How to Try This Summer's Bright, Bold Makeup Trend, No Matter Your Age

Euphoria makeup artist Donni Davy unpacks TikTok's favorite makeup looks, and swears I'm not too old to try them.

How to Wear This Summer’s Brightest Makeup Trends at Any Age
Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

I'm standing in front of the bathroom mirror, carefully applying purple eyeliner to my waterline and coating my lashes in blue mascara; my eyeshadow is a shimmery lavender. I look, dare I say it, good.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this was happening today, in 2021, when every makeup influencer on TikTok is constantly posting veritable rainbows of makeup looks, but no, it's actually 1991 and I'm getting ready for my eighth-grade dance. In fact, I think it was probably 1991 the last time I wore anything besides black eyeliner or mascara, and so when I first noticed this bright makeup trend, I immediately dismissed it as not for me. I'm in my forties, after all, not some dewy-faced ingenue who can put stripes of red and yellow and blue on her eyelids and go about her day, and besides, I had already been there, done that — literally 30 years ago. I figured I would stick with my tasteful neutrals until the day I died, probably.

But then a funny thing happened. I started noticing people — people who seemed closer to my age than the TikTok influencers who could literally be my children — posting photos of themselves with bright eyeshadow and super-bold lips. People like the lawyer and writer Imani Gandy, who is well into her 40s and whose Pride makeup — a rainbow lip, gold and burgundy shimmery eye shadow, and lots of blush — was a revelation. Or 37-year-old makeup artist and influencer Katie Jane Hughes, who's been wearing bright, multicolored eye shadow for years — and looks great doing it.

I started wondering whether there was a way that I could just possibly come to embrace this trend, too. According to Donni Davy, the makeup artist for the HBO Max show Euphoria, which has been credited with popularizing the neon eye shadow and graphic eye liner looks beyond social media, the answer is an emphatic yes.

"I think as long as there's a confidence there, that's the one ingredient you need. You don't need to be an amazing makeup artist, don't need a certain brush or a certain product," she told me by phone from the Euphoria set in New York. Davy, who is 32, added, "When I see a woman in her 40s and 50s wearing a bold eye shadow or lip or even nails, I'm so inspired. I'm like, she's such a badass, she does whatever she wants."

Okay, sure, but for those of us (ahem, me) who might still be channeling our inner badasses — or for whom our inner badass does not necessarily come with neon yellow eye shadow — what might be an entry point into this world of exuberant makeup for someone who is not 22 years old? I posed this question to Davy, who had several suggestions:

  1. Try shimmery, sheer "washes" of eye shadow in shades like coral and peach (for lighter skin) or burgundy, dark red or dark pink (for darker skin). "A little bit of color on someone's face can do so much," she says. Davy recommends the palettes from Colourpop and Lime Crime.
  2. Get a colorful mascara. "My go-to is peachy coral eye shadow and blue mascara," Davy says. "There's also burgundy mascara out there that's really beautiful," like this one from L'Oreal.
  3. Use a bright eyeliner in the water line: "Try a bright electric blue or a purple, especially if you're pairing that with a burgundy or blue mascara," like the High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner from NARS.
  4. When in doubt, do a red lip. "A beautiful, bright, warm red lip is so fun and empowering," Davy says.

Ultimately, though, Davy suggests that looking to the influencers on TikTok doesn't have to be intimidating for those of us who do remember putting blue eye liner on our waterlines the first time around. After all, she says, those influencers are "not the rulers of the universe. Where do you think they got all that? They got it from everything that came before them." And that's what I need to remind myself: that girl in the mirror in 1991? She was way, way ahead of her time. Now give her back her eyeliner.

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