Gen Z Can’t Believe Millennials Wore This Beauty Look in Public (and We’re Still Confused How It Became a Trend)

The year was 2009. You were invited to the movie theater to see 500 Days of Summer with a group of your high school pals. The occasion called for some makeup, a dusting of gold-flecked bronzer perhaps, or a generous smudge of black eyeliner. But you didn’t feel put together without one more thing: a swipe of concealer across your lips. 

Much to our embarrassment when uncovering old mirror selfies, millennials were taken with concealer lips at the end of the 2000s. Revealed to Gen Z via a TikTok filter called “Makeup Back to 2008,” the cosmetic choice was met with confusion and cringe. How, the younger generation asks, did we decide that concealer was a supreme stand-in for lipstick? We pose three theories here. 

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concealer lips kim
Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

The Kardashian Theory

The Kardashians wielded influence over our beauty choices well before the inception of Instagram. Along with Kim’s signature bandage dress and curtain of black hair, she was known for her sultry charcoal eyeshadow. The elusive “smoky eye” gripped us all in the late aughts, and we remember trying (and failing) to diffuse silver and black shades across our lids before a night out. The best way to balance all that strong shadow, we were told via magazines and YouTube tutorials, was with a nude lip. Peachy beige hues like MAC Myth, Creme D’Nude and Shy Girl spiked in popularity for their ability to accompany a smoky eye. And for some, concealer topped with pink gloss worked just as well. 

The Scene Kid Theory

An offshoot of the emo and rave movements, the “scene” subculture emerged in the mid-2000s. You might remember throwback scene bands like HelloGoodbye, Dashboard Confessional and MetroStation. “Scene kids” found community and creative sustenance on sites like Myspace, Tumblr and LiveJournal. And with endless style and music inspiration at their disposal online, scene style was established: shaggy neon hair, band tees, skinny jeans, layered studded belts, lots of eyeliner and yes, a pierced, pale pout. As scene culture went mainstream, more of us embraced emo-inspired makeup, concealer lips and all.

concealer lips kstew
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Twilight Theory

Forks, Washington cast a gray, dreary filter over the cast of the Twilight Saga, and not just its vampire family. Bella Swan, the living, breathing romantic lead, is written to look particularly sallow and vitamin D deficient. Whether you fell firmly into team Edward or Jacob, millennial teens were caught up in the Twilight craze and the supernatural beauty trends that came with it. To achieve the bloodthirsty look, we favored sparkly setting powders, contoured cheeks and lighter lip hues (to look like the Cullens clan before a hunt). 

How to Wear a Nude Lip in 2023

Whatever the justification, we won’t be revisiting the cancelled-out lip color any time soon. But concealer can serve a purpose when layered with other lip products. Celebrity Makeup Artist and Brand Founder Jenny Patinkin says a small amount it can act as a base to bring out brighter pigments. “Concealer helps create a canvas for stronger color payoff or to get a graduated ombre look. I recommend using the least amount possible so it doesn't dry your lips out, and skipping it altogether if you have fine lines around your mouth because it'll for sure cause bleeding.” she advises. 

So, Gen Z, if you’re going to adorn yourselves with the butterfly clips, tiny tanks and baguette bags of the 2000s, you must accept our concealer lips phase.

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Senior Social Strategy & Trends Editor

From 2017-2023 Michaela Magliochetti held the role of Senior Social Strategy & Trends Editor covering wellness, horoscopes, trends and more.