Evolution of Cosmetics

We don’t know about you but we love makeup! Perhaps not so much wearing it… but the packaging and POS designs are amazing. As one of the biggest retail industries out there, we thought it would be interesting to compile a visual timeline of how the make-up industry has evolved from an occasional treat for housewives into an essential multi-billion dollar sector.

1920s makeup often came in a completely different form. For example mascara could be sold in tubes, cakes and solid wax, and was much more difficult to apply than the quick swoosh women do now. Packaging was more about usability rather than marketing. This Mary Garden advert shows how simple and functional make-up packaging was. Using a mix of the art deco styles with deep luxurious reds and greens made it all look a little mysterious and glamorous. Adding a tiger to the overall image makes anything ten times more awesome, even by today’s standards!

Into the 30s the boyish fashions and hairstyles of the flapper era had changed dramatically. The Great Depression drove people to seek escapism in Hollywood glamour. Sirens like Fay Wray and Jean Harlow began to dictate the fashions and by the 1940s cosmetics had completely changed. Beauty products in themselves were must-have fashion accessories and big brands started surfacing. Cosmetics companies started to see how they could sell a lifestyle to their audience.

Max Factor has developed a big name brand as a provider of cosmetics to the film industry. Their products were in high demand by the 1930s and by the mid 40s, Max Factor had salons all over the world. To this day, Max Factor is still branded as ‘the makeup of makeup artists’ and has huge celebrity endorsements.

By the 1950s every department store had their own cosmetics counter to meet the demand. Cosmetics producers realised that with growing competition, they needed to stand out from the crowd.

The cosmetics industry started introducing their own point of sale stands in the 60s, and by the 1970s beautiful specialist counters started popping up, complete with glamorous props and assistants. Biba’s makeup counter from the 70s oozed luxury, enticing women to try experimenting with products in-store.


Through the 90s and 2000s, cosmetics aligned themselves with health and beauty with many brands understanding that their customers wanted to know that their products would be scientifically proven to give health benefits. To reflect this, big name brands decided to go for a clean, modern look. This can be seen through Clarins’ cutting-edge looking counter.

Now firmly in the 2010s, makeup companies are looking back to the golden age of beauty in the 1950s to sell their products. Old adverts with curvaceous models have become the inspiration for brands with customers who yearn for a fashionable vintage look. Brands such as Benefit and Soap & Glory saw the potential of this early on and have introduced a cheeky, feminine vintage look across all of their marketing.

benefit counter

Benefit’s beautiful POS counter creates a 1950s shopping experience for customers. As brands begin to look back for inspiration, how long will it take for the beauty industry to re-purpose nostalgic packaging from the 20s or even early 1900s? Time will tell!

Does our timeline inspire you to acquire a new look for your in-store POP? Get in touch with our team to see how we can help you.