Slay Or Nay: The Viral Beauty Trends of 2023 (and Whether They’re Worth Trying)
As POPSUGAR Australia’s beauty editor, you’d be correct in assuming that I’m constantly looking at and writing about beauty trends, launches and viral products. I’ve been in the beauty industry for nine years, and while some of that time has been spent writing about beauty from the safety of my desk, I’m also a qualified makeup artist who spent five years applying these trends to real people for all kinds of occasions.
While I ultimately ditched the tools to pursue my love of sharing my opinions on public platforms, when it comes to dissecting, dismissing and delighting in the deluge of beauty trends TikTok serves us monthly, weekly, and sometimes hourly, I consider myself reasonably qualified.
In 2022 the TikTok #beauty hashtag amassed 130 billion views, bringing us trends we loved, and trends we really never asked for. Over the year, the platform exploded with inspiring, obscure and downright dangerous trends, from vabbing and siren eyes to cold girl makeup and #sunburnchallenges, and 2023 has already welcomed the first trends of the year, with Angel Eyes, Vanilla Girl Beauty, and more.
It seems 2023 is set to serve just as much beauty chaos as 2022, and with my Instagram DMs already full of questions about whether these trends are worth trying or not, I’ve decided to simplify all of our lives. Ahead is a rolling round-up of TikTok beauty trends, tips and products from 2023, with my verdict on whether it’s a slay or a nay. Whether you’re wondering if Angel Eyes will work for your wedding day or if reverse makeup contouring will work at the office, you’ve come to the right place. Even the silliest trends are salvageable, so you’ll also find tweaks and tips to make them work for you.
Meredith Duxbury Ten Pump Foundation Technique
GRWM TO GO TO THE CLUB IN TOKYO 👀🎉♬ original sound – Meredith Duxbury
In Meredith Duxbury’s “GRWM TO GO TO THE CLUB IN TOKYO” routine, the beauty influencer applies 10 pumps of the Too Faced Born This Way Matte Foundation with the palms of her hand before carving her features with an undisclosed contour and setting with a pile of Laura Mercier setting powder. Duxbury looks amazing, the video has netted 2 million views, and recreations of the technique have seen full coverage, premium foundations lodged in hairlines everywhere. Like Mary Phillip’s technique, unpacked below, Meredith Duxbury’s approach reflects a 12-month trend towards “Kardashian-circa-2010” approach to complexion products favouring heavily contoured, social media-optimised complexions. But does this particular technique work IRL?
Slay or Nay?
Holding 10 pumps of foundation in your hand is the beauty equivalent of trying to eat 10 spoonfuls of hot soup out of your hand. It’s scary, messy, and likely to result in disaster. It’s also unlikely to result in 10 pumps of foundation ending up on your face because at least five pumps will be embedded in your hairline, under your nails, on your clothes and clogging up your keyboard. Welcome to hell.
Duxbury’s tutorial is misleading in one other way. In her first video, she notes, “I’m not going to lie – this foundation technique does not work for everyone. It really depends on the type of skin you have.”
The “type of skin” Duxubury has is mesmerisingly perfect. It took me five minutes to get through her 1-minute tutorial because I kept rewinding to gaze avidly at her hypnotically poreless complexion. She could apply wet sand to her face, and look good.
While it may be to everyone’s benefit that Duxbury obscures her naturally perfect complexion, trying this technique is not to your benefit.
This trend gets a resounding nay from me.
@santuttiegacelso short haircut 💘 #haircuts #hairtransformation #hairtips #grunge #hairhairstyle #layers #hairtip #hairhack #fashionhairstyle #trendinghairstyle #trendyhairstyle #haircuts2023 #fyp #viral ♬ love nwantinti (ah ah ah) – CKay
This year, hair and nail trends have lent short and minimalist. From bobs to bangs to nails, everything is smaller. Hairstyles that have gone viral are bixies, bobs and bangs. Meanwhile, short, minimalist manicures are replacing the intricate nail art of 2021-2022.
Slay or Nay?
Last year was all about hair extensions, stiletto nails and complicated beauty looks. While makeup itself has become more elaborate, an eyeshadow palette is a one-time investment. The micro trend is focused on hair and nails, two components of a beauty routine that require repeat visits to the salon and repeat spend. A nail file and a slick of clear polish will take you five minutes compared to three to four-week infill appointments for elaborate custom acrylics. Leave those to Cardi B. This trend is slay.
