One of the hottest beauty trends is the vintage look of stars like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Lana Turner with their flawless complexions and beautifully styled hair. These iconic looks were created with beauty products that still work, and still have the same glamorous mystique. If you want to capture that old school glamor for yourself, here are five essentials your dressing table must have.
Max Factor Creme Puff
In the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Max Factor was the most iconic make up name of them all, no handbag was complete without a Max Factor powder compact. An elegant gloved hand would reach into the bag, the compact would snap open, and the powder applied in a seductive gesture, eyes peeping over the compact lid like Lana Turner. Sadly, Max Factor is no longer sold in the USA. The new owner, Proctor and Gamble, pulled the brand from shelves in 2010, due to falling sales. But the brand is still sold internationally and is available online. Classic items like compacts can be found on eBay and Etsy. It is worth tracking this powder down in compact and loose powder form, because no retro dressing table should be without it.
Ponds Cold Cream
Skin care used to be a simple affair. One cream cleansed, moisturized and served as a foundation for powder – Pond’s Cold Cream. On a lady’s dressing table it was an all round beautifier that helped keep the years at bay. International singing star Kylie Minogue swears by it, forgoing Botox and surgery for this simple but effective product. Cold cream is an emulsion-type recipe, combing water and fats into a light cream that leaves the skin feeling cool and refreshed, and disappears quickly when it is applied – hence the name ‘vanishing’ cream. Ponds Cold Cream was not only used as a cleanser, moisturizer and primer, it was also used to soothe sunburn, and remove make up. Born in the USA, and still available there as well as internationally, it is a retro essential that never goes out of date.
Those fabulous vintage Hollywood hairstyles, with their kiss curls, cute flips and smooth bouffants, didn’t get that way by themselves. There was artistry in hair styling in those days that was the complete opposite to today’s messy looks. Keeping every curl in place and avoiding flyaway tendrils was essential to the styles, and stylists reached for the hairspray as soon as their work was done. Hairspray has been the butt of many jokes in recent times, but the fact is that there is nothing better to hold every hair in place – and it doesn’t have to be hard and tacky. Elnett changed hairspray forever in 1960, when the French cosmetics company L’Oreal formulated a hairnet in a can that was neither sticky nor impossible to remove. Elnett was light, effective and most importantly, easy to brush out. It was banned in America until 2008, due to ozone concerns, but before that your stylist would have had Elnett stashed in the shop somewhere. As a dressing table item it is an essential icon – the can has hardly changed over the years and it is still the best hairspray on the market.
There are many classic perfume names, from Chanel to Jean Patou, but only one really brings back the heady days of the Swinging Sixties. Those were the days of Jean Shrimpton, Carnaby Street and all things deliciously retro, and no name was more iconic than Yardley. This British beauty company caught the wave of the London Look and rode it like crazy with great big smoky eyes, iridescent lipstick and sweet girlie fragrances that came straight from an English country garden. Rose, lavender, violet, lily of the valley – the names of the perfumes are as simple and evocative as the flowers they represent. New lines are being added to the Yardley perfume range, but it is the classics like rose and lavender that evoke the time when ‘swinging London’ was all the rage and everyone wanted to look like Jean Shrimpton. The singular spray bottles with their charming labels will still look great on a retro dressing table.
A Mason Pearson Hairbrush
A woman’s hair is ‘her crowning glory’, it used to be said, and to ensure that it remained shiny and glossy, it was considered essential to brush 100 strokes every night. The hairbrush had to be the best quality but until Mason Pearson created his handmade hairbrush at the start of the 20th Century, coarse bristle brushes could be agonizing. The Mason Pearson brush is especially designed to be comfortable to hold, and to massage the scalp as well as smooth out the hair. A Mason Pearson hairbrush is more of an investment than a simple beauty product, as it can be handed down to your grandchildren.
There is more to being a retro beauty than iconic products, of course, but while you are brushing up on your deportment and manners, these five essentials will certainly help you to get in the right frame of mind. Then, like Jean Harlow and Ava Gardener, go knock ’em in the aisles!
(by Gail Kavanagh 2015)