The how-to beauty video didn't start with YouTube. Here are a few vintage videos that taught women how to put the best possible face forward.
1. "Secrets of Makeup" (1936)
"Making up, whether after a tiff or as part of the toilet, is an art if only one knows how," intones the narrator of this short how-to film. An art that apparently involves tools for measuring. Women should draw a triangle as the "very limit of operations," the narrator advises. "When the forehead, nose, and chin are of different lengths, the cheeky triangle is shaped accordingly, thus making up in makeup what the face lacks in uniformity."
2. "Daily Beauty Rituals" (1937)
In this tutorial, silver screen star Constance Bennett rolls out of bed to dole out lots of beauty-related advice, all the while being attended to by her maid (who Bennett seems to find kind of annoying).
Bennett advises women to start with a clean slate by washing their faces with cleansing cream. She likes hers because "for my temperamental skin, it is neither too oily nor too dry—and above all," she whispers, "it doesn’t grow fuzz.” Next comes the stimulation cream, which Bennett says is the basis of her skincare regime: “Just like brushing your teeth is stimulation for your gums and makes your gums healthy, and brushing your hair is stimulation for your scalp and makes your hair strong and healthy and oh, I could go on for hours!”
After putting on a complexion mask, head for the bath, and then, once you're clean, apply your makeup. Bennett uses glow base and cream rouge. "Lots of women think cream rouge is difficult to use, but maybe they're just lazy," she says. Follow it up with powder and lipstick, and you're ready to go. "Remember," Bennett sums up, "that to be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman."
3. "Beautifying! Where to Put the Accent!" (1938)
In this short, Women's Fair beauty "editress" Jean Barrie shows women how to accentuate their eyes by playing up their brows. "Brows are extended slightly and shaped to provide a pleasing and artistic frame for the liquid orbs," the narrator says. Adding eyeshadow completes the look. Also, if you have to wear glasses, make sure they're as unobtrusive as possible—and make sure to accentuate your mouth to distract from them. "Girls," the narrator finishes, "it's up to you."
4. "A Vintage Guide to Glamour" (circa 1940)
A woman named Mary is chatting with her girlfriends about glamour. "In order for glamour to be effective, everything else must be right," she says. "Glamour, and poise and charm too, are all based on good grooming." Mary's job, apparently, is to go to school auditoriums and lecture young ladies about their looks. At the school, she tells the students, "The way we look exerts so much influence on the way we feel, and on the way other people feel about us, that it really is very important," then compares clothes, hairstyles, and makeup to the icing on the cake. "If the icing is very good, well that's fine," she says, "but if the cake itself isn't good, you'll soon lose interest in the icing." A daily bath is the groundwork on glamour, as is brushing your teeth and using deodorant. Eat a balanced diet (go easy on fried foods!) and get a good night's sleep, at least 8 or 9 hours: "I've seen lots of sparkling eyes and good complexions sacrificed to swing records at bedtime ... there is a lot of sense in that old expression, 'beauty sleep.'"
5. "How to Apply Makeup" (circa 1940s)
Mary is back in what is presumably the second part of this tutorial, and now, she wants to talk about makeup. It starts with a good base, which you can get with "a makeup pat or vanishing cream." Apply the makeup pat sparingly all over your face with a damp sponge or a piece of cotton, and blend with your fingertips. But if you're using vanishing cream, "a light touch is equally important. ... Spread it evenly, clear up to the hairline." Use the tri-dot system to apply rouge; one dot goes under the pupil of the eye, one on the cheekbone and the third no lower than the tip of the nose. Fill in the triangle until the rouge disappears. "Nothing dates you more than rouge that shows," the narrator says. Next, the lips: Use two strokes on the upper lip and one long stroke on the lower. "Fill in with up and down strokes, so that the lipstick goes with the grain of the skin," the narrator advises. Put on powder and make sure the makeup goes all the way around the side because "lots of people will see you in profile." And make sure your makeup harmonizes with the rest of your outfit, from your fingernails to your dress.
6. "Making Your Face Appear Oval" (circa 1940s)
There are many ways—good and bad—to try to make your face appear to be more oval-shaped, according to Mary. If you have a round face, for example, a feathercut hairdo "wouldn't be too bad ... if kept in hand, but an overgrown feathercut gives too much hair at the sides and forehead, and adds to the effect of roundness." Don't wear too much lipstick—Mary stresses quality over quantity—or a neckline that's too high, which shortens the neck and make the face appear rounder. But a hairdo that's off the forehead and flat against the temples, with lipstick that follows the natural lipline, and a V-neck shirt or dress, all enhance the illusion of ovalness.
7. "Removing Makeup" (circa 1940s)
Mary's back, now to tell us how to remove makeup! "Don't just slide a washcloth around and call your face clean," she says. The proper way to do it is to pin your hair back and cover it with a hand towel, then apply cold cream, using gentle spiral motions, "clear up to the hairline, and down under the jaw. Give extra attention to the pocket at the base of the nose and cleft of the chin." Remove it with tissues, making sure to switch to a clean side with each swipe, "so you don't track the grime right back again." Then wash your face, and apply either skin freshener (if your face is oily) or skin cream (if your face is dry). I can't be entirely sure, but based on the way Ponds tissues and other products have repeatedly popped up in all three of these tutorials, it seems safe to say that they were probably created by Ponds.
8. Correct Ways to Apply Makeup (1960)
This short and sweet film covers how to apply base ("dab it on in spots, then smooth it in"), rouge ("should be applied in three dots high on the cheekbones, near the eyes"), and eyeshadow ("should be stippled on to the corners of the eye")—all in moderation, of course. "Powder is the only thing to be used lavishly," the narrator advises. "Let it stay on for about five seconds, then smooth it out." Then apply mascara in two thin coats (not one thick one!), and lipstick with a brush.
9. "Go Easy" (1969)
"Go easy, or the results can become ludicrous," narrator Marla Craig intones. "Take advantage of what's there. Accentuate the good points, and minimize the others." Craig outlines the basics of applying base, and notes that cosmeticians can help a woman pick out makeup that's right for her. "If you have disturbed skin, medicated makeups are available," Craig says. To cover up dark circles, use a foundation that's two or three times lighter than the base, or a highlighting cream. Apply blush "to give cheeks a quiet glow. A good rule to follow is never let blush come nearer the nose than an imaginary line dropped vertically from the center of the eye." Apply translucent powder with a disposable cotton puff to set and blend your makeup. Eyebrows draw attention to the eye and also help to shape the nose. "To remove straggly brows," Craig advises, "lubricate them with Vaseline or baby oil and pluck with tweezers." Also: Never pluck above your brow! When applying eyeliner, make sure you're putting it as close to the lashes as possible—"there should be no obvious hard line"—and only use black if you have very black hair, because "black adds harshness to the eye."