Monday, December 19, 2016

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The Vintage Makeup Review - with Lauren & Abby

Whether you've gone fully down the vintage style rabbit hole of everyday dress or you need a faceplan for an impending costume party, today we're going to share with you our discoveries concerning vintage repro and still-being-made-today makeup products.

We've selected and tested a number of different products from lipsticks to face powders. Each of these is either a modern historical reproduction (like Besame) or an item that has survived the sands of time and is still being made and sold today (like Coty Airspun and Max Factor Pan-Stik). So without further ado, here are the Pro's, Con's, and Where-to-Buy's of vintage makeup:

Max Factor Pan-Stik Foundation
Introduced in 1948.
A very thick foundation in a variety of colors, in stick form.

Pros: Easy to apply. Very good coverage. Many colors available. Matte finish. This stuff is serious stage-and-screen business.
Cons: Can look a bit weird in certain artificial lights. Can clog pores. Needs powdering throughout the day - feels a bit greasy after day-long wear.
Where to Buy: Amazon or Vermont Country Store

Coty Airspun Face Powder
Since 1935.
A translucent powder and a lot of it. Comes in a plastic box with a large powder puff.

Pros: Definitely does the job. Powder on with the enormous powder puff after applying foundation. Keeps things matte and lovely. The packaging is attractive and reminiscent of the original cardboard box.
Cons: Smells like granny, and maybe not in a good way. The smell is definitely "vintage," and thankfully fades off quickly.
Where to Buy: CVS (if you're lucky), Amazon,

Besame Brightening Face Powders
Vanilla and violet face powders for post-foundation setting. Also work for setting lipstick and generally brightening the complexion.

Pros: Smells wonderful. Does the job. Works great over foundation and concealer or just on its own. It does appear to brighten the skin up a touch. Comes in cute packaging that is easy to carry with you. Plus this company is a small business manufacturing in the USA.
Cons: The powderpuff is a bit insubstantial. Not a lot of powder for your money.
Where to Buy:, Amazon

Tangee Blush
Early 1920s.
One blush to rule them all - the formula changes to the perfect shade for every complexion. Magic.

Pros: It really works. A little goes a long way. Beautiful flush without looking like a clown. Works for all skin tones. No smell.
Cons: A little goes a long way. We mean it! Only available from one vendor.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else

Besame Lipsticks
A large selection of colors made according to original colors by decade - authentic shades for the 1920s through the 1970s, each researched and reproduced faithfully.

Pros: Authentic, repro colors for each time period in highly-pigmented formulas that go on and stay on. They also smell wonderful. True reds available for warm and cool skin tones with help choosing your shades on the Besame website.
Cons: Variations in formulas color-to-color mean some lispticks are creamy while others are very dry. It can hurt to put the very dry ones on. The shape of the bullet makes applying from the tube very difficult. The bullet is quite short - you don't get a lot of lipstick for your money, but they do last a long time because of how pigmented they are.
Where to Buy:

Tangee Lipstick
Early 1920s.
A novel lipstick that changes according to the wearer's skin tone. Always produces the perfect shade of pink for each individual.

Pros: Easy to apply - creamy formula acts more like a lip gloss than a traditional lipstick and goes on smoothly. Good shape to the bullet. Stays on and is "no fuss" with choosing the right color.
Cons: THE SMELL/TASTE OF THIS STUFF IS DIABOLICAL. Sorry to put that in all caps, but consider that your warning! I wanted to love Tangee and wear it constantly but the odor was so strong it made it unwearable for both me and Abby. The perfume is a mega-strong chemical floral scent that assaults the nostrils all day long and causes a weird feeling in the mouth (yes, you're tasting what you're smelling). Yum.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else

Besame Cake Mascara
The old-fashioned cake + brush of the 1920s - get it wet and apply the wax formula.

