No More Neutrals: 2023 Will Bring About the End of Beauty As We Know It

2023 beauty trends
Instagram @makeupbrutalism

In 2022 we experienced an avalanche of micro beauty trends and a yearning for the mid-2000s that saw us toying with the most vilified beauty and fashion faux pas of the Y2K era. From Julia Fox’s skinny brows, to double-lined lips, sugary sweet scents, and even blue eyeshadow modelled by millennial actors larping as teens on “Euphoria”, we embraced a simpler, more innocent time, when visible thongs were sexy and dresses over jeans were acceptable (Katie Holmes is currently trying to bring back the latter, don’t let her win).

While indie sleaze and party girl beauty felt like a rebellion against the ‘Clean Girl’ and ‘That Girl’ aesthetics with their 11-step skincare routines, and wellness obsessions of the 2020-2021 lockdowns, they were also strangely comforting. Mullets, melted makeup, siren eyes (making eye contact), and the whisper method (talking to people) are, after all, nothing new.

Plus, peppered amongst the seemingly zeitgeisty moments, we still had plenty of tedium as TikTok influencers rebranded everything from crying, to winged eyeliner and OPI nail polish in what we called “the year of the non-trend.”

What Fuelled a Relentless Year of Y2K Trends?

Beauty 2023 trend forecast: Indie Sleaze dominated 2022
Image Credit: Instagram @indiesleaze

While often credited with bringing Y2K back, our nostalgia binge in 2022 wasn’t ALL because of “Euphoria”.

As Sean Monahan who coined the term ‘vibe shift’ wrote in The Guardian, millennials emerged from lockdown for their #hotvax summer “still feeling young” — only to be faced TikTok and BeReal literate zoomers, and a mounting sense of irrelevance.

He refers to this as “the Peter Pandemic,” a phenomenon in which millennial frustration at being robbed of the last dregs of their youth has resulted in a fetishisation of the music, clothing, and beauty they loved back in the day. 

Related: The Cute-ification of Mental Illness Is Back With “Crying Makeup”  and We Don’t Love to See It

The slew of Y2K-inspired trends wasn’t just driven by millennial narcissism — in fact, it’s been largely spearheaded by Gen Z. The question everyone has been asking is why?

For most Gen Zs, their “Euphoria High” moments were spent locked down, their last years of school interrupted by a pandemic. They studied and graduated high school and university online, missing out on the cringe-inducing parties, school crushes and casual jobs millennials think back on with fondness and shame.

Seen from this perspective, depictions of millennial teens and 20-somethings — from Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan’s “Girls Gone Wild” era, to Mischa Barton in Keds, and Sass and Bide tops over jeans on “The OC” — have an understandable allure.

Mischa Barton clutching Augusten Burroughs Dry: A Memoir and looking thoroughly boho-chic in 2007
Things we thought we’d never slay (again): Boho-chic, copy of Augusten Burroughs, “Dry: A Memoir” optional. Image Credit: Getty/Chris

Related: Is It Time to Admit We’ve Fallen In Love With Julia Fox — Fox Eye, Skinny Brows and All?

What Vibes Will We See In 2023?

While the metaverse might be speculative, social media has already taken many of our experiences and relationships virtual — so much so that despite constant urging from wellness experts to “go offline”, actually doing so can be as isolating and stressful as spending time online as reported by CNET this year (and experienced by this writer).

As NFT artist Visaya Hoffie noted in an interview with POPSUGAR Australia in October, the speculative metaverse world is currently drawing on “the same old systems and frameworks,” rather than necessarily creating new ones. By the looks of it, we’re ready to look to the future after spending 2022 muddling in the past, integrating web3 and digital visual styles into our beauty looks in 2023.

