Over the past few years we’ve been inundated with “clean girl” beauty looks. A trend on TikTok, with over 90 million views on the hashtag #CleanGirl, the idea fits neatly into this decade’s emphasis on wellness over everything and defining the 2020s adaptation of the “no makeup” makeup look. While each video varies slightly, they generally feature dewy skin, neatly brushed eyebrows, blush, and a hint of mascara for an overall “clean” effect. Many creators taking part in the trend are also slicking back their hair into a low ponytail or bun, with a middle part (of course), Y2K hair clips, and small jewelry. It’s a look you might also recognize as signature of the likes of Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid.
While each decade has had its own model-off-duty beauty aesthetic, it was only a matter of time before there’s a revolt against the highly curated “clean” aesthetic. At the same time as the rise of the “clean girl” there has also been a bubbling interest in grunge makeup and emo eyeliner. This year, Creative Agency and Internet and Youth Culture Specialists The Digital Fairy coined the next stage of beauty as “post-wellness party girl beauty” in a viral video. “’Indie sleaze,’ and its requisite messy party girl, is trending across fashion and culture—from Effy Stonem nostalgia to Mary-Kate Olsen’s beat-up Hermes Kelly and wine-stained Balenciaga bags taking over mood boards,” Biz Sherbert, Culture Editor at The Digital Fairy, told NYLON† When it comes to makeup, think Paris Hilton being photographed at the club in smudgy black and silver eye makeup and the ’00s obsession with lips glossed with the painfully plumping DuWop Lip Venom.
The new “party girl” beauty trend that’s pushing out the clean aesthetic has been ushered in by the likes of Julia Fox and her much talked about black-out eyeshadow and trends like the shaggy wolf cut, which both encourage the messiness that is inherent to DIY beauty looks. It’s also bleeding into the skincare space, where new brands are advertising products by encouraging, or at least enabling less regimented healthy lifestyles. 4AM Skincare markets itself as a way not to fix your “bad habits”, but to “help your skin avoid the consequences of them”. Then, there’s Emma Chamberlain’s new skincare brand Bad Habit which is marketed with the tagline, “you don’t have to be good all the time to have good skin all the time”.
Another brand promoting balance over perfection is Gen Z cult favorite, Youthforia, which sells “makeup you can sleep in”. Fiona Chan, Youthforia founder, says she wanted to create clean, sustainable products that are safe to sleep in to remove the guilt of coming home from a night out and going straight to sleep—because who hasn’t been there before? “Youthforia was created for me to have fun with makeup again, in a way that worked for me and my lifestyle—which admittedly can be messy at times,” she says.
Chan thinks the “party girl” beauty trend was born from a rejection of fitting the mold. “I think pre-pandemic, it was more trendy to follow the Instagram aesthetic and we used to edit all our photos the same color to make our grid look ‘aesthetic’,” she says. “Party girl beauty is a reaction to the rigidity of following those rules— it’s fun and free, it’s messy at times but it’s real.” The irony is that being a “party girl” has become a new aesthetic to follow, with trends like TikTok’s “night luxe” tag creating an obsession that’s as unobtainable as the “clean girl” look.
Whatever mood you’re in, there are plenty of TikTok tutorials on how to achieve it. You can try out a minimal look, then on other days have fun with other 2000s trends and embrace some mess. After all, the only cleanliness that really matter is making sure you’re washing your face and makeup brushes regularly (which is something we all should be doing with more regularity). On the flip side, you don’t need to be out partying until 4 am to get an authentic smudgy eyeliner look. Despite the flaws around attempting to follow any trending aesthetic, we’re just thankful that the “clean girl” trend finally has its antithesis — relieving the pressure for us all to look sleek and slicked back all of the time.