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Alt-Makeup is Beauty's New Favourite Aesthetic

January 1 | 3 minute read

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Words by Amber Kallor

Originally published on | December 26

Horse girls. Soft girls. Vanilla girls. Tomato girls. The list of aesthetic cliques with hashtag-friendly names is ever-expanding.

While many of these social media trends are simply classic beauty looks (think dewy skin and flushed cheeks) cleverly repackaged for the TikTok generation, there is one outlier that is guaranteed to leave ‘coastal grandmas’ clutching their pearls: alternative makeup, or as the kids say, alt-makeup.

The term, which has garnered over 1.2 billion views on TikTok, applies to makeup that reflects the wearer’s “inner fantasy,” says Selena Ruiz, an LA makeup artist known for producing sexy and subversive looks. Instead of ascribing to one narrow definition of beauty, this trend celebrates individuality, imagination, and rebellion through bold colours, graphic shapes, and unexpected embellishments.

“Unconventional makeup is huge right now because everyone is doing it,” adds Ruiz. “Even celebrities seem to be hopping on the wave.”

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Image credit: Malorie Shymr via @lotstar on Instagram

While Hollywood stars like Hunter Schafer, Doja Cat and Julia Fox, and television shows (think: Euphoria and Wednesday) helped make unorthodox beauty more mainstream, this trend is rooted in subcultures (including goth and punk) that were once considered fringe. “I was a teen goth and ridiculed for being different, teased about my makeup and even [criticised] for wearing Doc Martens!” says another LA makeup artist, Lottie, whose whimsical use of colour and texture have made her a favourite among fashion designers, photographers and red carpet regulars.

Thankfully, attitudes have shifted and once-shocking beauty statements – like facial piercings and shaved brows – are being embraced online and out in the wild. “With the invention of the internet, people everywhere are exposed to a lot more creativity and are less narrow-minded,” says Lottie.

Alt-makeup may be a fleeting aesthetic for some, but others – like Ruiz, who started experimenting with bold looks that bordered on “insane” at age 18 – consider it a full-fledged lifestyle: “Like all trends, this will probably pass for the masses, but for those of us who are true to this, it will never die,” she says.

Here, five ways to add some edge to your everyday look.

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Image credit: Vogue Portugal via @lotstar on Instagram

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Image credit: Brooke Ashley Barone via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

Erase your brows

“I love a shaved brow because it gives you so much room to create,” says Ruiz. If you’re not ready to pick up a razor or bleach away your arches, camouflage them with a few key products instead.

Lottie recommends removing natural oils with rubbing alcohol and slicking hairs into place with a glue stick. Once dry, set brows with translucent powder and follow with a colour corrector (a deep peach or red tone usually works best). Finish with concealer or full-coverage foundation and add more powder to lock the look in place.

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Image credit: Malorie Shmyr via @lotstar on Instagram

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Image credit: Michelle Monique via @lotstar on Instagram

Brighten up with bold colour

Not ready to go to extremes? “Take baby steps and do something that’s new for you,” says Lottie. Amp up an already bright lip by patting a vibrant pigment over top or add a pop of neon to the inner corners of your eyes.

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Image credit: Jamie Amimoto via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

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Image credit: Cheryl Sanchez via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

Get graphic and lash out

Let your imagination run wild with black eyeliner and white shadow. Sharp lines and shading look “so badass,” says Ruiz. For razor-sharp precision, the pro recommends reaching for a gel liner and a pointed brush, or a liquid formula with an ultra-fine tip.

Use a few cotton tips dipped in micellar water to clean up any mistakes and create a crisp finish. For more intensity, apply bold lashes or pop in black contact lenses to “add depth and create a creepy look,” says Ruiz.

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Image credit: Ambar Navaro via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

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Image credit: Ashley Olah via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

Add a painless piercing

Skip the needles but make a statement by adhering flat-backed crystals or studs to your face with eyelash glue, says Lottie.


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Image credit: Jack Shelton via @anythingforselenaaassss on Instagram

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Image credit: Malorie Shmyr via @lotstar on Instagram

Dramatically define your lips

Fade to black, red or any other high-impact hue with an ombré lip. To achieve the effect, Ruiz recommends prepping lips with powder to give liner extra grip.

Then, trace the perimeter of your pout with a pencil, fill in the corners of your mouth with the same shade, and blend the pigment toward the centre using a brush. Leave the middle empty or add a splash of contrasting colour and top with high-shine gloss.

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