Related: I Put My IG on a “Millennial Pause” and It Was Surprisingly Chaotic

Julia Fox, the most influential figure in beauty for 2022, has posited “trashy alien vibes” for 2023 in conversation with Dazed, and an angsty rebellion against the male gaze. We’re into it. We picked the brains of Sean Brady, one of our favourite Sydney MUAs for what he’s been seeing this year and next and contributed our own speculative, if well-informed guesses.

Digital Beauty:

Creators like Animegvrl and Esosa Odia spent 2022 exploring what beauty might look like in the future, incorporating digital techniques like AR rendering with painstaking brushwork that blur the boundaries between the physical and the real.

Sean Brady says the impact of AR and digital art has been felt throughout the beauty industry. “There has been a real push editorially, and online to create something that looks surreal,” he tells POPSUGAR Australia. “It’s fun and challenging, which is why I pursued makeup in the first place.”

Related: Video Killed the Radio Star, Will Digital Influencers Kill Your Faves?

Prosthetic Makeup:

Elon Musk wants us to experience life on Mars and beauty creators do seem to be backing him — if only because he’s making life on earth and on the internet so unpleasant.

Prosthetic makeup has been big on social and on the runway this year. Used controversially at the Barragán SS23, NYFW runway this year to depict the ugly side of white America, they’ve also been used to create creepy, alienesque elvish, and “fairy-core” looks on TikTok and the gram. Turns out we don’t want to be a “single-planet species” either.

Plus, while they were used for evil at Barragán, a bit of foam latex and spirit gum can be a quick way to trial buccal fat removal, the Hollywood nose job, and lip filler on the cheap.

With plastic surgery booming amongst people under the age of 45 in 2022 this whimsical trend doubles as a cost-conscious recession-core hack.

Ugly Beauty:

As noted by the honourable Julia Fox in interview with Dazed, alienesque, hostile beauty has been bubbling away this year beneath the slicker, prettier momentum of Indie Sleaze and party girl looks. We, the people, are getting behind it with #uglymakeuprevolution ticking away on Instagram.

“I think the girls are fed up!” she said, and you know, we can’t imagine why.

Asked where her personal rejection of the male gaze came from she said: “It’s probably ‘cause I’m on the right side of history, since men are historically not.”

This year’s NYFW was overrun with ghoulish looks, most notably at Elena Velez, whose NYFW collection featured bloody ombre lips, sunken eyes, and dirty nails — as well as Julia Fox, who soaked in the sights from her front row seat. The designer described her collection as a “bloodletting for woman in her most insufferable and divine glory.” Amen.

Related: Goodbye to Glazed Donut Glows, Ugly, Dirty, Sexy Beauty Is About to Trend

Obsolete Tech and Facial Hardwear

2023 Beauty Trends: Metalwear and obsolete tech 
Pictured: Titane by Julia Ducournau
This is what great chemistry looks like, Image Credit: Kazak Productions

At least 13 people fainted at the Australian premiere of “Titane“, Julia Ducournau’s sexy and stomach-churning body horror that saw old-school tech mingling with human flesh.

While it wasn’t to everyone’s taste, the visuals were chic and obsolete tech and metalwork have been making their way into piercings, facial appliques, and colour palettes.

While we have yet to see the return of the Baby G watch, corded Apple Earpod headphones became a slow burn accessories trend this year, with Instagram account @wireditgirls celebrating Jenna Ortega and Bella Hadid‘s Y2K commitment to all things dumb and dysfunctional.

Meanwhile, “Titane”-esque metalwork has been replacing “Euphoria”-inspired gemstones, as seen in the work of Berlin-based tattoo artist and creator Stella Chiara, whose three dimensional face pieces elevate facial jewellery to wearable art. One part steampunk, one part critique of Steve Jobs, we look forward to seeing more of this in 2023.

Birth of Venus, Garden of Eden and Slippery Snakey Beauty

2023 Beauty Trends: Glistening wet skin, pictured Boticelli's Venus
Suss, Image Credit: Getty/Hulton Fine Art Collection

There has been bee hive-level buzz around environmentally conscious and sustainable beauty brands this year, with our trips down the beauty aisle now full of lessons in carbon offsets and B Corp certifications (if you need a hand defending yourself against greenwashing while shopping for your next cleanser, keep this guide on you, we do).

