HBO's Euphoria shows makeup isn't an evil for covering insecurities, it's art

There’s a lot of chat in the world of body image about makeup.

On one side you have the team saying women should burn our blush, that makeup exists only to uphold unrealistic beauty ideals and that anyone selling, for example, foundation for your legs is an enemy of feminism preying on our insecurities.

On the other you have the makeup lovers who view foundation as freedom, eyeliner as a tool for resistance, and a bright purple lip as deeply empowering.

These camps regularly battle it out with each new product launch or tweet from Jameela Jamil.

But now there’s a new, powerful force in the pro-makeup agenda: Euphoria.

Euphoria is a new HBO show, executive produced by Drake, all about teens – their sexual relationships, their mental wellbeing, their relationship to drugs and alcohol, all that jazz.

It’s brilliant, but alongside Zendaya and Hunter Schafer there’s another major star: the makeup.

Euphoria makeup is its own character. It hogs the limelight and makes love to the camera. It’s gloriously extra, all gem stones, glitter, and neon.

Euphoria makeup proves that makeup doesn’t have to be about covering up your insecurities and hiding your ‘flaws’. Makeup can be fun. You can play with it. You can use it as a way to express your style and identity.

Plus, it’s a reminder that positive body image and piling on the makeup can absolutely coexist, and that makeup isn’t just a means to conform to societal ideals.

The character of Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira) rocks mounds of neon green eyeshadow and is regularly spotted slicking on lipstick – but she also has a monobrow present throughout the series.

She wears makeup not to blend in and present as more ‘acceptable’, but to lean into her sexual exploration and stare down any judgmental side-eyes.

Maddy Perez (Alexa Demie) is the definition of confidence, and uses her makeup to cement her position as a powerful queen bee. When she’s feeling down, her makeup vanishes and her hair is pulled back. Once she’s back on top she wears diamante gems and eyeliner like a crown.

Makeup isn’t used to be appealing, but as a statement of intent.

When Maddy confronts her friends she has a teeny-tiny chain glued to her eyelids. Her liner is sharp enough to cut down haters. Her shadows match her coordinating suits, firmly establishing her personal brand as someone who has their sh*t together.

At a time when people are panicking about makeup classes for teenagers and what they could mean for young people’s self-esteem, we need Euphoria to show us that the answer to our body image woes isn’t to rid ourselves of makeup entirely, but to allow people of all ages to play with what they put on their face.

Rather than leaving teenagers to smear on foundation testers the moment acne starts to show, we should let them experiment with colourful eyeliners and sparkling stickers.

We need to get in there before adverts tell young people that makeup is the key to airbrushed skin, that they’re worthless if their brows aren’t groomed and their bodies aren’t hairless, and show them that makeup can be a form of art and expression rather than a way to cover up.

That means saying no to classes showing teenagers how to ‘make the best of skin and brows’, but not overdoing our reaction by expelling makeup entirely or suggesting that all ‘natural’ beauty is somehow morally superior.

Makeup is not an inherent evil, and we shouldn’t make anyone – young or old – feel superficial, silly, or like an agent of the patriarchy for enjoying it – whether because they like to scribble on their eyelids with glitter or they feel empowered to leave the house with their head held high thanks to redness-reducing foundation.

Let’s allow makeup to live up to its full potential as pure joy, an art form, and a way to feel more like yourself.

That might mean learning to do your trademark liquid liner in your teens. It might mean playing around with gender binaries with neon doodles, like Jules (Hunter Schafer). It might be as simple as knowing you’re an expert in contouring and enjoying the process.

It’s time to stop being afraid of makeup and judging those that love it as insecure. It’s time to fall back in love with messing around with whatever products we can get out hands on, to bedazzle our skin in diamante, to put blush on the tip of our nose, and to pile on all the biodegradable glitter.

I’m off to recreate every single one of Maddy Perez’s eye makeup looks just to hang out at home and watch TV. Join me.

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