@mualesandro Battle of the lip oils…which do u prefer? #dupes #makeupdupe #lipoil #diorlipoil #nyxcosmetics #makeupreview ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
In 2022, Kantar reported that while there was a general decline in spending on beauty during the pandemic, a “less is more” mentality increased spending on premium beauty products. In effect, we were doing less, but investing more in “occasion” products and lockdown glow-up skincare buys.
Now we are back in the real world dabbling in 10-pump foundation trends and using, and using up, our beauty products in nerve-wracking economic conditions.
These conditions have paved the runway for the return of the humble beauty dupe. Currently, #beautydupes sitting at 49.9 million views on TikTok and #budgetbeauty at 219.3 million views. The un-beauty-related “budget” has 4.4 billion views, indicating general sentiment.
Slay or Nay?
In a perfect world, we would slay all day with moisturisers and foundations that cost our weekly rent and have money left over to donate to charitable causes and dine out three times a week. We live in imperfect times. Along with this, human nature dictates we find delight in sourcing and gatekeeping inexpensive bargains almost as much as we do flaunting premium products on Instagram top shelves. Call it the hunter-gatherer instinct. This trend is a slay, and we’ll see you at Priceline.
@zoekimkenealy #greenscreen We always worry about our eyeshadow creasing, our skin getting oily throughout the day, etc. but there are so many cool makeup looks that are exactly that – worn in. With makeup, its a lot about owning your look and viewing it through a romantic POV. Hopefully this video will inspire you to go out to those after work drinks even if you don’t have enough time fo redo your makeup and feel good doing it ❤️ #messymakeup #endofdaymakeup #grungymakeup #workmakeup #rimmellondon #charlottetilbury #aboutfacebeauty #fentybeauty ♬ Oysters in My Pocket – Royel Otis
Marinated makeup is all about lived-in, greasy, and sleazy beauty. Imperfect and messy, it could be post-club, post-hook up, or simply post-nap (I chose to experiment with the trend this way). Sweaty, blurred, and dishevelled, marinated makeup has been championed by influencers like Zoe Kim Kenealy, who’s posted tutorials like “chic one night stand” and “end of day makeup.” It’s also been spotted on stars like Olivia Wilde, who made an appearance at the People’s Choice Awards in sheer lace Dior with sweaty hair and lived-in kohl liner.
Slay or Nay?
As makeup artist Katie Moore told me when I discovered the miraculous benefits of sleeping in my makeup, the marinated makeup trend is all about a looser, less perfectionistic approach to beauty: “It’s really the Coco Chanel ‘take one thing off before you leave the house’ vibe — you don’t have to have everything done to a tee.”
Dark Bimbo Aesthetic:
@millieleer Ultimate hot girl look 🖤 inspired by the iconic Gabriette Bechtel #makeup #makeuptutorial #gabriettebechtel #smokeyeye #hotgirlmakeup ♬ original sound – 💌
Dark Bimbo is an evolution of the bimbo zeitgeist that has been bubbling away for a few years. Inspired by skinny-browed, hollow-eyed vampiric beauties like Gabriette, it’s got bad b*tch energy with a super low-effort vibe. You can read about the evolution of the bimbocore trend and how we ended up at Dark Bimbo here.
Slay or Nay?
Anything that allows us to put less effort into our beauty routine is a win in our books. While we’re not about to try the razor thin brows that are integral to the trend, we’re into the overlined lips, the lazy girl approach to complexion products, and the burnout beauty aesthetic. An easily achievable slay.
@cczuleighka The brow gel, blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, and highlighter all used in the video is from @flybycleziel. I tried them out for the first time in this tutorial and they really exceeded my expectations.🥰🥰 #angelicmakeup #douyinmakeup #makeuplook #sneakpeak #makeuptutorial #pinterest #cute #pretty #trendingaudio #fyp #foryou #trend #forfun #filipino #filipinoamerican #greenscreen ♬ Snooze – SZA
Named after Douyin, China’s version of TikTok (owned by the same company, Bytedance), this makeup has been all over our For You pages since 2022. It’s a look that draws heavily on manga and anime aesthetics, and combines Korean and Chinese beauty aesthetics. This includes the emphasis on the Aegyo Sal region (that’s under eye fat), shimmering eyes, and long, sparse, and doll-like “manga lashes.”
