Is Eyeshadow An “Old-Lady Thing?”

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Beauty

NYLON’s beauty editor weighs in on the Gen-Z/millennial divide when it comes to going-out makeup.

BEAUTY: I’m not normally one to fear the churn of the trend cycle — if someone wants to bring back low-rise jeans and flared yoga pants, let them. But recently, I learned that my attitude wasn’t quite so casual when I was hit with a paralyzing, paradigm-shifting beauty revelation: We are, apparently, facing the potential end of eyeshadow.

As a beauty editor, I feel like I’m the last one to find out that eyeshadow is allegedly over. The first sign was when I was recently at The Spaniard in the West Village, where the crowd generally falls on the southside of the millennial-Gen Z cusp. I was wearing a full-on shimmery mint-green eyecourtesy of a gorgeous Pat McGrath Labs palette, but I couldn’t help but notice that everywhere I looked, there were only very bare lids. Soon after, I was served a now-viral TikTok video in which creator Jennifer Latch says her daughter “just told me that eyeshadow is a Gen X and millennial thing, aka an old-lady thing.” (The surrounding discussion is, tellingly, only millennials in an uproar — or offering ways to modernize their application based on this shocking information.)

I love all makeup, but I love eyeshadow the most — it’s also by far the makeup I get the most compliments on (perhaps from millennials, but still). And for as long as I can remember, applying powdered pigments to your eyelids — especially of the smokey, colorful, or glittery variety — has always equaled fun. It signifies getting dressed up and going out, we were taught in the aughts and 2010s. Good skin is nice, sure, but it’s not the centerpiece of a “look.” Lipstick is cool, but it’s prone to smudging or coming off on the rims of glasses. Eyeshadow, in comparison, is pretty, draws attention to your gaze, generally stays in place, and says “I’m here to have a good time.” Sometimes the best part of the night is getting ready with your friends, listening to music, and blending out dark shadow in the outer corners of your eyes. How could we have strayed so far from the light?

To confirm this chilling news, I accessed my own Gen-Z data bank: my 21-year-old cousin. “If I saw a smokey eye, I would think that they are definitely older,” she says, though she adds that she has nothing against them (probably to soothe me). “I might wear it if someone was doing it for me for an occasion — but it’s just a lot of work for just going out.” Her preferred nighttime look, she says, is dewy and clean: maybe some eyeliner, but at most a little bronzer swept across her eyelids. All her friends subscribe to the “less is more” approach Sofia Richie Grainge and Alix Earle have popularized.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: Sofia Richie attends the 2024 Warner Music Group Pre-GRAMMY P...


PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 28: Alix Earle attends the Balmain Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as...


Mentally, I wonder where the fun has gone, but as we talk, I start to get it. Part of the appeal is the perceived breeziness: If your “day” and “night” looks are one and the same, you don’t need to get ready because you are ready. But maybe the bigger reason is that the way we live has become so drastically different that the very idea of separation in the day is now outdated.

Millennials grew up going to class in the morning and going out at night; then, as adults, we commuted to offices where, at 5 p.m., we’d throw on a lip or eye at our desks to meet our friends for drinks. Every women’s magazine told us about tweaking our outfits and makeup to go from day to night, but it was also the real structure of our lives. But in the post-COVID era, fewer of us leave the house at 9 a.m. and come back late anymore. Work and free time have all merged into one, with the same comfy clothes and unchanging makeup — which some may find freeing, but to me feels monotonous.

So while it feels odd to accept that we’re no longer the youngest, coolest generation anymore, I can also cherish how I learned about makeup (and life) the way I did. And yes — to no one’s surprise, I, for one, will be holding onto my eyeshadow. Even if Gen Z is now making fun of us for our old-lady makeup and “wearing business casual to the club,” at least we were going to the club at all.


MTHRSHP Bijoux Brilliance Palette in Starstruck Splendour
Makeup By Mario
Ethereal Eyes Eyeshadow Palette
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