2021 Brief Guide On Neon Makeup Look

Neon Makeup – you don’t have to be bold!

neon makeup
Cat eye using 3 neon shades

Neon trends from the 80s

The 1980s rocked neon makeup colors – pretty much like highlighters. Pink, yellow, green and orange. Neon was popular because it was bright and could be associated with young and happy people. So if you wore neon clothes everyone assumed your were happy and optimistic (but in reality you could have been on prozac).

Neon highlighters and paper

In fact the 1980s have been described as stylish – bold colors, ripped tights, permed hair, poof skirts and oversized blazers/ jackets.

Neon colors and looks from the 80s

Creative Neons from Instagram/ Tik Tok

Following beauty trends has changed – Google will always be Google but many people follow trends on Instagram/ Pintrest and now Tik Tok. In 2016 these trends showed that monochromatic muted makeup was incredibly popular. In 2017 it was dusty pinks and sunset reds and then in 2018 it was the year of the highlighter (hello NASA). 2019 was declared the year of ‘Neon’ with search reports from Pintrest showing an increase of 842% . For fans, especially Gen Zers, the look is a celebration of fun, commitment-free expression: Daydream, create, wash it off, and repeat. 

Over the past few years Neon has become incredibly popular as a trend on Instagram and/ or Tik Tok (especially on the beauty platforms). Many makeup brands tend to follow beauty trends for instance MIYO makeup have created neon pigments/ glitters which are cruelty free, hypoallergenic and vegan friendly. For more information on cruelty free products you can read my previous blog post. In this instance these glitters need to be cruelty free because they can be used on your eyes, lips and face.

Color runs were also very popular as a form of expression

Neon Colors Glow Under UV Light

The brighter the neon color the greater the chance that the item will glowFluorescent green, pink, yellow, and orange are the safest bets. Fluorescent colors appear unnaturally bright because they are. They contain pigments which are made up of molecules which are very efficient at absorbing high frequency light and then emitting lower frequency light. For instance, some molecules absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit some fraction of it in the blue.

In some cases you don’t even need an Ultra Violet light you can just do the following:

  • use a pure white eyeliner
  • then over those areas apply the neon glitter/ pigment
  • around these areas you can then again use the white liner/ eye shadow

Here are two short videos posted by Shannin on Instagram using the neon pigments from MIYO makeup.

The most popular neon pigment is Atomic Grass
Loving this orange shade as well

The versatility of Neon Makeup

MIYO makeup recently added 3 new shades here they are:

Neon pigments from Glamore Cosmetics

How to use:

  • These pigments can be used ‘dry’ and tapped onto your eyelid or lips with your fingers
  • Before application use an eyeshadow primer – this will protect your eye lids and also make the pigment last longer
  • Another way is to use Glitter Glue (from Glamore Cosmetics) – add some pigment to the glitter glue and it becomes ‘wet’ easier to apply and makes the colors more intense. It also allows the pigment to adhere for longer without any fall out.
  • Once the pigment is ‘wet’ you can then use a makeup brush to create a wing liner or different looks.

Focus on Eye Makeup whilst wearing Masks

Let’s face it everyone is focusing on eye makeup – especially with masks being compulsory. So if you can imagine the room being dimly lit and all eyes are going to be on YOU – then neon makeup is perfect. Whether it is just a colorful winged liner or something eye popping you will be a fan. Neon pigments are also perfect for Halloween looks and anywhere on Instagram (for that selfie) or Tik Tok is the place to be ‘seen’.

More focus is on eyes than ever before

This photo was taken from the Instagram page of @hejzvz in collaboration with MIYO makeup. For me this green is absolutely incredible especially with the black.

Atomic Grass Neon Makeup

Paint Your Face

If you want to take your look further you can use the neon pigments and ‘paint‘ your face and/ or body. For an artistic look, try flicking the body makeup on for an undone, abstract paint-like appearance. I think that this abstract art is a form of expression and great for any party or function with black lights.

