Skip to content
Makeup in electric, neon colors
THE SPRING collections burst with electric colors so bright they practically leaped off the runway. Little wonder they did, moving right into makeup palettes -- from Sephora to your local CVS. But if you think the look is a return to the '80s, guess again. Blue eye shadow and frosty pink lipstick are long gone. This year's neon and day-glo colors -- fuchsia, orange, yellow, teal and purple -- are juicier, more exuberant and fresh and, when applied correctly, come across as miraculously sheer for such a sudden pop of color. But be warned: These colors aren't easy to use. Makeup artist Kathy Jeung, whose clients include Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue and Natasha Bedingfield, knows how to wear this trend well.
If you want to try neon colors but don't know where to start, Jeung recommends choosing one hue and going from there. "The goal is to get impact without overwhelming your face," she says. "Try a single pop of vivid color on only one feature, concentrating on one area: lips, eye shadow on the lid or just along the lower lash line. Or try turning colored cheek powder or eye shadow into a liquid eyeliner by first moistening the brush with water before putting it into the product."
The thin line of color along the eye is more subtle than a full-shadowed eyelid and adds a nice, unexpected burst. If you want a liquid liner without getting your powders wet, Jeung favors Anna Sui Liquid Eye Liner No. 300 (bright pink with subtle shimmer), MAC Liquidlast Liner Aqualine (super-bright turquoise) and MAC Liquidlast Liner Greenplay (kiwi green).
A little goes a long way
Many people think that neon hues won't work with their complexion, but it's all about how you wear them. Jeung insists that, applied carefully, neons and brights will work with almost any complexion. Darker complexions do well with warmer tones such as oranges, pinks and yellows, but "a cool teal or purple could also look great on darker skin. The key is to approach it with a light hand, not heavy," she says.
Focus on the eyes
Jeung likes a simple look for daytime wear. For eyes, she recommends either eyeliner or eye shadow -- not both. "But if you want to try both shadow and eyeliner together, use the same color," she says. "The eyeliner will give more color saturation and intensity to the look."
For that two-toned look
"If you want to try two colors, keep the balance of the look by applying a secondary color with restraint," Jeung says. "Such as bright yellow eye shadow with a sheer application of neon fuchsia lip color or gloss. Or a bright-colored lipstick, with a more subtle application of eyeliner or eye shadow along lower lashes."
Jeung recently combined complementary colors on the eyes of singer Bedingfield, using electric purple eye shadow on her eyelids, then adding a bright matte aqua cream color beneath her lower lash line. She topped it with a light dusting of powder eye shadow in the same color with a slight iridescence (for staying power and to amplify the color), and then used an aqua eye pencil to line the inside of her eyes.
Makeup line Three Custom Color Specialists has a collection of sheer day-glo bright lipsticks in pink, orange, red and coral. Sounds scary, but once swiped onto the lips, the lipsticks give a burst of fun color that's vibrant without being heavy. For a more opaque mouth with lighter eyes and cheeks, MAC has a neon orange lipstick. It's just one of the super-bright products from its Neo Sci-Fi collection due out next month. The crayon orange would be the bright element, with just a light dust of neutral blush on the cheeks or shadow on the eyes.
"A great barometer for knowing how to wear this trend is ask yourself: Do you feel good? Do you feel comfortable?" Jeung says. "You have to wear it with confidence. Just own it."
Her clients are used to owning their look, creating and perpetuating adventurous trends in fashion and beauty.
"For Kylie Minogue's U.K. TV special earlier this year, we did fun hot-pink structured eyebrows created with lip pencil, kept the cheeks and lips in pinkish nude tones and then defined and lengthened the eyelashes to balance the strong use of color," Jeung says.
"For myself, I feel most comfortable wearing a matte lip color in the deep fuchsia or red family. I also use eye shadows that are matte or satin; that keeps this trend looking modern. Keep the iridescence to a minimum."
Jeung loves not only the blend of street and runway influence of neon makeup but also the fun and splashy shades and the endless possibilities that come from so many bold colors. "We saw this trend in the '80s, and there were no rules," she says. "It's great to see it now but with a fresh, sheer take. It's not the eye of the '80s."