how ugly beauty has taken over fashion

When Doja Cat arrived at the Met Gala on Monday night, you’d be forgiven for thinking she was caught in a downpour. Her dress was soaked and mascara had run down her face. The look, which turned out to be the work of makeup artist Pat McGrath, has since gone viral.

The American rapper was not the only one who looked the traditional beauty of the red carpet that night. Actress Amanda Seyfried dyed her hair blonde gray and, instead of the traditional red, her lips were lurid purple, the color of verbena. Zendaya, who has walked the carpet once but twice, wore her eyebrows so pencil thin they almost disappeared.

Rejecting traditional beauty standards, these stars are leaning into a movement that has come to be known as “ugly beauty”. It’s been a hit in recent years, and it’s been a social media boom covering everything from deliberately unblended foundation on makeup lines to gradient colored lips and the use of prosthetics to reshape cheekbones or creating tiny facial horns.

Unlike makeup trends like “clean girl”, where skin looks glassy without pepper, or the “glazed doughnut” aesthetic, where cheekbones shine like the icing on the frosted snack, the aim is not increase attractiveness. Instead, it is pushing the boundaries of what beauty is.

Emily Schubert, one of cinema’s best compositing artists, sees it as the world of special effects and real-life compositing becoming more blurred than ever. Her new book, Beauty of the Beast: A Makeup Manual, from independent production house A24, which is behind films such as Priscilla and The Zone of Interest, aims to share some of her tricks, from how to create the illusion she has no eyebrows. how to make the hair look like it’s turning gray.

This may not sound like something to aim for in everyday life, but Schubert, who started thinking differently about makeup after noticing how gray her face was after scoliosis surgery at 13, says that it is a kind of storytelling device. “Especially since we’re now looking at screens bigger than ever and seeing people in 2D form.”

The term “ugly makeup revolution” was first coined by London-based visual artist Eszter Magyar in 2018. Six years later, Magyar says the reason it came up is because people are “bored of fake perfection , refined”. Although she has mixed feelings about the trend, she still understands it as a “modern counterpoint to the cookie-cutter aesthetic; character over perfection”.

Filters have gone from being a silly feature (remember the dog ears) to a tool used by most young people posting online – a study by City, University of London on smartphones and looks found that by 2023 90% of twenty-something women use a filter. on a selfie. This dominance has blurred the lines between the online and offline look while constantly refining the skin, lifting cheekbones and even giving the illusion of a full face of makeup.

Some see the rise of ugly beauty as a regression to these unattainable ideals of beauty, especially as AI continues to shift the parameters of what is possible. “People are under more pressure than ever to conform to unrealistic and ever-changing standards of beauty, whether through filters or ‘fixes’, and to conform to homogenized ideals of what they should look like,” says Alex Peters , beauty editor at Dazed, where the trend resonates strongly with the magazine’s readers. “I think ugly makeup acts as a pressure valve, in a way, helping people release some of that stress.”

On Instagram it has become commonplace to edit acne scars. Some spend hours hiding them with makeup while others eliminate them with apps like Facetune. But again Schubert makes them an art, using KY Jelly to give the skin a tactile effect while creating pimples. On a long film, Schubert considers how a spot develops over time: it may start to ooze but gradually scream at a character’s face.

Age is another subject that “ugly beauty” likes to toy with. While social media is full of videos of (usually) young users asking viewers to guess their age, and then getting upset when they guess right or higher, Schubert has a whole chapter, who has worked with celebrities such as Dev Hynes and model Bella Hadid. committed to making yourself look younger and older. To smooth wrinkles, she uses facial tape but she can also use the same tape to create the illusion of drooping skin.

Historically, cosmetic enhancements were an asset limited to a cohort with high disposable income. Now, Botox and fillers are offered as a “lunchtime treatment” and the average price in the UK starts from £100. So it’s clear that a recent article on Dazed even pondered whether “ugly” might one day be mine: “If we imagine a future where most people have had their wrinkles smoothed out with Botox, their lips filled with filling, sucked out his cheeks to remove buccal fat and straightened their teeth with veneers, it will be desirable that the natural features are increasingly scarce; the crooked teeth, smile lines and crow’s feet?”

Schubert can’t understand why people want to be almost featureless. She has already seen the light: “Did you know that truck drivers age more on the left side of their face? You can see the patterns of life on the face and body. People need to think about that and not see it as a bad thing. Why would you take away your own history?”

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