Slay or Nay?
Slay! With a bit of practice and a few speciality products, the Douyin makeup is a flattering, wide-eyed beauty look. Indeed, if you trialled the Crying Girl or Cold Girl makeup trends of 2022, which include high blush placement, doe-eyes, and glazed lips and cheeks, you’ve probably accumulated most of the skill you need to pull off this look. The one element that’s hard to come by is Manga Lashes. There are some tutorials on DIY’ing these lashes, but the most accessible place to find them is Amazon where there’s a range of dramatic and wispy options to choose from.
@fauxnicolerose Ballet core a la @wolfiecindy using @kosas @saiebeauty @dior @personacosmetics @bitebeauty @makeupbymario @patmcgrathreal @benefitcosmetics @covergirl ♬ original sound – Nicole Elliott
Balletcore is what it sounds like, Sugar Plum Fairy-inspired makeup, tulle, bows, ballerina flats and slicked-back buns. This trend draws on several TikTok-y zeitgeists: athleisure, “light” femininity, old money and Y2K dance movies.
Slay or Nay?
To quote an aspiring prima ballerina Jody breaking up with her deadbeat boyfriend in the 2000 film Centre Stage: “Cooper, you’re an amazing dancer, and you’re a great choreographer, but as a boyfriend… you kind of suck.”
Balletcore is fashion and beauty’s deadbeat boyfriend. Sure, it’s pretty, and frankly mesmerising to millennials raised on dance movies, but it’s also inherently problematic. As pointed out by Emma Sullivan for Sydney Morning Herald, ballet is an inherently elitist and toxic art form that prizes whiteness and unnatural thinness – an aesthetic that’s remained largely unchallenged on TikTok.
Yes, we’ve been reaching for more bows and pink lipglosses since balletcore kicked off in 2022, and it seems like it’s going nowhere, but with so many worrying connotations we’re going to have to give it a regretful “nay.”
Red Nail Theory:
@_sammyanthaa Testing out the #rednailtheory ♬ original sound – GirlBossTown
Could ensnaring the love of your life be one bottle of Sally Hansen, Cherry Delightful away? Yes, according to TikTok where #rednailtheory is trending. BeautyTokers are suggesting the shade makes you sexually irresistible thanks to TikToker and PR guru Robyn Delmonte (aka @girlbosstown). The PR Girl Boss™ kicked off the trend, noting that whenever she wore red nails she got more compliments from men. In a breathtaking leap of logic she surmised this is because red nails remind guys of their mums (women… wore red nails a lot in the 90s).
Slay or Nay?
I have been wearing Sally Hansen, Red Eye ($14) for the last week, I remain single and haven’t noticed men salivating over my fingertips, which I would notice because I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed a man looking at my fingertips. This, in my view, undermines my belief in the oedipal allure of red nails. However, the experiment was a good reminder that the cool, fire engine red of the 90s is a chic and cheerful classic. Slay.
Vanilla Girl Beauty
@basicvanillagirl 👼🏽 #vanilla #girly #beauty #products #vanillagirl #aesthetic #coquette #fyp #foryou #pearlywhites #pretty #makeup #xyzbca #cute #pink #hearts #basicvanillagirl ♬ Me and Your Mama – 🎧
Want something sweet? Enter the Vanilla Girl trend of 2023, coming in to replace the “Clean Girl” and “That Girl” trends of 2022. Vanilla Girl is slightly different — coming out of the wintery United States, it’s all about cosy, vanilla (i.e. white and beige) clothing, fluffy balayage locks and fresh flushed cheeks. Vanilla Girl arguably falls under the “comfortcore” trend, which has brought us everything from milky, sweet vanilla scents to cheeks so sweet you could pinch them.
Slay or Nay?
Vanilla Girl is essentially a winter rebrand for the Clean Girl, That Girl and Old Money aesthetics, which have already been flagged as problematic. Wearing all white, and rocking minimal makeup might be fine for some people, but like many trends in 2022, the trend is elitist and exclusive. After all, you’re not rocking all white to your shift at the local pub, or your retail job, and no makeup only isn’t a comfortable look for everyone.
