly is just vaseline and is widely available at any drugstore and most grocery stores even.

  4. Rebecka

    Gals, petroleoum jelly = vaseline, so readily available today.
    Great article! Though nail polish was not available in the later parts of the war (liquid nail varnish was appearantly banned in 1944, and difficult to get hold of before then, though you could buy powder nail polish!) so unless you had a good stash beforehand, it seems a lof of women got by with polishing and buffing their nails to look neat.

  5. Lindy Hopper

    Interesting article. Would they really have used raw eggs on their hair though? I believe rationing allowed something like 1 egg per person per fortnight! I definately would have used mine to bake a cake!

  6. Marie McNeil

    My dear Grandmama told me all of these – and more! She used to tell me most of all about using ‘gravy browning’ on her legs, and then using a pencil to draw the line. However, you couldn’t bop too hard, as it started to run! I think she used to call the rag rollers ‘hod-me-dods’ – this is by far the best way I have found for defining my curls (I have curls already naturally, but to get them to behave I ‘set’ them with the rag rollers).

    She did get the odd pair of real silk stockings from an admirer tho’…….naught nanny!!! ;)))

  7. Grace

    Jennifer is correct.
    Baking powder as we know it today wasn’t around in the 40s.
    It’s baking SODA (bicarbinate of soda) that was used.

  8. Tennille

    Omg I do most of these things!!! Here I was thinking I was creative! I use brown sugar & olive oil as a body & face scrub, much softer!!!

  9. Jessica Cangiano

    Thoroughly terrific piece! I use many of these same methods and products myself, but hadn’t heard about lemon juice as a means of getting veggie stains off of hands. Love it! No more yellowy-orange hands after peeling carrots.

  10. British Compact Collectors Society

    Almost every 40’s woman owned a powder compact, so that she could carry her face powder around with her, to get rid of the shiny nose that 40’s women hated. Often the compacts had other spaces for lip gloss, rouge and cigarettes. Take a look at some gorgeous examples on our Facebook page

  11. M.Ault

    A great and timely article.
    For the person who did not know where to get petroleum jelly, look in either the baby section or first aid. Any 99c store carries it and it lasts forever.
    I’m going to try the bit using PJ (petroleum jelly) under my eyes – it looks like I’ve got suitcases there lately.
    Baby powder also was and is still used as a “dry” shampoo and gives hair body for those updo’s.
    Another trick to tighten up skin and pores was to break an egg in half (saving the yolk for whatever) and beating up the white with a spoonful of oatmeal to use as a face mask. Let it dry, (it gets tight) but is a minifacelift from nature. You can also use beaten egg white with a brush to apply under eyes to wear under foundation to beat back those lines. I use it on my face as a base for a full makeup and when going out.
    If you are allergic to eggs, of course, do not attempt this.
    Gycerine dilitued with a dab of water is also a great moisterizer and vegan safe as it is vegetable based – a great hydrator for the face. You can ask at the pharmacy they sometimes keep it behind the counter.
    Sugar water was also used to set hair and still is today. 3 tablespoons white sugar to 1 cup water. My father taught me that trick.
    Women had hair lacquer which later gave way to hair spray.
    And remember to use your lipstick brush to get the very last scraps of color out!
    Here’s to beauty, brains, and inventiveness~

  12. Lindsay

    It’s amazing to me that the women of the 40’s and 50’s had much less than us in terms of makeup, plastic surgery ect, yet they were still a million times more beautiful and glamourous than modern day women could even think about being! Even the women who try desperately to be “modern day pinups” like Dita Von Teese are not even compareable to women like Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Jane Russell, Yvonne DeCarlo, Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, Bettie Page, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren. We might have more beauty products to choose from today, but we certainly don’t look as good. Women today are not as glamourous, don’t have the NATURAL curves or hourglass figures, and are just generally less sexy and beautiful. It doesn’t matter what women today do-they can’t compete with the women of yesteryear.