Blue eyeshadow: The good, the bad & the ugly vintage makeup

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Blue eyeshadow: The odds are not ever in your favor

All makeup benefits from being applied by an experienced hand, but blue eyeshadow is a particularly tricky thing.

Whether you’re talking periwinkle, powder blue, turquoise, sky blue, cerulean or another cool shade, it’s just not the kind of color that works for everyone… or, if we’re honest, doesn’t even work for most people. (Any girl who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s probably figured this out the hard way.)

Below are more than two dozen vintage makeup ads showing the evolution of blue eyeshadow from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

There are a handful of winners in the bunch, but we bet that a lot of these ads prompted fashion fails — the kind that gave blue eyeshadow the tacky reputation that follows it to this day.


Blue eyeshadow - vintage makeup

1. Evening eyes, by Kurlash (1959)

The ad copy calls this look “subtle” yet “dramatically shimmering.” We would have to disagree with that first part, but the drama is definitely there.

The brand’s slogan for this product line: “Your eyes have just been kissed… with color.”

Evening eyes, by Kurlash

2. Max Factor’s new powder eye shadow (1962)

Of this blue mist powder eyeshadow, Max Factor said, “Your eyes whisper beautiful messages with this new softer look.” Well, if this shows the soft look, we don’t even want to imagine what the hard look was like.

Max Factor's  new powder eye shadow (1962)

3. Maybelline eyeshadow (1962)

“Glorify your eyes,” they said. You’ll have “the most beautiful eyes in the world,” they said. Wishful thinking.

Maybelline blue eyeshadow (1962)

4. Helena Rubinstein fashion matte eyeshadow (1965)

We think she’s laughing because she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

MORE: Fantastic, fashionable and flamboyant eye makeup from 1965

Helena Rubinstein vintage fashion matte blue eyeshadow (1965)

5. Aziza Creme Stick Eye Shadow (1966)

These eyeshadow sticks were said to be “color-keyed to the season’s fashions.” The copy also says their “come-alive shades… begin your transformation.” Into what?

Aziza Creme Stick Eye Shadow (1966)

6. Max Factor Eyes Bazazz Eye Makeup (1966)

They marketed these shadows as being uninhibited, unlimited, and even “unresistable.”

Max Factor Eyes Bazazz Eye Makeup 1966


Max Factor Eyes Bazazz Eye Makeup (1966)

7. Revlon Maxim-Eyes (1967)

“Makes eyes look played up, not made up.” Apparently, it can be both.

MORE: False eyelashes are here to stay! (1967)

Revlon Maxim-Eyes (1967)

8. Corn Silk blue eye compact (1969)

Because the light blue eyeshadow on the brow bone doesn’t help anything.

CornSilk blue eyeshadow 1969

9. Max Factor makeup in the ’60s

It’s hard to judge an overall look based just on one eye, but this model’s bright blue eyes at least helps the matching shadow look like it has a reason to be there.

Max Factor makeup blue eyeshadow from the 1960s

10. Glimmerick Sunshine Pales (1969)

Glimmerick said of their eyeshadow, “Each shade so pale, so shimmerful, so fluttery with little lights, it’s like washing your lids with liquid sunshine.” Well, it’s not really eye shadow then, is it? But even more important: Pale, the color often sported by sick and malnourished folks, isn’t a good look for everyone.

Glimmerick blue eyeshadow 1969

11. Almay Softlight eye shadow duo (1969)

Almay’s late-sixties eye cosmetics included these high-sheen, super-gleam, powder-in-cream eye shadows — Softlight and Superlight. Not so sure about the makeup, but the “Fling of a Ring” by jewelry designer Lee Menichetti is pretty groovy.

Almay Softlight eye shadow duo 1969

12. Yardley’s China Brights (1972)

The China Brights eyeshadow — or “super-frosted eye gel” — from Yardley offered “Revved up Chinese colors… with high-powered luminescent glow.” Uh, yeah. It glows. Like Cherenkov radiation.

Yardley's China Brights (1972)

13. Bright blue French eyeshadow (1972)

1972 was apparently quite the year for bold looks involving blue eye makeup.

Retro bright blue eyeshadow - 1972

14. Eye makeup from her Avon lady (1972)

“I didn’t want my eyes to look too made up. But I did want them to look big. Enormous, in fact.”

MORE: How to do makeup from the ’70s: Soft pastel eyes (1972)

1972 Avon makeup - vintage blue eyeshadow

15. Yardley Patches O’Blue (1973)

Makeup to match your jeans? Why not! Here are some blue eyeshadows that included a shade to match your denim. The three sets: Aqua Bells, Periwink Slims & Eye-Hugger Blues.

Yardley Patches O'Blue (1973)

16. Maybelline powder-twist eyeshadow (1973)

Pre-measured applications don’t necessarily mean you’re getting the right amount to look good on you… especially when the color range looks like this.

