HBO show Euphoria, starring Zendya (24), has been celebrated for its real, raw & unfiltered portrayal of U.S. teenagers today. Its visual aesthetic adds to thrilling viewing - the protagonists’ makeup adds to each character’s unique sense of style; the bright eyeshadows, glitter and sharp eyeliner add ‘Craylola-coloured fusion’ to the show's cinematic visuals. While this makeup language (in the style of makeup artist Pat McGrath) didn’t appear overnight, it aims to transcend ‘mainstream archetypes and stereotypes’ and embrace a more ‘fluid, boundary-pushing mode of self-expression.’
This 52INSIGHTS explores the trending aesthetic world of Gen Z makeup through the lens of its dazzling Euphoria vibes.
SELF EXPRESSION & THE IDENTITY JOURNEY
“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...I love seeing how these young artists and humans are flipping the whole idea of beauty and makeup on its ass.” Doniella Davy, Euphoria Makeup Department Head
Makeup is an enduring device for teens to experiment with self expression. In a world where it's never been so easy to picture - or compare yourself to - your ideal face (editing apps such as FaceTune saw usage increase by 20% at the beginning of the pandemic and has over 1 million edited images exported daily, allow users to smooth, shrink and sharpen their way to ‘perfection’), how your face shows up in the real world or the digital realm is something that has become an increasingly political act.
“Makeup is always sociopolitical, and I think the ’90s are coming back in such a big way. I think whenever there’s conservative governments, fashion and beauty like to give a little bit of a middle finger...” James Vincent, Makeup artist
The news of Demi Lovato (28) coming out this week as non binary and adopting the pronouns they/them, is exemplary of how today’s younger generations are striving to live their truth and debunk binary stereotypes. This generation is also responding to the ‘age of the Instagram face’ (it’s now acceptable rather than taboo to talk about getting face enhancements like fillers) and Snapchat Dysmorphia. Think of the current backlash against the use of filters - what you choose to put (or not put) on your face is now a big statement. As a consequence, they are choosing now to get competitive with creativity rather than airbrushing.
“Euphoria made makeup fun again, I feel like we had gone through years of makeup having to look completely perfect and everyone was getting quite jaded. We’re talking full coverage, bronzes and golds with SEAMLESS blending (big Kim K vibes). All the looks that are featured in Euphoria are perfectly imperfect so it made makeup more accessible and fun again. Obviously editorial and graphic makeup has been around for years but Euphoria (MUA Donniella Davy) has emboldened a whole new generation to play with makeup and experiment with new and exciting looks!” Jen Morris, MUA
It is on social media where experimentative Gen Z creativity and inspiration flourishes. Pairing their innate sense of creativity with digital savviness (sharing makeup creations on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram…), young generations have realised the power makeup has in pushing identity boundaries and expression. In the case of HBO’s Euphoria, makeup was used strategically "in an emotionally evocative, expressive way, to help show the journey of the teens on the show." This is reflective of how Gen Z are using makeup as a creative tool in redefining beauty - using it to play with and challenge gender identities and representation.
LOOKING UNCONVENTIONAL & HAVING FUN
“When I see Gen Z, they are risk takers...They’re putting it all out there. They have this unabashed confidence to be their truest selves in terms of their sexuality, in terms of their gender identity. If they want to be a little more ‘provocative,’ they’re going to do it.” Darnell-Jamal Lisby, fashion historian and curator in TIME
The powerful aesthetic of Gen Z makeup is bold, experimental, fun and unconventional - a reflection of their diversity and fluidity. Neons, crystals, glitter and rhinestones are commonplace around the eyes (skin is treated more naturally. Brands like Starface have even championed the ‘acne positivity’ movement, inspired by Gen Z). TV shows with significant cultural impact like Euphoria have helped to normalize this take on beauty ‘making people more inclined than ever to experiment with makeup.’ Credit to this Gen Z aesthetic also should go to the LGBTI+ community and black women - trans women and drag queens who champion big, bold, colourful looks. Shows like Ru Paul’s Drag race, for instance, inspires this permission to break gender rules. Even big celebrities like Chrissy Teigan have been inspired by the look (she’s just released a range of face jewels). This is about everyone being able to explore something different - and in different scenarios.
“Any of the looks on Euphoria look like they were done by the cast. Obviously they are intricate and beautiful, but they look like a young person who’s decided to be experimental and try something. The imperfection of the looks makes them really interesting and accessible. It changed the game.” Jen Morris, MUA
“In one scene, Zendaya’s protagonist, Rue , paints glittery golden triangles underneath her eyes and heads to a local carnival. In another, Rue’s best friend...doodles gigantic starbursts on the corners of her eyes and goes roller-skating. Maddy...attaches gigantic crystals to her eyelids before heading to school.” Rachel Handler, Vulture
The look is over the top and it thrives in the fast-paced nature of digital connectivity. The constant stream of social media content creation means that ideas can spread and get interpreted in new ways really quickly. With this, new ideas and standards spread like wildfire as old norms get dismantled at speed.
Who to follow for Gen Z makeup inspiration? These days we are loving the likes of…
- Doniella Davy
- Zahra Abduldaim
- Abby Roberts
- Liya Le
- Victoria Lyn
- Tajia Reed
- Andrea Severino Sailis
- Tara Stewart
- J A N E L L E H A N
- Jen Morris
Makeup is celebrated as a creative endeavour - for Gen Z it helps reflect their values of freedom and expression. With this, the digitally-led creative process means pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable. The days of face-filtered ‘perfection’ are gone (if not completely, they are numbered). Bold colours and experimental shapes are formats by which young beauty fans are forging conversations about identity and gender. From an aesthetic perspective, provocative, weird, wild and unhinged is cool - it's all about playing with something new and putting your own unique take on trends. This aesthetic can be championed through beauty choices in content across categories - adding to emotional undertones and championing Gen Z values. It can also be championed creatively outside of ‘beauty’ with FUN experimental, neon/glitter colour choices - and unapologetic inclusive attitudes.
For beauty and makeup brands, there’s the opportunity to make this creativity feel more possible to Gen Z through tools - access to accessibility priced bright coloured makeup, brushes or primers is highly valued.
We’re all looking at our faces a lot more these days and it's taxing on our brains. ‘Zoom Dysphoria’ has actually led to an increase in people seeking cosmetic surgery. If you’re feeling fatigued, try giving yourself a break from looking at your own face and turn your camera off / away for a meeting or two.
“Fashion is the armour to survive everyday life.” Bill Cunningham