’80s Beauty Trends Are Making a Comeback

Break out your banana clip, because ’80s beauty signatures are back — and they look better than ever. So what does one pair with the power shoulders spotted on the runways at Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Rodarte, and Isabel Marant? An equally bold set of hair and makeup looks, of course. We’re not talking mall bangs shellacked with Aqua Net, or palm tree–like ponytails capped off with scrunchies (sorry not sorry, Paula Abdul), but rather bright blush draped across cheekbones, sleek side ponytails, full-throttle eye shadow, and nearly neon nail colors. “The ’80s got a bad rap, and I don’t know why,” says hairstylist Guido, who rocked an “asymmetric, over-the-eye” cut while frequenting hot spots like Taboo and The Wag Club (both after-hours shrines to over-the-top dress and debauchery). “Obviously, things get lampooned, [like] the shoulder pads and the big hair, but it was a decade of different sub-cults that had a lot of great style, especially in England.” The mane master is referring to bands like the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths, and Japan, as well as the New Romantics (think Duran Duran and Boy George of Culture Club) who ruled the underground club scene in London. “When I look back on it, I’m so glad I lived in that period because it’s such a reference for stuff I do now — it’s always a great source of nostalgia,” Guido adds. And judging by the undeniable ’80s spirit seen backstage at fashion week for the past few seasons, he’s not the only pro inspired by the era of excess.

Pat McGrath’s ’80s-inspired eye makeup at Louis Vuitton Spring 2017

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“It was a time of extremes in fashion, makeup, and music…a time of major creativity,” makeup artist Pat McGrath says of the decade, which she nodded to at Louis Vuitton’s spring 2017 show with “colorful eye makeup pulled out toward the temples, in shades of purple, blue, and green.” With a shape borrowed from Carole Bouquet (the Bond girl from the 1981 box office hit For Your Eyes Only) and hues reminiscent of “’80s pop icons and club-kid culture,” McGrath brought the look into the 21st century “by pairing bold eyes with a nude mouth and fresh skin.” In a similar vein, Kabuki — the face painter behind the “airbrushed butterfly eyes” at Jeremy Scott’s spring show — took look-at-me lids to the next level with the addition of colored mascara. “I’m old enough to remember the ’80s, and that was the first time I ever even heard of colored mascara,” he laughed as he coated the models’ lashes with shades of cobalt, burnt orange, or green backstage. Credit card blush was purposely skipped in favor of a more subtle contour cream, and pastel shadows were tempered with basic brown, black, or bluish-black liner buffed into the roots of the lashes. “It’s an ’80s eye, but it’s done in a pretty way,” he noted.

Makeup artist Lynsey Alexander echoed McGrath’s fresh-skin sentiments at Kenzo this season, where she applied a vivid cherry cream using makeup artist Way Bandy’s draping technique, creating an effect reminiscent of an Antonio Lopez illustration. “If you use a heavy base with this [blush], it looks retro,” she warned. In other words, skip full-coverage foundation, along with pink under-eye concealer and rose-colored powder — two products McGrath says she’d happily leave behind in the ’80s. Instead, choose a sheer formula that allows skin to shine through. Alexander’s other piece of advice for draping: Use two brushes — one to apply the color and another to blend. “You have to build it up in layers,” she explained of wrapping pigment in a backwards C-shape along the orbital bone. “If you use the same brush, you add more and more product, [the shape] gets bigger and bigger, and you lose the finesse.”