Pros: Despite being water soluble, this mascara stays on very well. Easier to use than appears. Comes with a brush and pretty packaging. Can also be used for eyebrows Isn't heavy but isn't invisible - build it up in layers.
Cons: Water soluble. Yes, it's got staying power...but don't cry or go swimming. The brush is alright but a spooly style might be easier to use. Let the cake dry before folding the paper back over it or else the paper will stick to it.
Where to Buy:, Amazon

To hear more of Lauren and Abby's musings....possibly too much musing...50 minutes of musing....on these products, check out our video below (we shot this live some time ago, so while it is no longer live, it does contain all the shenanigans of a completely improvised show. You've been warned):



  1. Great video, when I first started wearing make-up in the early '70s, Maybelline made cake mascara and that's what I used. It came in a little red box with a holder for the brush.

    You look great!

    I remember my best friend's mom telling us that when she was a teenager, her favorite lipstick was Tangee natural.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. It's pretty amazing stuff! I didn't know cake mascara lasted for so long. What a treat :-)

  2. Thanks for the reviews!

    I was curious about the Tangee lipstick so I surfed over to Vermont Country Store (from whom I used to buy a number of products, but not makeup) to check out the reviews. I was astonished at how few of the reviewers noted the foul smell/taste. I was also shocked at how many of the reviewers were about my age (I'm 57) or older, some much older. Maybe that's why there are so many positive reviews--perhaps the older women don't perceive the taste/smell to be as strong or perhaps they are accustomed to it from having used it for so many years.

    1. I was actually super surprised by that too! I tried to leave a review, but because I didn't create an account when I ordered, it wouldn't let me. I also noticed that a lot of the reviews were from older women. Maybe as Tangee moves in to the future, they'll revise the flavor/smell? Or maybe I just got a freak tube?

  3. Maybe we should add Pond's cold cream to counter the Max Factor pancake makeup?

    I rarely wear makeup but I've had pretty good luck with the Besame lipsticks. One of them, though, was supposed to be neutral but definitely veered cool when I put it on--I think it might have been the Red Velvet, which seems to do this for some people with olive undertones.

    1. Ponds is great! A fantastic skin moisturizer as well as makeup remover.

      Hrm, I guess it just depends on the shade for the lipstick. They have a tester pack with tiny sampler lipsticks in 5 colors. I found that really useful for trying a few different colors and formulas.

  4. I'm terrible at trying new cosmetics, so thank you for these reviews. It's such a shame the Tangee range is only available in one place :( Those look really intriguing. xx

    1. That is indeed a shame. It's really cool stuff, but there are other products like it now, that change color according to your skin tone/pH balance, etc. There's one called "Frog Prince" that's sold at Ulta and other placed. It's green in the tube, but turns color when you put it on, and I'm willing to bet it doesn't smell like a swamp ;-)

    2. Nope, definitely no swampyness. The smell in the tube is very faintly of wax, but there is no taste whatsoever. There is also a Frog Prince green-to-pink creme blusher (and a lip gloss too) though I haven't tried that yet.
      The Dior Lip Glow balms are also supposed to be sort of ph adjusting I think. The one I have (lilac) definitely does. And it smells like some sort of caramelised sugar.
      Sorry, I probably spend way too much time playing with makeup... Such a magpie.... :D

  5. For a lovely and luxurious take on vintage make-up, I highly recommend Caron's loose powder.They have been making it for a very long time and it is scented with Bulgarian Rose.

  6. When my mum passed away I snaffled one of her lipsticks and have been looking for a replacement ever since. It was an Avon brand and very 70s coral colour. I have yet to find anything the same anywhere.

  7. Hello Lauren and Abby. My name is Barbara and I am 81 years young. Being someone who grew up during the 1930’s & 40’s I can tell you how to apply your vintage lipstick. I was too young to wear makeup, but my Mother was a nightclub entertainer and I would sit and watch her change from mom to movie star and all from makeup (wonderful memories). So here we go, the shape of the bullet in your lipstick is a perfect lip liner. If used correctly it will produce the effect of a lip liner and lipstick in one. Hold your lipstick with upper point on to your cupid’s bow and, gently pressing, guide the point of the stick down the shape of your upper lip and then do the same on other side. Then do the same on the bottom lip and your lips will be perfectly lined. Then for the inner lips, place the flat sides of the lipstick between your lips and slide the stick back and forth pressing both upper and lower lips together on to the bullet. Then blot lips together to make sure all is covered. So give it a try ladies, and thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories for me. Barbara