‘Money talks, wealth whispers’ is how the traditional saying goes, usually directed toward fashion and materialistic pursuits. Now, this saying is affiliated with areas aside from clothes and fabrics; namely natural beauty, or the illusion of natural beauty. Of course, it’s still also about money.
The turn of the decade came with the inevitable change in style. Heavy foundation has been swapped for retinol and snail mucin; brows aren’t thick and angular but are fluffed with gel and a spoolie; harsh contouring has become a soft natural blush with some faux freckles.
Obviously, we can see that makeup is still being worn. The ‘faux’ in faux freckles is not there for fun. However, full glam has been shunted to the side in favour of a new beauty style, commonly referred to as the clean girl aesthetic.
In what’s essentially a rebrand of the timeless ‘no makeup’ makeup look, the clean girl aesthetic revolves around skincare, self-care, and looking healthy and well. For clean girls, natural beauty prevails. Your skin is to be seen, your eyelids to be naturally toned and your lips to be only a little glossy. Clean girls have devalued creating a face with products; an era of self-acceptance is brewing. Or is it?
This shift is less about beauty trends and more about beauty standards. There’s an insidious, biological undertone that relates more to the toxic 2000s – the era where we were manipulated into thinking Bridget Jones was ‘fat’ because she was over nine stone.
The clean girl aesthetic relies on having either what has been classified as beautiful natural features or having money to amend natural features. If your lashes aren’t naturally long, you buy extensions; lip filler creates naturally big lips; Botox or more extreme, expensive surgeries for an authentic tight and sculpted face. A few are even ditching the faux freckles for tattooed freckles.
In 2016, the peak of full glam, hours were poured into watching and replicating YouTube tutorials and careers were built off being skilled at the art of makeup. A lot of money was spent but people could see where the money was going. Makeup was worn and you could tell.
The clean girl aesthetic hides its tricks, convincing you a Gua Sha will give you the look of someone who has routine Botox. Of course, some clean girls are effortlessly fitting into the aesthetic the way that, as always, some people will be naturally beautiful.
On the whole, however, this isn’t the case. For clean girls, a natural look is achieved with little to no natural means. It is money spent that aims to look like no money was spent. There’s a danger in this.
There was a beauty in creative makeup; patterns, bright colours, glitter. It was something you could own. Whilst the YouTuber tutorial-makers may be more talented, the colour in the palette they used was the same as the colour in your own. It was about creation.
This era of being attractive ‘naturally’ – not to be mistaken with looking attractive whilst natural – incites an unhealthy precedent of what it takes to be and what it means to be beautiful.
The viral moisturiser may not do to your skin what it does to the TikTok model’s. So, you find another brand used by another TikToker and see if that one works for you – which it likely won’t. Yet, it’s still been bought and you still don’t look anything like the clean girl influencer. It’s a farce. Self-acceptance is the sheep’s clothing, and corporations are the wolf.
The moral here, as we’ve been told since the beginning of time by parents and coming-of-age movies, is to be yourself. Maybe you don’t like last decade’s makeup or maybe you don’t like this decade’s; maybe you like both. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you’re facing a mirror.
Don’t be hoodwinked into bankrupting yourself with products from TikTok shop. Find your stylistic corner and relish in it.
Featured image credit: Carly McKim