I remember, in the '90s, noticing the shift on women's magazine covers from models of debatable fame to household-name celebrities. I thought the same thing was happening in beauty ads, too--and it was--but it was really a return to something that was pretty common in the'40s and '50s.
The biggest difference between the celebrity-centric beauty ads of today and yesterday: the blatant promotion of the star's latest movie. (Cross-marketing before cross-marketing was cool! Take THAT McDonald's!) Also, the language was ridiculously formal, dated, and sometimes slightly offensive.
In fact, let's start off with something that definitely wouldn't fly today.
ESTHER WILLIAMS FOR WOODBURY BRUNETTE POWDER
So, yeah, "Gypsy Glow"? Not cool, Woodbury. But you almost make up for your 1946-typical cultural insensitivity with phrases like "Ah... dip your puff into Woodbury Brunette Face Powder" and "Woodbury's velvet-mist clings for blissful hours." I really could dip my puff for hours.
VERONICA LAKE FOR WESTMORE'S OVERGLO
Today, Photoshop trickery makes foundation look better than it will in person, and that sucks. But back in 1945, all you had to go by was a high-contrast black and white photo of Veronica Lake, who'd look gorgeous with freakin' sheep fat on her face. Oh wait--that's exactly what is on her face: "Overglo has a lanolin and oil base..."
JOAN COLLINS FOR REVLON SCOUNDREL MUSK
I love that someone physically answered the survey on this ad, and that she hasn't discovered that the best way to lose weight is to fall in love. (What does that even mean?)
Anyway, Joan's been doing beauty ads since the '50s, but it's this ad from 1985--at the height of her Dynasty popularity--for a Revlon perfume that sounds like rodent suborder, that stands out among the rest.
RITA HAYWORTH FOR MAX FACTOR PAN-CAKE MAKE-UP
Max Factor was the primary theatrical makeup company of the early 1900s, and Pan-Cake Make-Up was specifically created in response to the development of Technicolor; so it comes as no surprise that they regularly used celebrities in their ads.
JUDY GARLAND FOR MAX FACTOR PAN-CAKE MAKEUP
This Judy Garland Max Factor ad came two years after Rita Hayworth's. They both did several ads for the brand, as did Lana Turner, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck, Yvonne De Carlo, and Laraine Day. (Yeah, I don't know who that is, either.)
MARILYN MONROE FOR LUSTRE-CREME SHAMPOO
Marilyn Monroe loved her Lustre-Creme Lotion Shampoo, even though it was confusing. Is it a lotion? Is it a cream--sorry--creme? Is it a capital-L, underlined Liquid?
Well, whatever its form, Lustre-Creme recruited lots of movie stars for its shampoo ads: Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood, and many more, including...
JOAN CRAWFORD FOR LUSTRE-CREME SHAMPOO
You can just tell from her expression how much she loved it.
ANNETTE FUNICELLO FOR COPPERTONE
Annette was such a babe, I can't hold her responsible for sun-care ignorance. I mean, THAT ONE-PIECE.
This ad coincided with both Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, which is maybe the greatest movie name ever, and featured Buster Keaton, who would, by Coppertone's standards, be considered "a paleface."
ELIZABETH TAYLOR FOR LUX TOILET SOAP
Can you imagine any of today's super-glamorous A-listers promoting something called "toilet soap" in any context other than an SNL digital short? But in 1950 (and 1951, and 1952, and 1956) Elizabeth Taylor was proud (and paid) to say it was the reason her complexion was so soft and smooth.
ALICE COOPER FOR WHIPLASH MASCARA
So, 40 years ago, Alice Cooper launched his own "unisex mascara." Arguably, all mascara is unisex--a man's eyes won't fall out if he uses Great Lash--but this was a respectable attempt to make it cool for dudes to enhance their eyelashes.
Take note of the fact that, while it's weird to be asked your gender on an order form, it's pretty progressive (in 1973!) to offer MALE, FEMALE, and OTHER as options.
Oh, and the address at which the orders were received? There's an UGG store there now.