Aesthetically, there’s been a more “Day of the Triffids” inspired take on beauty’s relationship with nature with the mermaidcore aesthetic – first spotted at the fashion week SS23 shows. Here we saw models who looked like they’d just emerged from the river Styx making their way down the runways at Poster Girl and Puppets & Puppets, where Isamaya Ffrench created snail-secretion-slicked skin and hair and suggestively placed creepy crawlies obscured nipples and butt cleavage.

Toying with taboos around female bodies and wetness (why did Boticelli’s Venus’ hair look freshly Airwrapped when she popped out of her clam?) arcane tropes of the “divine feminine” connection with nature and nurturing, there’s an eco-feminist streak to this trend. Turns out nature, and women, are fed up.

As with ugly beauty, this look is serving more brooding malevolence from the girls, and we love to see it.

Image credit: Getty/Victor Virgile

Going Nuclear:

While nuclear green beauty won’t save us from ourselves, it will rescue us from some really boring NYE looks. Ditch your neutrals palette now.

Sailor Moon Beauty:

Asked where he looks for inspiration, Brady says: “I love anime, which I think I take a lot of inspiration from, and I watch a lot of movies, especially sci-fi.”

He’s not alone. “Sailor Moon” fans rejoiced this year as makeup artists, hair stylists, and beauty influencers looked to anime and manga for inspiration. The crying girl makeup trend borrowed heavily from the tearful heroines of Manga and Anime, with high blush placement, glassy eyes, and popsicle-stained lips accompanied by requisite feminine fragility. Whimsical (and TikTok viral) manga lashes also had us dusting off our duo lash glue and breaking out our tweezers for a fluttery, angelic “Sailor Moon” look.

Then, Nicole Kidman had a surprise moment as a beauty influencer when she donned the viral Jellyfish haircut. The jellyfish cut, of course, is indistinguishable from the “hime cut” which can be traced to the Heian Period in Japan, around the ninth century. Also referred to as “the princess cut”, the style is frequently worn by the regal young heroines of Japanese anime fantasies.

As we reach the tail end of 2022, a TikTok filter called AI Manga generated 81.5 million videos in days, being used for everything from ghost detection to virtual breast augmentation.

This suggests we’ll continue to see surreal, fantasy influences throughout 2023. Our prediction? Twintails, the bouncier, more optimistic evolution of the Wednesday Addams, Tumblr-core pigtails we saw at Dior — and all over social media — this year.

@haircrazer Super cute! cuss yuk biar ga bosen gaya rambutnya🤩 #lemon8indonesia #gayarambut #koreanhairstyle #twintail #twintails #halftwintail #kuncirrambut #tutorialkuncirrambut #tutorialkuncir #kuncirrambutchallenge #kuncirdua ♬ High School in Jakarta – NIKI

Dollcore-Coquette Aesthetic:

2023 Beauty Trends: Dollcore
Image Credit: Getty/Victor Virgile

If you’ve been scrolling through this list thirsting for something that will make other people thirsty, rather than unnerved, don’t worry. It’s not all ugly beauty and aliens in 2023.

We’ve been waiting for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” for almost a year, which is centuries in zoomer time, and eons in youth-challenged millennial time. Our hot anticipation has been reflected in a 1,690% increase in search volume for associated trends like coquette makeup and doe-eyed beauty, according to the Beautypie 2023 Trends Report.

Think high-maintenance Bratz and Barbie aesthetics, plenty of Lana Del Rey, and stacks of fake lashes. Those not into ugly and edgy will have plenty to play with in 2023.

@urvintagedaddy Ask me something pls I’m bored💗 #dollcore #fyp #lizzygrant ♬ original sound – 💌
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