Vintage skincare and beauty!

The Smithsonian museum has made their archive of historical beauty products public! The collection contains photos and information on balms & salves, as well as make-up, fragrances, and more.

Perusing the collection is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it’s really interesting to see how products and design have changed – or haven’t.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve still looks the same, for example.


Smith’s Rosebud Salve

For “Chapped lips, face and hands, minor burns and scalds, bites and stings of non-poisonous insects”



Mentholatum, now owned by Japan’s Rohto (the makers of those minty-fresh eyedrops) is famous for their lip balms, decongestant rub, and ointments for sore muscles.


Mentholatum Tin

“Try Mentholatum for Head Colds, After-Shaving, Chapped Skin, Cracked Lips, Sunburn, Burns”



Yardley is one of the first companies to specialize in beauty products, established in 1770.


Yardley Complexion Milk

“A liquid skin cream, smooth & refreshing. Brings elasticity & lustre to a dried skin and forms a perfect face powder base.”



Petrolatum was “discovered” by Robert Chesebrough, after he noticed oil field workers rubbing the jelly on their hands to help heal wounds.


Vaseline Tube



Maybelline was commercialized by a 19 year old boy after he noticed his sister, Mabel, mixing vaseline with coal tar and using the mixture to coat her lashes.



Maybelline Cake Mascara



Gel cream blushes are making their way back into popularity, but this one was made back in the ’70s by Love Cosmetics, which was owned by a company which later became GlaxoSmithKline.


Love’s Cheek Gel in Pink Bronze



This liquid hose was meant to even out the skin tone of the legs, much like Sally Hansen’s modern aerosol version.


Vida-Ray Liquid Hose, Toasted Beige


I found an advertisement for this product in the 1945 Milwaukee Journal. During World War II, cosmetics became a luxury and some women used gravy browning to replace the now rare liquid hose.





There’s so too many other interesting finds to go through them all, but I’ve put some of my other top picks in this gallery.


One Hundred Assorted Beauty Spots by Johnson and Johnson
Zuane La Parot Rouge, Medium by Zuane Parfumers
Chen Yu Cloud Silk Make Up, Light Lotus #1 by Richard Hudnut
Jergens Face Powder, Pink Frosting by Andrew Jergens Company
Pond’s Make-up Pat, Peach by Pond’s Extract Company
Pearlized Chili Pepper Nail Hardener Enamel
Emile Mascara Remover
Airspun Face Powder, Suntan Golden Tone by Coty
Touch & Glow Liquid Makeup, Sun Bronze by Revlon
Pure Magic Super Cover Stick, Natural Fair by Max Factor and Company
Mary Kay Lip and Eye Palette by Mary Kay Inc., made in 1964