Body art using neon shades

Is Neon Makeup Dangerous

It would be completely remiss of me if I didn’t address the issue of the ingredients in neon makeup. As it stands in 2021 there are certain ingredients in neon which don’t have FDA approval. These makeup products apparently are not safe for use as eyeshadow. The US FDA doesn’t exactly say why it’s not safe BUT these pigments (specifically red) have a tendency of staining, causing swelling, hives, skin irritation which are explained as allergic reactions but also, these FD&C colors are derived from coal and due to that they can have trace amounts of lead and arsenic. These ingredients are also not allowed in nail polish!

The safety issue of Neon – is it real?

Cosmetics safety is serious, but the products in question are manufactured by billion-dollar companies with a lot to lose (an example being Huda Beauty).

So why and how do these ingredients legally make their way into a product that consumers are using on their eyes especially when the ingredients are banned by the FDA? And are we really in danger from these products, or is this being blown out of proportion? Are they seriously harmful to us?

FDA – a deeper look!

The neon issue was addressed on two levels: at the FDA as well as by specialized optometrists. Firstly the FDA (Food & Drug Association) is the government association that controls Cosmetics in the US. The FDA regulates color additives that go into food, medicine, and makeup under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, or the FD&C Act. Each color on the FDA’s approved cosmetics list — which have names like CI 45410 — can be used on the face, but only some are approved for the eyes and lips.

2ndly since the eyelids are delicate, an allergic reaction, irritation, or other injury in the eye area can be dangerous. FDA regulation blocks many neon shades from being used on the eyes; the government agency even has its own regulatory category for fluorescent colors, which are seen as an elevated health danger.

eye lids are sensitive skin areas

But here’s where things get confusing: many of the color additives currently on the FDA’s no-no list are allowed in the European Union, which has stricter cosmetics regulations. The E.U. has banned around 1,400 chemicals for use in cosmetics while the U.S. has restricted or banned about 30. And yes, the color Huda Beauty which got flagged in 2017 is allowed in the E.U. — even on the eyes. How is this even possible?

So the big question is why are these ingredients safe in the EU but have not been approved by the FDA? And how do these brands get around this? Perhaps the act which was made in 1938 is outdated and needs to be brought into the 21st century?

To answer the question how these palettes are so readily available – here is the answer (just digging a little deeper) It’s all in the text/ phrasing/ wording on the packaging. They are labelled as ‘pressed pigment palettes’ and not an ‘eyeshadow palette’.

In fact that’s the reason there are so many neon products available today that look like eyeshadows, feel like eyeshadows, and used as eyeshadows, but have vague names, like “pressed powder” or “pressed pigment.” The word “eye” is purposefully left out of the marketing materials and labels, despite photos that show the color swept across eye lids and the waterline. And in this way they avoid drawing attention to these ingredients in eyeshadows. Quite ingenious yes?

On a serious note – if you have sensitive eyes – I suggest you be careful – check the ingredients and maybe even do a small swatch test prior to use.

Pressed pigments instead of eyeshadow

Time for brand transparency

The biggest reason I am going on about the confusion between the FDA and the EU is because brands are not being transparent. For instance the warning might only be on the actual box – which you won’t see because you made the purchase online. The print might be too small – so you won’t see it until you have had that allergic reaction! If makeup products contain ingredients which are not safe to use brands need to be upfront or take on the FDA. And even make a disclaimer – these ingredients are not approved by the FDA, but we have found them safe to use – kind of ‘at your own risk‘ vibe.

Bottom line though is that more research needs to go into the safety of these ingredients – and we need more transparency.

No matter the product brands need to be transparent

The neon pigments at Glamore Cosmetics are cruelty free, hypoallergenic and also vegan friendly. These qualities give me 100% confidence that they are safe to use in the eye area. I can’t say how long this trend will last but it is very popular and I love seeing how the looks come together. Would you use neon makeup? I would love to hear your thoughts so don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Gael Baines

Gael Baines

Gael Baines

I have a PhD in Medical Biochemistry from UCT and has specialized in research fields such as Breast Cancer, Tuberculosis and HIV. I have interacted with the Cosmetics & Fragrance Council of SA which assists with the importing of safe cosmetics into SA.

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