Gen Z Makeup: Not Your Millennial’s (Overly) Contoured Look

Gen Z Makeup: Not Your Millennial’s (Overly) Contoured Look

As someone born on the Gen X/Millennial cusp, I often feel ancient watching TikTok videos, where 30 is seen as the most frightening age imaginable, and 40 is basically a mythical existence best lived in the privacy of your home. That being said, I still learned to love the chaotic creativity offered on TikTok, with the algorithm by now being pretty good at drawing me towards all sorts of wonderfully diverse content.

I actually don’t follow that many Gen Z beauty gurus on TikTok, but the way the algorithm manages to smartly figure out pretty much everything about you means that I still get shown their content quite regularly. And even by just watching content creators from all sorts of different niches, I noticed just how differently these younger people present themselves in front of the camera when compared to Millennials or us ancient, ancient Gen Xers: less staged, less polished, and more ready to be vulnerable.

Now, apart from that whole “side part vs. middle part” debate, which has caused quite a bit of friction between Gen Z and Millennials on TikTok, there is also a marked difference in the way the two generations use makeup, both when it comes to beautifying their features as well as a form of artistic expression.

@chosen0n3Prepare yourself for an overload of this look💎✨ ##fy ##fyp##foryou ##foryoupage ##she ##undiscoveredmua ##makemefamous ##makeuptransition ##euphoriamakeup ##fy♬ šhęæ – abeera >:|

Most articles I’ve read tend to emphasize how Gen Z gravitates more towards natural looks, compared to the over-the-top contoured and highlighted “drag queen” style makeup popularized by Millennial beauty influencers for years. However, this is really only one side of the Gen Z makeup world. True, base makeup is becoming more natural again, in large parts thanks to us all wearing masks now and thus not needing or wanting to cover up as much. However, this doesn’t always mean that teen and 20-something creators don’t know how to go all out when it comes to elaborate looks.

The difference, to me, lies more in the playfulness of these looks, the willingness to ditch the need for perfection or flawless techniques. Instead, Gen Z just goes for it—fully embracing the messiness and chaos that comes with spontaneously creating whatever crazy look pops into your head. This is such a different attitude compared to older generations, where a polished, perfect makeup look was the goal.

@amy_skelton✨trust the process✨#fyp #foryou #viral #storytime #makeup♬ original sound – Jozadak

If I were to boil down the essentials of Gen Z makeup, I would say it is all about whimsy, embracing your (perceived) imperfections and a willingness to experiment and ditch those previous makeup rules. Having grown up with predominantly Millennials on YouTube teaching them how to do their makeup “the right way,” it’s probably no surprise that Gen Z would rebel against these dogmas, happily over-exaggerating their uneven eye liner, using clashing eyeshadow colors and even, gasp, doing it all with their fingers instead of overpriced brushes.

Here are some of the Gen Z makeup trends that I’ve noticed.

 

Blush on the Nose

This is probably the best-known Gen Z makeup trend, about which a multitude of think pieces have been written already, most of the writers puzzled by the aesthetics. Connected to the “E-girl” or “VSCO girl” aesthetic which, I believe, is already passé at this point and was heavily mocked for basically trying too hard to be “hashtag relatable,” the blushed nose is a distinctly Gen Z phenomenon. Millennials and Gen Xers have always been told to use blush sparingly and make sure that it merely looks like a very natural, soft enhancement of your skin’s natural color, sculpting your cheeks by accentuating them.

@charlottelooksib @charleygrayyyy♬ original sound – Abigail

For Gen Z, using pink or even bright red blush either on the tip of the nose or all over is meant to enhance youthfulness and mimic the sort of flush you get from being outside in the crisp air for hours. As someone who blushes easily and has a pinkish undertone to her skin, this definitely wouldn’t work for me, but especially darker skin tones and those with freckles—very on trend right now, by the way!—can create a really cute and fresh, almost fairy-like look.

 

Exaggerated Eyeliner

Given the fact that Gen Z has had 24/7 access to top makeup artists and their YouTube makeup tutorials throughout their teens and 20s, it comes as no surprise that they have mastered even advanced makeup techniques, creating that perfect cat eyeliner flick seemingly with just a quick glance in the mirror. So, naturally, they would find a simple eyeliner look pretty boring, instead going for a more exaggerated, super dramatic look.

@onigiri.nanaaaReply to @ten.rybek I AVOIDED THIS COLOR FOR SO LONG LMAO 🤎🤎 #fyp #AirPodsJUMP #OverShareInYourUnderwear #makeup #makeuptutorial #egirl♬ Teddy Bear – Melanie Martinez

And again, it is all about breaking rules: You want to do a cat eyeliner that is basically just a graphic block of black color? Or draw eyeliner under your eyes? Or go full-on goth and blacken your entire upper and under eye area? Absolutely just go for it, with as little preparation or overthinking as possible! I’ve also seen TikTok creators draw wings or heart shapes in the corners of their eyes, though graphic shapes seem to be the most popular.

 

All-over Glitter

The world is a dreary mess, we are slowly destroying our planet, and thus the future is shaping up to be frightening at best. Given this rather pessimistic but sadly realistic outlook on life, I fully understand the need for glitter that most Gen Z creators and makeup enthusiasts seem to share. And I am not talking about some carefully placed accent highlights in the center of your lid or the corner of your eyes. No, when I say glitter I mean glitter—all over the eyelid, on your nose, your brows, or just really all over the face!

@qnmariei love maddy💜 i took sm time on this🥺 ##euphoriamakeup ##euphoria ##euphoric ##fyp ##makeup♬ original sound – rachelol

I absolutely love the “I like this, so why not fully go for it?” attitude I see Gen Z display when it comes to not just glitter but every type of pretty, sparkly makeup. It’s a vibrant and irreverently fun sort of creativity that I wish had existed when I tried to learn about makeup and was told that glitter should only be used sparsely and with a perfect brush technique. Because, um, I was never able to master that technique to be honest, so this feels very freeing!

 

Beautifying Imperfections

In defiance of the previous generation of beauty influencers and their excessive emphasis on shaping your face into that perfect, flawless, near lifeless canvas, Gen Z makeup creators actually love to embrace the natural textures and pigmentation differences in their skin. Be it adding fake freckles in bright rainbow colors to already existing ones, painting hearts around birthmarks, or decorating acne scars with glitter and cute butterflies, this is about loving those parts of yourself others may see as faults.

@neetusahota__She’s back again with the close up! ##tiktoktraditions ##loveyourskin ##texturedskin ##acneskin ##acnepositivity ##skinpositivity ##pores ##fyp ##foryou♬ ily (i love you baby) – Surf Mesa


There is something so beautifully gentle about this particular makeup trend. It is just really touching to see this level of self-care and self-celebration from a generation that has/had to live their teenage years surrounded by Photoshopped and airbrushed faces whenever they opened their social media apps. Apart from the self-care aspect of this trend, it also looks super cute and fun—it actually reminds me of my ’80s childhood, especially all those sparkly, pastel-colored butterflies!

 

The Reinvented Cut Crease

Another trend that I am noticing is the innovative and, again, very playful ways in which Gen Z is reinventing the cut crease look. I am not even sure if “cut crease” is the best way to describe what’s going on here, since it’s almost more of a “deconstructed eyeliner” look. Basically, you accentuate your crease with one or more graphic lines drawn with either eyeshadow or eyeliner in bright, sparkly colors such as yellow, emerald green, or pink.

@sylvianatty_Moment of silence cause I’ve never perfected a transition like this💀 #sylvianatty #kenyanmua #glittermakeup #makeuptransformation #money♬ Money (amended) – Cardi B

I’ve also seen people draw a sort of multi-colored “box” or circle around either their eyes or their eyebrows, which looks especially cool when combined with that all over glitter look. You can also draw these lines underneath your eyes, where your concealer would go (often ditched by Gen Z because looking tired has become another makeup trend lately).

What do you think of the Gen Z makeup trends?

 

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