Besame Cosmetics create vintage makeup with historical accuracy
We speak to Bésame Cosmetics founder Gabriela Hernandez about replicating makeup from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Cake mascara, anyone?
Vintage cosmetics company Bésame is quite possibly the closest match you’ll ever get to true vintage makeup. Don’t be fooled by the (gorgeous) eye candy packaging. It’s what lies inside that counts…
‘Bésame Red’ – one of the most popular Besame lipstick shades
Those lipstick tubes and mascara tins invite you to venerate them as you linger over your beauty regime, savouring the ritual. Bésame cosmetics aren’t merely an exercise in ‘vintage’ branding; there’s so much going on beneath the surface.
Bésame founder and cosmetics historian Gabriela Hernandez was first inspired by the beauty regime of her grandmother in Buenos Aires. Since then, it’s been her life’s work to create vintage cosmetics with historical accuracy. Bésame means “kiss me” in Spanish, and Gabriela’s mission is to bring back that sense of glamour, anticipation, and cherishing your makeup in today’s throwaway culture. She wants to make makeup application more of a ritual, something that brings you joy instead of being a chore every morning.
Bésame ‘Noir Red’ – a sultry shade from the 1930s
Gabriela’s astute eye for detail means that lipstick shades of the past are carefully researched and recreated, resulting in a tremendous variety of red shades. Mascara is on offer in cake or cream format, offering all kinds of versatility in application.
Look at this Bésame cake mascara, available in black or brown.
Just look at it.
Now look at it some more. Gorgeous.
You’ll find a wealth of products that were staples in past eras, like brightening powder and cream rouge. Customers often say that they’re drawn by the vintage factor, but what keeps them coming back is the quality. Gabriela and her husband-and-daughter team think about not just the pigments but the undertones of lipsticks. They study lipsticks that have survived since the 1930s, 40s and 50s and match them with modern pigments that have the same effect and are FDA-approved.
Bésame Rose Cream Rouge
Apricot Cream Rouge
Gabriela, you’re a cosmetic historian. What drew you to researching the cosmetics of past eras?
I am fundamentally a curious person. Finding an antique case and discovering all about where and when it was made, and other details of the time, was fascinating to me. I have always been interested in how things come into being, so because of my affinity with the design of vintage makeup, I applied my curiosity to the field of cosmetics.
You have a passion for colour. How do you choose Bésame shades?
I look for every shade in our line from antique tubes that I collect all over the world. I have a large collection of vintage makeup, and every shade we make has to have an exact date and manufacturer, so we can make sure the shade is accurate to the period.
Some periods are harder to match, since in times of war there were shortages of product. Some colours take many years of research to find the right tube in order to have a viable colour to reproduce.
Did people have different techniques for applying makeup in past eras?
Oh, yes. People applied product according to what was promoted at the time. Early foundation was just face cream with a top coat of loose powder. Early lipsticks were very tacky in texture and were meant to be used as a stain, and then blotted away. Early mascara was applied with a wet brush rubbed onto a dry black cake…
What are the eternal staples in the Bésame range?
Our lipsticks are our most popular, with Bésame Red, Victory Red and Red Velvet leading in popularity. Our cake mascara is also a huge favourite, since it has so many uses. It works as a liner, mascara and brow fill.
What do you love most about vintage makeup as opposed to contemporary makeup?
I most love the care taken to design and manufacture each piece. I think creation of products was more mindful in the past. They wanted to really make an impact, not only with the formula or colour, but with the presentation. I don’t think most companies today have the same priorities.
Bésame cosmetics are available from besamecosmetics.com.
Gabriela Hernandez at work