Eyeshadow HistoryWhen they say that eye makeup has been around for ages, it’s no exaggeration. The Ancient Egyptians used kohl to create their iconic liner look. As time progressed, different groups experimented with using natural products to create products that enhanced their eyes.

(Related: A Brief History On Lipstick Colors Through The Decades)

The eyeshadows we are familiar with were born in the early 20th century when chemists made developments on how to improve the quality of shadows by making them easier to remove. In the decades that followed, we’ve seen more and more advancements in terms of finish and staying power, but we have also seen how drastically trends have changed. Just like with lipsticks and eyebrow shapes, popular eyeshadow looks have changed from decade to decade.

Check out how eyeshadow looks have evolved over time:

1920’sClara Bow, "The It Girl"

Film and theater helped popularize a smokey eye look for everyday. Actresses like Clara Bow wore dark, smokey makeup created with kohl to enhance their eyes when they were on stage. It wasn’t long before the look was adopted by style-savvy women.

Click the next page to see the 1930’s eyeshadow trend!


Greta Garbo 1930 Makeup

(Photo: Pinterest)

When it came to the eyes in the 1930’s, women were more focused on achieving perfectly rounded eyebrows, like Greta Garbo‘s. Eyeshadow became available in more colors including soft pinks and greens. These became the favorite and the darker colors were left for the Roaring Twenties. Mascara was also used to enhance the eyes.


Headshot of actress Lauren Bacall, USA, circa 1945. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Lipstick was the focus of the 1940’s beauty look, as seen on Lauren Bacall. It was one of the few beauty items that did not get rationed during the war. Because a bright orange-red lip was the focus, eyes were kept more natural, with neutral shadows and mascara.


LOS ANGELES - 1957:  Italian actress Sophia Loren poses for a portrait in 1957 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Earl Theisen/Getty Images)

Eyeshadow took a backseat to the strong lipsticks of the 1950’s, like Sophia Loren‘s. There were more shadow formulas available but they were lighter and didn’t compete with the popular red lipsticks of the decade.


Jean Shrimpton 1960s Makeup

(Photo: Pinterest)

It was all about the eyes in the 1960’s. Women became more experimental with their makeup and wore a range of different colored. See Jean Shrimpton‘s look for proof. White was also a popular color to achieve a mod look. Thick eyeliner, especially in the crease of the eye, and lots of mascara completed the look.


Jaclyn Smith 1970s Eyeshadow

The 1970’s were divided between the hippies and the disco queens. The hippies preferred natural looks while the disco queens embraced glamour. Colored eyeshadow was popular and multiple colors were often worn together for rainbow looks. Jaclyn Smith‘s purple shadow was a favorite of the ’70s.


Diana Ross 1980s Eyeshadow

Like everything in the 1980’s, the motto for eyeshadow was “more is better.” See Diana Ross‘s makeup for proof. The colorful eye makeup looks of the previous decade continued and it was common for color to be worn up to your brow bones. Blue was a popular shadow color but gold, pink, and purple were favorites.


American supermodel Cindy Crawford wears a black Versace dress to the MTV Music Video Awards, 1992. (Photo by Bob Scott/Fotos International/Getty Images)

After the excess of the 1980’s, the ’90s saw a return to a more natural look as seen on Cindy Crawford. Browns and taupes were the preferred shades. Towards the end of the decade, colored shadows returned, especially soft blue shades.



Today, there are countless different eyeshadow finishes and colors. Cat eye liner is a popular beauty look but the smokey eye with multiple shadows has become a classic beauty look for evening. Smokey eyes with different colors, like Kristen Stewart‘s look, are also popular.

(Photos: Getty Images, unless otherwise noted)