@elsaroshe Angelic makeup✨ #grwm #grwmmakeup #makeup #angelicmakeup #메이크업 #모델 #koreanmakeup #model #modelkorea ♬ cardigan – Taylor Swift
Angel Eyes is an ethereal beauty look that’s all about putting eyes on show. Essentially, it’s a continuation of the ethereal and delicate looks we saw in late 2022, which included crying girl makeup, doll core, and fairy core — we even reached for frosted finish blue eyeshadow (quelle horreur)!
Makeup artist Joy Adenuga told POPSUGAR US that while the “angel” trend features, unsurprisingly, a lot of white, you can also mix it up if you want.
“Another way you can nail the trend from home is by swapping the white coloured-yet-frosted shades such as bright lilacs, sky blue, mint green and more,” she said.
Slay or Nay?
Slay! Simple and sparky, you can make this look as easy or complicated as you like. A dab of matte concealer, white or metallic cream shadow, and a swipe of shimmery powder have you serving “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in seconds.
Picasso Makeup Spatula Technique
@atosaaghakhani The best makeup tool to avoid cakey makeup 🙈❤️ This is NOT an ad, I just love this product so much The Picasso Makeup Spatula is extremely popular in Korean beauty, and for good reason! It lays out a thin and consistent layer of foundation for seamless coverage ❤️🔥 ❤️🔥 Products ❤️🔥 @maybelline fit me matte + poreless normal to oily foundation (classic ivory/120) @oliveyoung_global picasso makeup spatula and on the lips in this video.. @NYX Cosmetics lip butter in ginger snap 😉 #koreanbeauty #koreanbeautyproducts #kbeauty #kbeautymakeup #beautytool #beautytools #makeuptool #makeuptools #makeuptoolsforbeginners ♬ TV – Billie Eilish
Picasso isn’t typically the guy we turn to when looking for beauty inspiration, but the influential K-Beauty machine has got BeautyTokers picking up some new techniques. The Picasso Spatula Technique involves dipping a metal spatula in the foundation and applying it in sweeping movements to your face, allegedly achieving the thinnest layer of foundation possible.
Slay or Nay?
There’s a reason MUAs reach for beauty sponges and buffing brushes to create “natural” beauty looks. These tools absorb the product, meaning less ends up on your skin. Applying with a hard, flat surface means all of the product ends up on your mug, and whatever influencers tell you, if you want to look like you’re wearing no makeup, wearing the least amount of makeup possible is the easiest way to achieve this.
Furthermore, the Picasso Spatula technique also risks scraping your skincare off as you apply your base, resulting in pilling. Rolling mounds of sunscreen, serum, moisturiser and foundation are far from #flawless, which makes this a high-risk, time-intensive strategy that can be shortcut with a spot concealing technique or a lighter-weight complexion product. Look into Summer Fridays Skin Tint, ($63) applied with a Beauty Blender ($30).
The Mary Phillips “Reverse Makeup” Technique
@ellamaerennison_ My new fave technique 🎀💋 #maryphillipsmakeup ♬ original sound – a ❤️
Another application “innovation” for 2023? Celebrity MUA Mary Phillips recently went viral on TikTok with what has been called a “subversive” complexion technique.
Reverse makeup involves applying stripes of bronzer, concealer and/or contour before foundation. Like the Eye of Sauron, Beautytok sees everything, and keen-eyed creators noted Philips’s use of a powder brush as she blended over her stripes with a liquid foundation. She attributes this technique the polished, sculpted complexions of Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner.
Slay or Nay?
There is nothing new about this technique. For anyone who survived the 2010 Kim Kardashian era of contouring, you’ll remember her geometrically divided face. The reason this technique is popular with celebrity makeup artists is that their clients are photographed on red carpets with high flash, distance photography that flattens the face. This requires a heavy-handed makeup application, but cream products are known for skipping and becoming “muddy” when applied OVER foundation.
Reverse makeup is all about making the industrial quantities of concealer and contour required for red carpet glam look as seamless possible, but this will not look natural in person. A general rule for beauty? More product = less natural base. If you’re looking for an IRL natural beauty look, it’s a nay.