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jeaniemackeymyers
21st February 2024

2016 makeup is back, and so is creativity

With 2016 makeup trending on social media, we’re looking back to a simpler time and re-injecting creativity into today’s ‘clean girl’ era
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2016 makeup is back, and so is creativity
Credit: Jakob Owens @ Unsplash

2016 makeup is trending on social media, with some videos gaining over four million views. Social media is rapidly increasing the speed of trend cycles, but 2016 wasn’t even ten years ago, so why has this makeup style come back so quickly? A collective longing for a simpler time and the lack of creativity in the ‘clean girl’ look might be what’s calling us back to the smokey eye and full contour of 2016.

Let’s take a trip back to 2016. It’s a Saturday morning and you just finished your ‘sunset cut crease’ eyeshadow with a matching pink liquid lipstick to hit up your local high street with your friends. You put your hair into that effortless messy bun that only took you three hours and two breakdowns to achieve, before walking out of the door.

You head to Boots to pick up the latest products from MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills, excited to spend your evening watching YouTube tutorials. Although the thought of wearing a warm toned cut crease with winged liquid liner to my 9am lecture on a Monday fills me with dread, I can’t help but long for this time. The ability to be creative with your everyday makeup is a freedom I miss. The world has felt a lot more serious since then.

In the eight years (almost a decade!) since 2016, makeup trends have been on a roller coaster. They have switched from the bright, colourful, creative looks of the late teens and early 20s to the more understated clean girl trends of today. Although the clean girl natural aesthetic is appealing, for many the lack of freedom and creativity in these looks feels restrictive.

The makeup trends of 2023/24 focus on barely-there makeup. A touch of liquid blush, a swipe of highlighter, and a light coating of clear eyebrow gel. Eyeshadow seems to be a thing of the past. Back in 2016, the makeup trends gave us the freedom to be creative in our everyday lives.

It allowed the average person to express their identity and embrace colourfulness without being the odd one out. Colourful eyeshadow was the norm, and you weren’t judged for wearing pink eyeliner to Tescos. It feels as though we’ve lost this sense of fun in today’s makeup and fashion trends. Potentially, the toll of the pandemic and the effect of growing up has left many of us forgetting to have fun in our everyday lives.

Freedom of creativity also allows for inclusivity. The focus of today’s makeup trends is natural beauty. By natural, we mean perfectly clear skin, no signs of ageing, and the perfect bone structure. However, much of that ‘naturalness’ isn’t natural. It’s often surgically constructed and maintained by an eye-watering amount of Drunk Elephant products.

This false construction of natural beauty has left many feeling excluded from today’s makeup trends. Those with acne-prone skin struggle to achieve the ‘glass skin’ effect, and if you have a wrinkle on your skin or a hint of sun damage then don’t even bother. The focus of 2016 makeup was expression and creativity, not perfection.

It was a community based on art, culture, and sharing skills. Not TikTok aesthetics. Heavily influenced by the drag scene, with shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race infamous at the time, 2016 makeup allowed us to explore our identities, create new ones, learn from each other, and simply have fun.

This need for creativity can be extended to the fashion world too. With the death of the ‘clean girl’ style and the rise of ‘mob wife’ and indie sleaze, 2016 makeup isn’t the only pre-pandemic trend we’ve seen come back. It seems many of us are looking for that creative fix. Bring on the colourful eyeshadow and metric tonne of highlighter!


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