Just like fashion, makeup trends from decades past have a way of repeating themselves. Some iconic makeup looks are always winners, while other beauty fads have resulted in some less-than-flattering Kodak moments. We’re taking a stroll down memory lane and recalling the best (and worst) makeup trends from the ‘70s to now.
Iconic Makeup Looks from the Past (and How to Wear Them Today)
The ‘70s favored natural beauty, but the decade was also known for its dazzling disco influence.
The Good: No-makeup makeup became a major marketing ploy for cosmetics companies during this time, with barely-there products helping you look your best with neutral hues. Eyes were emphasized with cut creases that were a little softer and more blended than their ‘60s counterparts. Farrah Fawcett’s wispy ‘do became the “mane” event along with California girl suntans, peachy lips, and ultra-defined lower lashes. Eyebrows were plucked and relatively thin, but they still retained their natural shape.
Of course, disco nights out on the town meant color-bathed eyelids, glitter, and sexy red lips.
The Bad: Everyone was sunbathing for a natural glow. “Burn, baby, burn” is a great cure for your Saturday Night Fever, but it’s a terrible approach to skincare.
The Now: The ‘70s have totally returned, so you can wear anything from this decade right now and get away with it. The same is true for its makeup.
See: Boogie Nights, Love Story, and Grease
The ‘80s gave us some of the best pop music ever… and some really wild experimentations in eyeshadow.
The Good: Contrary to popular belief, the ‘80s weren’t entirely bad. After all, this was the decade when rock star eye makeup became a thing, and heavy black eyeliner and mascara were encouraged. Also, those electric blue eyes were popular for a reason.
The Bad: Let’s face it… ‘80s makeup was bold. As in a little too bold. Eyes, cheeks, and lips had a painted-on look, and the colors were just as loud. Purple eyeshadow, fuchsia lips, and unblended streaks of pink blush ventured into clown territory. At least we had the music. (INXS for life.)
The Now: Recreate this decade’s signature look with gel eyeliner in a bright shade of cobalt. For a modern twist, pair your blue hues with a black cat-eye and keep your lips nude. (Crimped hair optional.)
See: Heathers, Sixteen Candles, and Working Girl
This was the era that gave us “the Rachel” cut and butterfly clips with an unexpected dash of grunge thrown in for good measure. In other words, things got a little strange.
The Good: Shimmery eyeshadow stole the spotlight with a sparkle and shine that’s still popular today. Lipsticks unexpectedly went nude with rich shades like chocolate and raisin, while brown smoky eyes followed suit.
The Bad: For whatever reason, everyone became instantly repulsed by eyebrows and started plucking them with abandon. This regrettable phenomenon led to the “pencil brow” look that is still frowned upon to this day. Some of the brown lipsticks got especially moody, and dark lip liner reigned supreme.
The Now: Give the ‘90s a throwback with a dark nude pout, face-framing tendrils, and a slip dress a la Kate Moss.
See: Clueless, Reality Bites. Oh, and the music video for George Michael’s “Freedom.”
The ‘80s may be the redheaded stepchild of makeup decades, but the ‘00s tried their best to steal the title. This decade’s makeup trends were accompanied with chunky highlights and lowlights, zigzag parts, exposed midriffs, and head-to-toe denim. (Justin and Britney: we will always remember.)
The Good: Smoky eyes and nude lips met and fell in love.
The Bad: The obsession with sun-kissed skin morphed into splotchy experimentations with self-tanners, which resulted in even A-list celebrities showing up to awards shows with muddy complexions at best (and full-on Oompa Loompa skin at worst).
Body glitter was a major thing, but not quite as major as gobs and gobs of pink lip gloss. Ladies wore their lips pale to contrast the decade’s signature smoky eye, which relied on heavy eyeliner smudged from corner to corner. For a more ethereal look, there was still white eyeshadow – but this time, it was extra frosty to look more striking against tanned/muddy/orange skin.
The Now: Slip into a Juicy Couture track suit, and you’re halfway there! (Just kidding – sort of.) The pastel hues of this decade happen to work pretty well with today’s bohemian aesthetic. Pink and nude lip glosses are eternal, so continue to plump your pout with non-sticky, hydrating formulas. Take the tanning down a notch with the help of a natural-looking bronzer, and apply it strategically to contour your face.
See: Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Legally Blonde
Finally, we make our way to the current makeup climate. Our present decade will most likely be defined by “Instagram Face” and every member of the Kardashian household.
The Good: Natural makeup has definitely returned, and today’s beauty products are better than ever with excellent pigmentation and airbrushed finishes. Strobing has emerged as one of the biggest beauty trends, and thick eyebrows are on everyone’s wish list. Winged eyeliner, matte red or nude lips, and dewy complexions have helped usher in a wave of Parisian-inspired looks.
The Bad: The contour craze hit us hard, with overly chiseled features becoming the norm. False lashes are no longer reserved for special occasions – which is great, except they’re kind of annoying to apply. Meanwhile, drawn-on eyebrows have taken some people’s arches to the dark side.
The Now: We’re in it, and things are looking bright. The natural beauty of the ‘70s is helping us transition out of contour madness, but does this mean that an ‘80s resurgence awaits? Only time will tell.
See: Your Instagram feed.
What do you think of these iconic beauty looks? Share your favorite decade in the comments section below!