80s Makeup – how to get the look from then & now

If you lived through the 80s or have seen pictures from that decade, you are most likely familiar with the preferred look of that time and especially with the 80s makeup. Bold and daring colors were defining elements of an era so particularly different from all the others before it in terms of expressing oneself and experimenting with fashion, hair & makeup.

The 1980s produces a distinct and powerful look. What we now regard as a fun, exciting and bold make-up was in fact an exaggerated look that manifested itself on the fundament of the economic crisis that was affecting the Western world in particular.

The financial world and the stock market were glamorized in a way they had not been since the 1920s. Alongside, the mass media contributed to the image of accepted lifestyle in the 80s, as a growing number of women’s magazines, soap operas and films dictated the strict standards of beauty.

80s Makeup Look

80s Makeup Look

Although it seemed trendy and normal at that time, everything from fashion to hair and makeup in the 1980s was, in retrospective, a bit over the top.

80s Makeup Features

Eighties makeup featured dramatic eyes, heavy foundation and powder and an even heavier blush contouring of the face. Women wore either bright, rainbow color clash hues in their eye makeup or really dark shades, for dramatic eyeliner looks or smoky eyes. Lips came in bright glossy pinks, reds and oranges.

With idols such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Boy George settling the trends, the bigger the impact, the better it was. Gone was the glow of the 70s era, when the wet look with its dewy finish stole our hearts. The women of the 80s used full coverage foundation that was one or two shades lighter than their natural skin tone and set everything with powder. This often lead to a very unnatural, heavy look that is now out of fashion.

80s Fashion Makeup

80s Fashion Makeup

Strong Blush

However, one of the most recognizable aspects of the 80s makeup has to be the blusher. Used as a contouring product, it was applied angular, to the hollows of the cheeks all the way to the temples and even brushed gently on the arches, for balance. The 80s look featured bright pinks, bronze, coral or red blush applied in a strong manner, without blending out the edges as we nowadays use to.

Natural Eyebrows

The 80s meant the end of the standardization of women’s eyebrows. Thanks to pop icons like Madonna that had a massive influence throughout the 80s and the supermodel of the time, Brooke Shields, heavy, natural looking brows were really popular.

Color clash eye makeup

No 80s look was complete without the signature eye makeup of the time. Contrast and chromatic clashes were extremely popular in those times, women often using strong, saturated colors for their eye makeup. If you want to recreate an 80s makeup, start by lining your eyes with black eye pencil and then work through the lids up to the eyebrows using pigmented colors like fuchsia, electric blue, orange, greens or purple. Finishing touches of eyeliner and mascara sometimes came in teal and bright blues.

Cool 80s Makeup

Cool 80s Makeup

Beauty marks

Madonna made beauty spots quite fashionable, with women frequently drawing on their moles. If you want to reproduce an 80s makeup look and create a beauty mark, never just put a black eyeliner spot on your face. Go back over it with a brown eye shadow in order to soften the harshness of the black.

Bright lips

In the 80s, none of the elements took the backseat. Bright lipstick was in vogue, even if the eyes and cheeks already had all the attention. Bold red, pink or coral shades were the preferred colors of the time and the glossier they were, the better.

80s Makeup in 2013 Fashion Trends

The trends of today are bringing back whispers of the ’80s, particularly in the fashion world and designer’s use of bright colors, which is carrying over into makeup.

In line with the spirit of fun and experimentation, we are encouraged by 2013 spring/summer makeup trends to draw inspiration from of the most exciting and lively decades of all times, the 80s.

Donna Karan, Atuzarra, Clements Ribeiro, Christoper Kane, Gucci, Versace, Dior and Chanel all chose to draw attention to the eyes this season with the help of colored eyeliner and shadows, statement eyebrows and jewelled lids.

Channeling 80s stars Boy George, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Madonna, Grace Jones and Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox in the Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2013 runway show was in fact one of the most clever and crafty ways of letting us know the colorful 80s are back.

Therefore, we might as well welcome back color into our lives and learn to reinterpret the eccentric look of the 80s and adapt the makeup to modern times.

Glittery 80s Makeup

Glittery 80s Makeup

80s Makeup Adapted to Modern Times

Despite the fact that 80s makeup application techniques doesn’t necessarily transfer to the 21st century, the look has made its way on to the runways, only to prove that makeup, as fashion is cyclical. Embracing colored eye makeup is a perfect option for spring and summer, and since the runway has provided us with lots of great colorful makeup looks inspired by the 80s, we should definitely try to adapt those looks to modern times and real life.

Since heavy foundation and streaks of blush aren’t fashionable nowadays, slight alterations have been made to update the original 80s makeup design. This summer, choose a toned down version of 80s makeup that translates well into the present decade. A light to medium coverage foundation, a BB Cream or a CC Cream are appropriate choices for your makeup base. Optionally, you can use translucent powder to set the foundation.

A softer shade of cream blush, although placed angular to stay true to the 80s style, will definitely use some more blending to suit modern days. Add a bit of color to the apples of your cheeks and brush it up slightly toward your temples. Perfect choices are pink or coral.

If you want to go with an 80s inspired makeup, you should not be afraid of color and you should embrace lively, saturated tones as well as pastels for your eye makeup. You can start slowly, by adding one bold hue to your eyelids and enhance them with dark smudged eyeliner placed at close to the lashes as possible.

Modern 80s Makeup

Modern 80s Makeup

Using two or three colors can also look amazing when done well and really accentuate your eyes. In the 80s, makeup really stood out, in large part because no one blended the colors together. For a natural appearance, appropriate for modern times, use good makeup brushes, sponge applicators, and translucent powder for a well-blended look.

Look for variations on shades of the same color for dimension, including shadows that are silvery or pearly for extra shimmer. Pale, iridescent eye shadows or those in pastel tones can create a beautiful eye makeup without the intensity of a darker shade.

Use mascara to draw more attention to your eyes, including colored versions in blue, violet or pink if you want a fresh, new look.

If you draw attention to the eyes and you want to create an appropriate modern day look, you should consider using a softer shade on your lips of glossy or cream lipstick. You can push the look further and go for fuchsia or vivid coral lipstick if you have medium or dark skin, however if your skin is pale you might be better off using a glossy translucent pink stain.

Experiment with color and try out these tips in order to create a look that evokes a memorable decade in history, yet remains firmly planted in modern times. Welcome back the 80s makeup!


As a professional make-up artist and beauty enthusiast, Luiza's expertise has become highly prized over the years. As owner of this site, she set her mind to create a publication for those who are focused not just on beauty trends and popular brands, but also on the industry's most well-kept secrets.

You may also like...

1 Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *