Miners, Max Factor and the other retro make-up we loved as teenagers

Miners, Max Factor and the other retro make-up we loved as teenagers

Looking back on our favourite retro make-up from when we were teenagers - including mascara blocks and pale lipsticks.

I know that everybody is supposed to remember their first kiss, but I think the first piece of make-up you own  is just as unforgettable (and probably more fun). Angela Patchett has never forgotten hers... “In 1954, My best friend Jeane gave me, aged 14, my very first Max Factor compact.  It was wintertime and I went into the school toilets and covered my red nose in the powder. Unfortunately, I was caught by the gym mistress who made me wash my face. After that I only wore it at weekends when I would also paint my lips with bright red lipstick. Max Factor was advertised as the make-up for filmstars so it always made me feel glamorous.” Quite right. And red lips, a powder compact and filmstar glamour sums up the Fifties look.

How things had changed when I was making my first make-up purchase near the end of the Sixties. Anybody remember Rimmel's Hide 'n' Heal?  Shaped like a push-up lipstick, you rubbed it over your teenage spots in a brave attempt at a flawless complexion. And because it was sold as 'medicated' – I could tell my dad, who like many a father didn't want his 13-year-old daughter sporting “war paint” that it was really just spot cream. What I didn't tell him was that it also worked to give you the super-pale lips which were very trendy then.  

I wasn't the only one who hankered to look like Twiggy and co – huge black eyes and pale, pale faces. Vicki Clohessy was having a mini-rebellion too: “My best friend Hazel and I were fresh out of grammar school in the mid-Sixties and thought ourselves very with it. Miners did black and white nail varnish complete with transfers so we had alternate black and white nails on each hand with contrasting transfers. We wore lots of black eyeliner and mascara and drew long black lashes under our lower eyelid. She had white boots, I had black so we wore one of each. I had a PVC mac that had four large black and white squares on the front and Hazel had a shiny black PVC mac. We used to go out like that (now I think, “did we really do that?”) and got lots of strange looks and some remarks from passers by but most people just smiled at us. Those were the days!”

And the brand most used to create those heavy Sixties lashes? The same one that Angela had been using in the Fifties. Max Factor's block mascara was mentioned time and again by Yours readers, including Lynn Ryding... “I was 18 in 1963 and my strongest memory is the blocks of black mascara you would spit in and mix in a gloop with the little brush before sweeping on your lashes. We used to draw our lashes underneath our eyes with a pencil or eyeliner brush. My friend Rosie could do it perfectly whilst mine were very wobbly. We thought we were the bees knees unless it rained when everything would run as nothing was waterproof in those days.”

Janet Ridley's lash routine was painstaking – almost literally. “Between each layer of mascara I would carefully pat on powder for maximum lash build-up. Then I would take a pin and separate any clumps. I was lucky I didn't poke my eye out. I'd go off to the youth club thinking I looked fabulous. But after an hour or so dancing to Tamla Motown records a visit to the toilet would reveal a row of black smudged dots under each eye. Mascara overload!”

Why couldn't make-up ever stay where it was supposed to? “When I was about 16 I used to plaster on a thick layer of pan stick, covered with face powder,” writes Rosemary Medland. “I thought I looked the bees knees, until my then boyfriend complained he went home with half of it on the shoulder of is best jacket!”

And where did most of us buy our first make-up? Woolies, of course. When budgets were tight  Woolworth's counter was the go-to place where we found  Rimmel, Miners, Outdoor Girl and of course their own long-running budget range – Evette. It was cheap but, frankly, a bit old hat. Then Woolworth's gave us our very own make-up, as Brenda Hendley remembers. “When working as a Saturday Girl in Woolworths in the late 1960s I was lucky enough to be on the make-up counter when they launched Baby Doll Cosmetics. As a 15-year-old girl, this range was so exciting. It had lilac, green and blue nail varnish, brown eyeshadow and pale pink, lilac and peach lipsticks, instead of the usual red and orange nail colours worn by our mothers. Even the posters were exciting with illustrated dolly girls in the arms of handsome men. To my mother’s horror, I went out that weekend sporting lilac nail polish and lilac lipstick to match my lilac mini dress. I can still remember how excited and glamorous I felt.”

But what goes on, must come off. You hope anyway. “I remember poring over the make-up counter at Woolworths,” emails Heather Moulson. “The day finally came when I could buy a Miners Chelsea Chick lipstick of frosty pink. I should have left it at that. However, no, I had to also buy magenta eye shadow that was liquid and went on with a brush. Three days that took to come off! I was very red-eyed indeed!”