Black model 80s makeup
Image Courtesy of Half Magic Beauty / Photographer Jon Sams
April 23, 2024

Maximalist ’80s Makeup is Back

Like the Italian Bob trend and the mob wife aesthetic that came before it, ‘80s maximalist makeup is back in a big way.

Tuck away your Rhode lip balm, dust off your color eyeshadow palettes, and repeat this summer’s beauty mantra until it sinks in: “More, more, more!” Maximalist ’80s makeup is back. You might need to call your mom. She knows how to apply blush high and heavy.

With the popularity of the mob wife aesthetic and the Italian Bob, makeup with an attitude was bound to follow. The interest in the ’80s aesthetic only seems to be increasing. ’80s slasher Maxxine starring Mia Goth and founder of makeup brand about-face, Halsey, is coming out this summer, and brands like MERIT have played around with throwback branding. It seems the clean girl aesthetic has had its (sunscreened) time in the sun. 

Your ’80s Crash Course 

Not everything from the decade is making it back into our beauty routines. Here’s the 411 on what’s in, how to wear it, and some recommended products.

Bushy Brows

Overfilled like Madonna or bushy and natural like Brooke Shields — either way, it’s important to stay far, far away from the tweezers to achieve an ’80s brow. Hopefully, the Y2K skinny brow moment was short enough for most people to skip it and be ready to grow out their brows to suit this ’80s trend. Those who were around for the 2000s remember the irreparable damage of the skinny brow. The modern take on the bushy brow is a lot like the Boy Brow craze of the mid to late 2010s, with brows like Cara Delevigne and Lily Collins dominating Tumblr. They are still good modern looks to draw inspiration from!

We recommend: Air Brow by Kosas.

Halsey 80s Makeup
Image Courtesy of Halsey / Photographer Sarah Pardini

More blush. No really, more.

Even Princess Diana had loads of blush on in the ‘80s, so making sure you pack on a faux flush is paramount. ’80s blush was effectively invented by Cher’s makeup artist Way Bandy. It’s referred to as “draping” and is typically placed quite high on the cheekbones, sweeping up to the temple. There’s a flush on the apples of the cheek as well, but the emphasis here is on the upward placement. It should be quite opaque and, preferably, pink. Makeup influencers, especially in the coquette or cottagecore space, have already been wearing exaggerated blush looks, so this technique shouldn’t be too far out of their (or your!) comfort zone. For more subdued makeup wearers, it’s a great way to highlight your cheekbones.

We recommend: Patrik Ta’s Major Headlines Double Crème & Powder Blush Duo in She’s A Doll.

Don’t Be Afraid Of A Little Color

For your eyes, it’s best to be liberal with shadow. Maximalist makeup is no place for subtlety. Bright hues like electric blue, hot pink, or purple were popular lid colors. Even neutral tones were applied heavily and without the “seamless” blending that’s been the name of the game in recent years. Typically, color would extend from the lid all the way to the brow bone. Look to Isabella Rossellini, David Bowie, Boy George, and Grace Jones for glamorous inspiration from the past. A good rule of thumb is: drama!

Silver Lining

The ’80s featured a lot of metallic, glittery, shiny goodness. Silver had a huge moment and featured heavily on eyelids, covering the entire space. Cher’s beauty looks in particular have been a lesson in style from the likes of Kim K to Miley Cyrus, whose Grammy dress was reminiscent of Cher’s Bob Mackie looks on her eponymous show. In modern translation, it means a smokey eye with some metal mixed in. Maximalist makeup should be kind of goth and totally tubular.

Image Courtesy of Instagram @annasrea / @jadaimanim

We recommend: MAKEUP BY MARIO Master Metals Palette.

The Sad Beige Beauty Aisle Is Over

A short stroll through beauty store aisleways will blend and dissolve your vision into a puddle of grays, beiges, and neutral tones. The smooth minimalist packaging gives the cream blushes and bronzer sticks an aerodynamic look, though the only flying they might do is into the garbage quicker than expected.

At this point, for brands to break through the clean girl noise, they have to take a radically different angle. It only follows that the next move in makeup is going to look less “minimal.” 

Already newcomers, like Serena Williams’ brand WYN, feature brighter packaging tiptoeing away from the neutral palettes of brands like Rhode, MERIT, and Glossier. To survive, a bit of kitsch may be in order — not just with packaging, but with the offerings, too. Halsey’s brand about-face, Violette Serrat of Violette_fr, and Euphoria makeup artist Donniella Davey’s brand Half Magic are all in a great position to offer bright, on-trend products that already have a following. If other brands are going to be able to capitalize on such a different trend, only time will tell.

This summer, prep your cutoffs, prepare for a dance-off to save your summer camp, and tease your hair. It’s an ’80s beauty revival and you’re invited.

Claire Stemen

Claire is a writer based in Seoul but originally from Cleveland, a very decent city. She is a fashion and beauty writer who got her start almost a decade ago at Paris and New York fashion weeks, where she covered shows, designers, and trends. The greatest sadness of her career was when she had to give her seat for the Jacquemus Spring 2017 show to someone else because she wasn't in town. She is also a published fiction writer, which is why she's so dramatic about everything.

Her work seeks to draw out the hidden functions of beauty and fashion—and what that says about culture. She believes the act of dressing oneself goes beyond mere expression and that the act of selecting a sock, earring, or lipstick is rife with meaning. She’s especially interested in the academic definition of “dress”.

Claire wakes up every day excited to experiment with beauty, fashion, and her sense of self. Her black cat Heathcliff wakes up excited to exact vengeance like his namesake in "Wuthering Heights".

If something she wrote made you feel something, you can direct your hot takes, fiery opinions, lukewarm criticism, and otherwise to The Territorie's comment section, her Instagram @claire_stemen, or via email at claire at clairestemen dot com.

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