The One Boomer Beauty Rule Gen Z Can Learn From

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Ever since Gen Z came of age, they’ve done a great job of mainstreaming diversity on all fronts; they champion body positivity, they celebrate the things that make people unique (freckles and all) and they demand to see that reflected in the products they buy and the media they consume. For the most part, the Youths have got a lock on embracing their individuality—except, it seems, when it comes to their makeup routines.

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From "Clean Girl" looks to "Unapproachable" vibes, I (a millennial) have noticed that Gen Z’s approach to beauty often involves devoting themselves to the TikTok trends du jour, which includes all sorts of tricks to make lips look fuller, noses look smaller and jawlines look sharper. While experimenting with makeup is fun, constantly trying to keep up with the shifting aesthetic landscape leaves little room for Gen Z to figure out what works for their own unique features. At worst, following cookie-cutter makeup trends could spiral into a distortion of self-image. Per a 2023 report from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 75 percent of plastic surgeons said they saw an uptick in clients under the age of 30 in the past year, which may suggest that more Gen Z-ers feel the need to conform their faces to cosmetic trends rather than the other way around.

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Now, there’s no denying that every generation has taken part in its fair share of questionable beauty trends, but developing a signature beauty look, something completely customized to your own face and features, is truly a rite of passage—and, dare I say, an art. One which Gen Z, like we millennials before them, must learn from our older friends, the baby boomers.

Boomers may have caught a lot of undue flack in recent years, but no one can say their approach to makeup isn’t totally timeless. Their one golden beauty rule? Use makeup to highlight the features you love, instead of using it to cover or change the ones you don’t. Before the era of YouTube tutorials and complicated contouring, it was simple: play up your lips, play up your eyes, play up your cheekbones—lean into whatever works for you!

Stephanie Maida

As the millennial daughter of a boomer mom (and an editor who has covered the beauty landscape for years), I have firsthand knowledge of this philosophy. I may not have made it out of the early aughts without some regrettable beauty choices, but, thanks to my mother’s advice (often provided from behind me in the reflection of the bathroom mirror), I learned that emphasizing my eyes made me feel the most confident. All these years later, my go-to beauty look is still a bold flick of eyeliner that I can practically apply in my sleep.

And the boomer beauty rule is more than just anecdotal. In a 2017 YouGov poll conducted among women between the ages of 18 and 64, 67 percent of respondents aged 50 and older said they used cosmetics primarily to highlight their features. Among the 18- to 34-year-olds, however, only 23 percent of respondents shared the same view, with a majority of women in that age group saying that their main goal when using makeup was to cover or tweak perceived imperfections. I don’t think one needs to have a psychology degree to posit that the boomer approach to beauty is a healthy one, or that focusing more on the parts of yourself that you love, and less on the things you wish to change, could have a positive effect on your self-image. And that’s really what your beauty routine should be about—making you feel like your best self, rather than your next self, as deemed by an ever-evolving algorithm.

To get an expert’s insight, I ran my boomer beauty theory past celebrity makeup artist and educator Carly Giglio. “I love this approach! I think it's timeless and really brings out individuality. It allows you to enhance the beauty you already embody,” she says. “By customizing your routine to play up your favorite feature, you're giving [yourself] a feature to focus on instead of trying to enhance everything at once, which can result in looking overdone and not like yourself.” Don't worry, emphasizing one feature doesn’t mean you're ignoring the rest of your face. “You want to look finished, but not overdone or even bare. If you leave other parts [of your face] completely blank, [you] may look unfinished,” she continues.

So, what are some makeup artist-approved tips for going boomer with your beauty routine? Giglio breaks it down for us: “If you want to do a bold lip, don't skip the shadow. Perhaps use a bronzer to add natural shadow, or even add a soft shimmering shadow to brighten the eyes, with a lot of mascara to balance the lip.” If you prefer to bring attention to your eyes, however, Giglio recommends going for a softer look on the lips. “Make sure there's a neutral color that doesn't clash against the eye, but you can play by making it glossy.” And to keep everything cohesive, Giglio concludes, “I always recommend cheeks and lips be in a similar color tone; this will create a harmonious look.”

No one’s saying that Gen Z-ers (or my fellow millennials) should stop getting creative with cosmetics. But if you’re hoping to nail down a makeup routine that’s actually made for you, by you—and not by your ‘For You’ page—it’s worth taking a cue from our boomer buddies and showcasing the best of what your mama gave ya.

Shop Beauty Picks for Every Feature

For Eyes

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner


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For Lips

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick


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For Cheeks

Ilia Multi-Stick Cream Blush


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