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Can We Hope for a Backlash to Instagram Makeup Yet?
Sheryll Donerson
Sheryll Donerson

Aug 26, 2019

Because seriously, I got things to do — like work for a living and, uh, eat.


The other day, I opened my messages app to text (aka complain) to my best friend about the state of makeup on Instagram.


“Why are all the makeup looks Instagram makeup? Where are the natural looks? I don’t want a seven shade glitter cut crease halo eye!”


She sent me a row of laughing emojis and typed “I agree. I’m into a soft glam look nowadays.” To which I replied, “YESSSS!!!!!”


So what’s my beef with so-called “Instagram Makeup”? Well, I don’t necessarily have a beef. I do think it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at, and I admit the artistry behind the looks are out of this world. I can barely blend one eyeshadow, let alone a rainbow flag on my eyelids. But I’m tired. And I’m not the only one. The New York Times posted an article wayyyy back in 2016 titled “Instagram Face: Is It the End of Good Makeup?”, and New York Magazine’s The Cut posted a similar article titled “Is Instagram Makeup Making Us Clones?” And just recently, I came across a thread on Twitter where makeup artists were lamenting the fact that they wanted to do more creative natural makeup looks, but their clients wanted to replicate looks they’d seen on Instagram — the glitter, the bold brows, the cut crease shadow.



OK, so I’m getting ahead of myself, as usual. Just WHAT is Instagram makeup? Trust me, if you’ve spent any time on Instagram in the last few years, you’ve seen it. You can even search for tutorials on YouTube.




Instagram makeup starts with a heavy dose of full coverage foundation. Pores where? Your face should look like a mattified peeled egg.




The next step to Instagram makeup is perhaps the most important part: the contour and highlight. But it’s not just any regular contour and highlight; this step involves something called baking, a drag queen technique where you place a bright powder in the places where you’ve highlighted (under the eyes, on the chin, on the forehead), and you let it sit there and “bake” while you move on to the rest of your makeup. This creates that super matte, bright look that Instagram makeup is known for.


instagram makeup
Instagram @thestudyofmakeup



Oh, and highlight. Your highlight must be so bright that you can see it from space. The bolder and brighter, the better.




There are two types of eye looks for Instagram makeup. The first one is the Instagram Baddie Look, which is basically a Kylie Jenner type look — the eyeshadow is neutral, brown, or gold, with a heavy dose of winged liner and a false lashes (or lash extensions).


The second type of eye look is the super colorful one. We’re talking glitter, cut creases, five shades of impeccably blended eye shadow, winged liner, and lots o’ lashes. Want to see an example in motion? Go to Nikki Tutorials Instagram page. She’s basically the queen of Instagram makeup.



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A post shared by NikkieTutorials (@nikkietutorials) on




I think we’ve grown out of the super sculpted eyebrow look that Instagram makeup is known for, but bold brows are still in. Instagram brows are super filled in with a pencil or eyebrow gel and typically are carved out using concealer to highlight the shape.




Instagram lips used to be the super matte liquid lipstick look, but I think it’s starting to transition into a more glossy look. But not just any gloss — super metallic, ultra-reflective gloss. Instagram lips are a mood, tbh, and I’m glad gloss is finally getting its due.



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A post shared by Sarah Steller (@s_steller_) on



So why do I feel so strongly about Instagram makeup? Well, I think that it’s just so pervasive in social media now that everyone thinks they HAVE to do their makeup this way. It’s just not realistic to look like you’re going to be filmed for a reality TV show at all hours of the day or wear a look with flowers painted on your eyelids. Beauty content creators know that Instagram makeup looks get the most likes, so they just keep churning them out, and brands have noticed that these looks get the most likes, so those are the ones that get reposted onto their feeds. And the cycle continues.


But think about it — when is the last time you’ve seen someone out in the wild with Instagram makeup? Me? Never, unless we’re counting the salespeople at Sephora, and even then, it’s rare. Instagram makeup bothers me because everyone’s posting these looks as if it’s representative of the makeup they wear in the “real” world, and it’s not. Instagram makeup is just that — makeup FOR Instagram. So take all of those complicated looks with a grain of salt — no one is expecting you to be contoured for the gods for your 8 am English lit class.


How do you feel about Instagram makeup? Are you all for it or so over it? Let me know in the comments!




Sheryll Donerson
Sheryll Donerson

Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.



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