MORE: How to use makeup crayons to get a vintage ’70s look (1974)

Maybelline powder-twist eyeshadow

17. Aziza eye makeup for eyeglasses (1975)

They say that if you wore glasses, you apparently needed some extra eyeshadow zing to stand out. “So the trick is to exaggerate and build up the depth of color around your eyes…” Exaggeration accomplished, thanks to the Aziza Frosted Shadow Trios.

Aziza eye makeup for eyeglasses from 1975

18. Actionproof automatic Cream-On Shadow (1976-1977)

It may well be “actionproof” like the ad says — but do they mean you’re not going to get any action when you’re wearing this stuff?

Vintage eye makeup - blue eye shadow from the seventies

19. Cover Girl 9-Hour Eye Polish (1975)

After Cover Girl invented the this Eye Polish, people looked like this for the entire workday. Well, at least someone wearing it would never have to say, “Hey — my eyes are up here.”

Cover Girl 9-Hour Eye Polish (1975)

20. Pearly ultra frost blue eyeshadow (1976)

If you’re going to wear blue, this is how to do it.

1976 Pearly ultra frost blue eyeshadow

21. Another look at pearly ultra frost blue eyeshadow (1976)

If you’re going to wear blue, this probably isn’t how to do it.

Pearly ultra frost blue eyeshadow (May 1976)

22. Maybelline Ultra Velvet and Ultra Frost

Maybe these powdered shadows from the ’70s were inspired by Crayola?

Maybelline Ultra Velvet and Ultra Frost vintage makeup

23. Aziza moisturizing creme shadows (1976/1977)

“What we demonstrate here are Blue and Pink Lustre… and their pretty porcelain hues last and last.” Just no, Aziza.

MORE: Get a ’70s makeover: Step-by-step guide to a new you (1978)

Aziza blue eye shadow - vintage makeup

24. Many shades of blue eyeshadow

The bright red lipstick combined with the overdose of bold eyeshadow is oh-so-seventies.

Retro looks with blue eyeshadow from the 1970s

25. Yardley Pot O’ Gloss Frost blue eyeshadow (70s)

Such a light color with almost no eyeliner almost makes it look like she is wearing pressed powder for her eye makeup.

Yardley blue eyeshadow from the '70s

26. Cover Girl Re-freshable Shadows (1981)

This ad from the eighties had to add a bright blue popsicle to make it look like this eyeshadow color might actually look good on normal people — but, see, you have to be a top model like Nancy DeWeir here to pull off anything like this.

80s cover girl blue eye shadow

27. But that… that’s not how it works (1985)

Retro makeup styles with blue eyeshadow

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Comments on this story

8 Responses

  1. No wonder when I was a young kid in the 1970s , I thought the only eyeshadow color available was blue. I also thought the only lipstick color was red

  2. Honestly, some of these looks ain’t bad at all compared to some of the current looks today! I am seeing a trend of Hot Pink Eye Shadow that I think looks dreadful, as if the girl has a severe skin issue!

  3. I love blue eyeshadow and I always will! I don’t care what’s “on trend” or what the “experts” say. No, blue eyeshadow doesn’t look good on everyone but neither does fake diaper butts, fake lips, spray tans, blinding highlight ect but that doesn’t stop anybody today. I think more women should dare to be different and wear whatever makes them feel and look their best instead of conforming to what someone ELSE says is beautiful. Personally, I think almost all of the looks in those ads looks better than any boring brown or neutrals.

    1. I’m with you. Brown is boring. It is follicular to even fond blue except online. I’m all about a little subtle color, not something that makes me look like I’ve been crying or sick.

  4. So many of the comments on these looks are so harsh for no good reason. I thought this site was all about appreciating the fashions and decor of the past, not to mock it? There are only about five looks that don’t really work. Anyhow, blue eyeshadow is fun, and it looks good on a lot of people. The fact is that blue was on trend and very fashionable. If you love color and you love being adventurous, then why not use it?

  5. I still remember the first time I wore eyeshadow. It was the mid ’70s, and I was about 11 years old.
    It was summer, I had a dental appointment, and my older sister and I, who were home alone, somehow arrived at the conclusion that I should wear eyeshadow to the dentist. We phoned our mother at work to obtain permission, got it, and my sister applied blue eyeshadow to my virgin lids.
    Blue was about the only choice in the household that day; my sister has blue eyes and wore nothing but blue shadows, while our bluegreen-eyed mother wore aqua.
    I have green eyes, and blue shadow looks awful on me. Decades later, I’m all about browns, taupes, purples, and plums. It’s never never never never NEVER blue for me these days! 🤢 My sister has also progressed to neutrals, and our mother no longer wears any makeup.

  6. My first eyeshadow was a highly frosted blue shadow stick purchased at Woolworths. I remember wearing the shadow with frosted white lipstick.

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