Would you like to lose hours of your precious life and perhaps a few brain cells trying to discern why everyone on TikTok is upset about that Jones Road What the Foundation? Or perfecting your mewing technique (it involves pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth to reshape your face) before deciding that the underside of your chin is none of your business? Beauty TikTok teaches us many things, but mostly it tests our threshold for manipulating our appearance. For the unfamiliar and for those who cannot be bothered, I offer you some of TikTok’s current hottest and oddest in the beauty algorithm.
“Underpainting”: The Mary Phillips Makeup Method
Makeup artist Mary Phillips reached virality with her method of making up Hailey Bieber’s face. She traces contour and highlighter on bare skin first, then blends it with foundation and blush, turning everything soft and properly skin-like. To try it is to become one with your makeup and with Hailey Bieber. Or not. The technique is something the nepotism-deficient can adopt for free-enough.
White Waterline Eye Makeup
This makeup hack was big in the teen mags of the early aughts. I tried it then with a 99-cent eyeliner pencil that was so coarse I nearly shivved myself. The result looked like I was in anime cosplay. However, big bright eyes know no era, and all it takes is the likes of Alix Earle and her nearly five million TikTok followers to remind us of its virtues. This is one of those makeup tips that look best in photos; in person it can veer a bit theatrical. If you’re a TikTok star, the choice is clear.
When I heard that “revenge makeup” was a thing, I was like, Nice. After watching a handful of revenge-makeup videos, I was like, Oh. Revenge makeup, like revenge bod or revenge dressing, is simply the act of hottening yourself up in a conventional way, presumably to fill your ex with regret. I’d like to hope it isn’t that literal. The look includes full-coverage foundation, sculpted brows, dramatically contoured cheeks, dangerous red lipstick, smoky eyeshadow, winged liner, and big, fluffy lashes. In other words, everything. Waterproof formulas and setting spray are musts. Is it a cool makeup look? Sure, if looking like a hot villainess is a confidence boost. And who doesn’t love a confident villain?
Beauty perspectives have evolved, but ageism still has its high-heeled foot on our tech necks. And TikTok spreads the doctrine, showing us there’s nothing that can’t be made into an anti-aging device. Anti-wrinkle drinking straws? Yes, please. They’re bent like an upside-down L to allow you to drink without excessive lip pursing. Anti-wrinkle patches are silicone flaps you slap on your forehead, undereyes, nasolabial folds, neck, décolleté—essentially anywhere wrinkles can wrinkle—to keep the skin immobile while you sleep. Face-taping is the same idea, but with medical tape. The patches and tape are all cheaper than Botox, but you have to use them every single night. For the rest of your life. This makes me think that revenge makeup should rebrand itself as anti-aging rage.
“Vabbing,” which stands for “vaginal dabbing,” is supposed to sound racy and enticing, at least to those who attended the Pepé Le Pew school of seduction. It’s the act of using one’s vaginal secretions as a personal perfume to attract people (men). This hetero practice is based on the unscientific premise that men are drawn to the scent for animalistic, anthropological reasons. It also seems to exist for the outpouring of eye-rolling pseudonyms and puns on TikTok. Vabbing won’t harm you. It probably also won’t do much in the way of scent. (Although I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone’s pH.) But there’s also perfume.
Sable Yong is a beauty writer and host of the podcast Smell Ya Later. She writes the Hard Feelings newsletter. Her essay collection, Die Hot with a Vengeance, will be published in 2024 by HarperCollins. She is a Writer at Large for Air Mail LOOK