Vintage Beauty & Powder Compacts

Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and vintage beauty. You can find Jane's designs at www.vanroe.com and on Amazon in the EU & USA

How to refill / replace powder in a vintage powder compact

I receive lots of messages about refilling vintage powder compacts with modern powders. It can seem daunting when faced with a gorgeous empty compact and, let’s face it, less than positive beauty counter assistants (“I’ve no idea, Chanel powders are definitely square”). So, here’s a quick how to:

1) Was your compact made for loose or pressed powder?

An unused 1950s loose powder compact with sifter

An unused 1950s loose powder compact with sifter

This is THE key question. The sticking point with most pre-1960 vintage compacts is that they were manufactured for loose powders. Pressed or “creme” powder didn’t become popular in Britain until the mid- to late-1950s. They would have originally had well-fitting powder sifter – a little gauze sieve to hold the powder safely and dispense a small amount onto your puff.

In many cases this sifter has been lost. This leaves an empty compact which looks like it “should” fit pressed powder. Unfortunately most loose powder compacts are completely the wrong size for refills, or have a inner lidded “powder well” which will not stretch to a refill’s depth.

2) So what do I do with my loose powder compact?

1950s loose powder compact with powder well and sifter

1950s loose powder compact with powder well & sifter

The most sensible option for a sifter-less loose powder compact is to make your own powder sifter. You can then fill your compact with any loose powder or mineral powder foundation.

If you’re lucky enough to own a vintage Stratton compact, you can also find suitable replacement loose powder sifters at my shop, Vanroe Compacts.

I’ve read a lot online about using alcohol to reset powder into a DIY pressed refill, but this is messy, risky to the finish of your compact… and frankly, I’m on the side of using vintage compacts in the way they were made! They’ve already been through a lot!

shop for stratton powder sifters3) But how do I tell if my compact was made for pressed powder?

Most British vintage pressed powder compacts are the historical size for “creme” refills – 67mm in diameter. If your compact is not this size, it’s most likely to be a sifter-less loose powder compact (see above).

If your compact is 67mm and marked “Stratton”, it could also be a Stratton convertible compact. These were made for loose or pressed powder. If you’d like to refill with loose, you can still buy replacement Stratton powder sifters. Pop the powder in your compact, then the sifter on top and you’re ready to go!

4) Yey, I’ve a vintage pressed powder compact! Quick, where can I get a refill?

1950s advert for Max Factor Creme Puff

1950s advert for Max Factor Creme Puff – still made, still 67mm!

If your compact has a 67mm inside diameter then the powder refill world is, almost, your oyster. I’ve toured the beauty counters for my list of modern, high-street powders still made in this size:

- Max Factor Creme Puff
– Rimmel Stay Matte
– Estee Lauder Lucidity

If you know of another exciting 67mm fit, do get in touch! (jane @ vanroecompacts.com)

5) What if my favourite powder is too small?

1960s Boots compact for "creme" or pressed powder

1960s Boots compact for “creme” (pressed) powder

Unfortunately several leading make up brands have reduced the size of their powder pans from the standard 67mm to a rather stingier 59mm. Brands with circular powder pans of this size (or smaller!) include Bourjois, Boots 17, MAC, Clinique, Benefit and Lancome.

Fortunately, all is not lost. When I restore pressed powder compacts I include a thin card insert in the base of their powder containers. This means that customers can secure a slightly smaller powder pan with a dab of glue, without damaging their lovely compact. Do the same with your pressed powder compact, and lots more refill brand options open! (Perhaps even that square Chanel!)

You might also like my post on The Use, Care and Repair of Vintage Stratton Compacts.

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26 comments on “How to refill / replace powder in a vintage powder compact

  1. Pearl Westwood
    June 27, 2011

    Chanel do do a round one too, but yep I use the square one LOL!

  2. grannysmiff
    November 4, 2011

    Hi Jane I have a couple of vintage Stratton compacts and I was trying to figure out how to put a new godet into one without damaging the compact. I have searched around and racked my brain (and my husband’s) trying to figure out how this problem. Your cardboard circle idea is just the ticket :o)
    Thank you kindly
    Merryl

    • Jane Johnston
      November 7, 2011

      Glad you found the post helpful! x

  3. jemimah
    December 5, 2011

    New York Color Mosaic Power and Sun2sun brozer have 67mm pans, and also a pin hole on the bottom for pan removal. Although they are glued down – don’t try to remove the pan without heating the back with a blow dryer first.

    http://www.newyorkcolor.com/products/face/powder/color-wheel-mosaic-face-powder

    http://www.newyorkcolor.com/products/face/bronzer/sun-2-sun-bronzing-powder

  4. Pingback: Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage

  5. Loreley
    May 26, 2012

    Hey Jane, I recently purchased an Estée Lauder compact wich has a 50mm pan. It is meant for compact and not loose powder and I was wondering if you know if there are any brands that make compact powder in such presentation. Thanks.

