I'm not on TikTok for the beauty trends – shocking, coming from someone who writes about beauty for a living, I know. I'm really just there for the memes and a break from Instagram's unwavering, manufactured perfection. But everywhere I turn (er, scroll), I'm met with videos of "clean" beauty tutorials that reek of that same unattainable perfection. Not "clean" as in clean ingredients, clean as in the looks themselves, which usually consist of sleek, slicked-back hair, skin that glows enough to blind passersby, and very minimal makeup involving sheer complexion products, lightweight mascara, and a little bit of tinted lip balm.
If you search #cleanlook on the app, you'll find hundreds of videos, mostly tutorials, accumulating more than 22 million views. You can also find the clean look on just about every A-list model these days. It seems to be the off-duty hair and makeup of choice for Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid, and the like. Here's the part where you get mad at me: It bores me to fucking death.
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There's nothing wrong at all with keeping makeup and hairstyling minimal, so if that's your game, you do you (hell, I do it all the time). It's the fact that the internet is so, so entranced specifically with the "clean look" that sets me off. Because, y'all, it's literally a repackaged version of no-makeup makeup, and that shit has been around forever. There's nothing new or revolutionary happening here.
Once I had that realization, it all clicked: People aren't really demanding clean-look tutorials because they don't understand how slicked-back hair works or that tinted sunscreen exists. It's because the primary people who go viral or are known for emulating the clean look have straight or wavy hair, clear skin, naturally full brows, and are — you guessed it — young, white (or light-skinned), thin, and conventionally attractive.
If you ask me, the world can't get over this so-called new trend because people are subconsciously concerned that they don't look supernaturally hot with little else but hair gel, mascara, and lip balm. The trend seems to be less about the makeup itself and more about creating the illusion of filter-free flawlessness (which doesn't exist).
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It irks me the same way as when a size-four celebrity like Dakota Johnson steps out in jeans, a basic top, and black boots and is automatically deemed a style icon. Is that outfit really boundary-breaking, or do her appearance-based privileges make it seem as such in the eyes of tabloids and social media? Nothing wrong with an outfit comprised of classic clothing staples, but the underlying context for us regular folk can be quite sinister if we let it go unnoticed. And that underlying context suggests that only people who are conventionally attractive by Hollywood's standards can be trendy/influential/aspirational. That, my friends, is just not true.
You might think that's a reach — so be it. Nevertheless, all this is to say is that the clean look (sorry, no-makeup-makeup) is not the only beauty look out there. It surely is an easy one, but it definitely cannot change your base appearance to that of a supermodel's. If you feel insecure at times because you can't mask your fine lines/blemishes/split ends/double chin/etc. with the clean look, I get you! It's important to remember that we can't all slap on mascara and call it a day in order to feel conventionally beautiful — and that's OK. That's real.
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It's also OK to embrace beauty individualism; if you're emotionally attached to full-coverage foundation, matte liquid lipsticks, and big, bouncy hair, wear 'em. Beauty trends can offer helpful guidelines when you're unsure of what to do with your look, but it's not worth throwing away all the products and styling techniques that make you you in order to fulfill a fleeting trend that will eventually cycle out.
TL;DR: The clean look can't transform you into a hyper-trendy supermodel, but we shouldn't all look like one anyway.
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