Photos by Mitchell Sams.
If the spring/summer 2020 shows were any indication, makeup is continuing to get bigger, bolder, and more bedazzled. There was full-body glitter at Gypsy Sport, an uncanny use of false lashes at Gucci, and a festival of heavily appliqued eyes at Libertine.
Over the past couple of years, we saw the rise of barely-there makeup brands like Glossier, Kim Kardashian West’s illusory no makeup-makeup look, and the Korean glass skin trend. But makeup is going above and beyond its traditional purpose of “enhancement,” and being used as a true tool for creative expression, especially among Gen Z.
Of course, exaggerated, theatrical makeup is not entirely new. In fact, Pat McGrath has been doing Euphoria-esque makeup for Anna Sui runways since the 90s. Before that, drag queens like Lady Bunny and RuPaul were crafting their own over-the-top looks, which would later inspire the famous contestants seen on Drag Race. And the makeup has only gotten more outrageous.
Like other trends that come back around, the beauty mainstream has been primed for this reemergence, this celebration of dramatic flamboyance made possible by a simple eyeshadow palette. After all, the makeup industry is at an all-time high, from both a monetary perspective and options-wise. There are more beauty brands than ever, and celebrities like Rihanna and Lady Gaga (who has always been known for her experimental beauty looks) now have their own makeup companies, with other stars following suit.
Now, rhinestone-studded cat eyes, glitter tears, and chain-link eyeliner are commonplace looks, thanks to shows like Euphoria. The HBO teen drama featured its characters wearing the type of avant-garde makeup usually reserved for magazine editorials and club kids, and the looks, created by makeup artist Doniella Davy and her team, proved hard to resist.
“Gen Z is completely redefining what makeup can and should be used to do, by embracing a total freedom in expression and defying beauty and makeup norms,” Davy told the Hollywood Reporter. “I love seeing how these young artists and humans are flipping the whole idea of beauty and makeup on its ass.” These Gen Z makeup fanatics have filled Instagram’s explore page is filled with enough bedazzled homages to make a Michaels craft store go out of business.
While Gen Z seems to be the inspiration for its own beauty trends, a show like Euphoria has certainly helped propel the craze forward. Perhaps seeing these looks in a high school setting, even with the show’s frightening teenage bacchanal, has made them feel more achievable and palatable for people to recreate in real life.
Maximal beauty has also extended to the nail care industry. In the past decade, we’ve witnessed the rise of nail art; trailblazers like Sharmadean Reid and Sophy Robson helped bring artsy manicures to the masses, paving the way for the celebrity nail artists of today who give Rosalía and Cardi B their ornately painted talons.
The best part of maximal beauty is that it doesn’t require wads of cash to achieve the desired effect. If a beauty fan can’t afford a high-end eyeshadow palette, they can still get the same Euphoria-inspired look from a drugstore brand. All that’s required is a little creativity and a steady hand to glue those crystals to your eyelid. We’re living in a time where makeup, no matter how extreme and outrageous, is accessible than ever before, and that is something to celebrate.