In defence of tacky beauty: Why we’re reclaiming the makeup of our teenage years

Photography by Peter Stigter

It’s a great time to be a teen girl. The beauty world has rebirthed the majesty of sparkly lip gloss, glitter, and yes, even blue eyeshadow (which actually matches the season’s blue nail polish trend). You can buy shimmering body oil as a grown-ass woman (by Tom Ford, no less) and wear temporary tattoos without apology (and at the behest of Beyoncé and Rihanna). Personally, I’ve been wearing Clinique “Happy” with the confidence of a high school freshman who’s stoked as hell her parents finally listened when she asked for it for Christmas. (Even though I bought it for myself with the money I make from my job.)

Tackiness is here, and it is wonderful.

Now, let’s dial down the defence and accept that glitter, loud colours, and even French manicures which were once judged and shamed—especially as we coined terms like “basic” while congratulating ourselves on being different and interesting. The good news: we grew up and ultimately realized that our affinity for beauty products (or lack thereof) does not make us either. The better: we’ve become the teen girls we want to see in the world. Or, even more specifically, we can finally afford to be the teen girls we wanted to be once upon a time. Why? Because beauty used to be fun as opposed to . . . well, serious and stuff. I mean, I don’t want to say that my Hello Kitty glitter lip gloss and Bonne Bell shimmer body spray was a high point in life — but it was a lot more fun than minimalism.

Of course, as an adult, I understand that there is a time and place for everything — and that 2015’s hair mascara equivalent (a.k.a. hair chalk) is probably not the most appropriate vibe for, say, a merger meeting or a funeral. But admit it, this season’s tacky-centric beauty trend offering (black lipstick!) is a lot more fun than pretending we’re not wearing making up at all. Because guess what? Most of us are. And it honestly took me like, 30 minutes to make it look like I’m not. Contrary to “Flawless,” many of us do not wake up this way. This morning, I woke up wearing last night’s makeup. Tomorrow, I will wake up desperate to cover up what my skin has decided to do in an attempt to punish me.

And this is why I like “tacky” beauty so much. Finally, after years of “I don’t even wear makeup!” rhetoric (I feel like if you’re reading this, you probably do wear makeup and that’s fine), we’ve stumbled upon the completely unapologetic approach to beauty that were supposed to have dulled down once we “grew up.” Even though as working adults, we’ve been able to afford and invest in more cool things, we’re supposed to steer away from glitter and blue eyeshadow and all things fun and opt for a “mature look.”

While we’re more mature than we were at 13 (during glitter’s peak), we’re still alive enough to recognize that we can still look strong, capable, badass, and whatever-else-word-you’d-like-me-to-insert-here while decked out in Basic Beauty™. No one is going to look at your French manicure and think, “Oh, I think I’ll actually pass on hiring you as my lawyer, thank you.” No one will see you out at night with temporary tattoos and think, “Ugh–but I thought she was hardcore.” (Does anyone actually even say that word out loud?) And only a monster would roll their eyes at your sparkly shadow and say anything other than, “Cool shadow!”

Ultimately, the resurgence of tackiness is a reclamation of makeup from the pretentious-ridden mid-2000s until recently. It’s built around fun and dressing up and refusing to apologize for being the glitteratzi. It’s appeasing the 13-year-old version of yourself who looked at hair mascara whimsically and whispered “One day.” Because, young friend, that day has come.