    • Jane Johnston
      May 29, 2012

      Hi Loreley – I’d try Estee Lauder themselves, particularly the smaller refills in their lucidity range. Let me know how you get on!

  6. shirleyelmokadem
    July 9, 2012

    Hi jane.
    An I right in thinking that the Stratton factory is still open in Birmingham and making compacts? Are they imported?

    • Jane Johnston
      January 21, 2013

      Hello Shirley,

      The Birmingham Stratton factory unfortunately closed in the 1990s. Stratton compacts are now imported, but still made to the company’s high standards.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Mary
    August 5, 2012

    I’m not used to used loose powder at all…So if I want to use my Kigu compact that I own I should move the sifter, add any loose powder such as mineral foundation for instance and put the sifter back?
    Sorry for my poor english, Im French and not used to all that beauty vocabulary in English :)

  8. Paula Bryant
    December 4, 2012

    I have bought two great compacts off eBay as my mum wanted one for christmas one is never been used .What I need is the power refills can you help also powder pad .

  9. Katie Shepherd
    December 24, 2012

    My husband just bought me a gorgeous Stratton compact for my birthday. I’m not exactly sure if its for loose or pressed powder (it came with a powder sifter that fits perfectly inside it, but it doesn’t look like the loose powder compacts you have pictured here).

  10. Jane
    March 3, 2013

    Rimmel Stay Matte face powder refill is glued in so cannot be transferred to my compact without risk of breaking and the same applies to Max Factor.I hope that Estee Lauder lucidity will transfer.

  11. aabilez
    April 3, 2013

    Hi,
    Do you know if the bigger sized Estee Lauder lucidity compacts would hold Rimmel Stay Matte Powder?

    • Rebecca
      July 1, 2013

      I have the standard Estee Lauder compact that holds the 2in lucidity which is listed as a standard compact size in this article however, after I bought the Rimmel Stay Matte to replace the old powder I found it is much too big contrary to he claims in this post.

      • Jane Johnston
        July 16, 2013

        Hi Rebecca,

        I’m sorry that you’ve found the Max Factor Creme Puff refill too big for your Estee Lauder compact. Estee used to produce compacts in the standard 67mm size (rather than yours, which is 50mm). Thank you for letting us know!

        For all my other readers, please do make sure that you measure your compact before buying the refills I recommend. Max Factor Creme Puff is 67mm in diameter, which is the standard vintage size for pressed powder compacts.

        x Jane

  12. georgette
    June 5, 2013

    Found an Elgin compact, circa 1910 at a goodwill and am looking for replacement inserts (rouge 25 mm and powder 30 mm), as well as new puffs….any ideas where I an get them?

  13. Catalina
    June 15, 2013

    Hi there! I’m looking for a portable compact that I can use with out being afraid of ruining it. I already own a few very beautiful loose powder compacts as well as pressed, all vintage. I’m just to scared as I’ve put a few scuff marks on my favorite one. Is there a nice looking plastic or heavy duty one that you may sell?

  14. Cheryl
    January 28, 2014

    Hi. I have a GUCCI silver compact my husband purchased in Paris in the 80s. I have been looking for a pressed powder refill – but I’m thinking (with the pan and screen and super-thin “puff” that it is for loose powder only. But It seems so messy. Can you provide a step-by-step guide to refilling this? How much loose powder. And can I use a sturdier puff to apply it with? Right now, I have powder all over everything and no one seems to believe me when I say it’s made for loose powder.

  15. E. Truan
    February 5, 2014

    Oh my God THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have just found an old powder compact which was my great.grandmother´s and I had no idea about what to do with it. After googling eveything I could, this was the most useful thing I have read. Thanks!

    • Jane Johnston
      February 7, 2014

      You’re very welcome!

  16. carol
    July 10, 2014

    Please can someone tell me how to get a pressed powder pan out of the plastic surround it comes in to allow me to plonk it in my stunning new compact? Thanks

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Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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