‘Clean Girl’ Makeup Is Dead. Make Way For Dopamine Glam

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If you've been on TikTok recently (and let's face it, the app is highly addictive), you've probably been bombarded with step-by-step tutorials of the 'clean girl' makeup look. With 731.7 million hashtags and heaps of mentions, the trend consists of a flawless base, plump nude lips, flushed cheeks and a glow in all the right places.
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Inspired by the likes of Zendaya and Bella Hadid, the look has TikTok's beauty community and makeup lovers everywhere in a chokehold. 'Clean girl' beauty isn't without its problems, though. Skincare experts and influencers have pointed out — and rightly so — that the perfected finish isn't particularly inclusive. We observed recently how it might ostracise those with skin conditions such as acne, acne scarring and rosacea, for example. In a world which encourages us to embrace skin in all its glory, 'clean girl' makeup feels a little outdated, not to mention unattainable.
Professional makeup artists are in agreement. Recently, we met with Sir John, celebrity makeup artist and creative director for L’Oréal Paris. You might know him best as Beyoncé's go-to, and while he champions minimal makeup and radiant skin, he's increasingly anti-trend right now — particularly when it comes to the 'clean girl' aesthetic.
Like all beauty movements, 'clean girl' makeup has a shelf life. This summer, Sir John says it's all about 'dopamine glam' instead — makeup that makes you feel good. According to the pro, it's something everyone can get on board with, regardless of your skin texture or makeup skills.
"While I'm super inspired by everything that's happening on TikTok and Instagram lately," said Sir John, "I'm going for more of a whimsical approach. When I say dopamine, I mean a slick of red lipstick or lots of blusher — anything that's unorthodox and against the standard, but with lots of fun colour. It's the anti 'clean girl' makeup. It's anti-trend."
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It doesn't have to be too out there. A splash of colour in the form of a bright lipstick, switching your traditional black eyeliner to something colourful or daubing a flash of pastel eyeshadow in the corners of your eyes is a nod to the feelgood movement.
"Post-pandemic, we're doing a temperature check when it comes to makeup," said Sir John. "It's not just about the outside look anymore. Instead, it's about whatever makes people feel connected to themselves. It's getting that dopamine, because it's nice to be in a place where we care more about how we feel than what we look like."
Sir John explains that dopamine glam is a far cry from the formulaic beauty looks of the late 2000s (think the Kardashian-Jenners, and Instagram makeup in 50 shades of nude). "Before, we were so formulaic and everyone was about perfection. That's not sexy anymore and it's not fun." In other words, anything goes where dopamine glam is concerned.
The makeup movement is beginning to take TikTok by storm, too. TikToker and model Tabitha Mary is the queen of colour pops, demonstrating how even the thinnest slick of purple, teal or pastel blue liner is enough to elevate any look — and your mood. Then there's Linasha, who proves that a swipe of red lipstick goes a long way to transform a look, and Myla — her yellow and green eye makeup looks are dopamine personified.
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First of all, Sir John recommends making sure you're doing the groundwork with your skincare. "A mattifying moisturiser or a primer is key, and then you can sheer out your coverage [whether you're using a tinted moisturiser, skin tint, foundation or concealer] with a wet egg sponge," like a Beautyblender. "Wherever you need more coverage, dial it up. The base is what makes dopamine glam look more modern." Try Rare Beauty Positive Light Tinted Moisturiser, $49, which boasts a wealth of shades.
Photo Courtesy of Tilly Ferrari.
Tilly Ferrari, London-based makeup artist and TikToker, is also making a case for dopamine glam, starting with an unusual blush shade. "Orange blush is the most slept-on makeup product," she says. "Paired with a tan, bright orange blush on the apples of the cheeks can brighten the whole complexion and help your eyes to stand out. It's bright enough to add more colour to your look but doesn't do the same amount of screaming as a blue eyeshadow." Plus, it works on all skin tones. Tilly likes Kevyn Aucoin Neo-Blush in Sunset, $57.
If you'd rather keep your base more traditional, Sir John rates L'Oréal Paris Infallible Longwear Matte Bronzer, $32. "Use a fluffy brush to apply this around the hairline and the sides of your face, then work inwards," he advised.
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"My favourite way to inject some colour will always be a colourful eyeliner," says Tilly. "It's far more wearable than most people think. Just load your lashes up with mascara and have a little colour peeking through." Tilly suggests starting off with a 'baby wing' at the outer corners for a little dash of colour, or liner smudged into the inner corner. Try NYX Professional Makeup's Epic Wear Eyeliner Pencil, $11.86, in various shades.
If you want to explore colour eyeshadow further, Tilly recommends a glitter or duo-chrome eyeshadow. "The latter has a colour shift, which is always stunning and really multifunctional. Applied sheerly over the lid and teamed with a black liner, it's a subtle way to inject some colour that catches the light when you turn your head."
If you're not big on eye makeup, artist Isamaya Ffrench predicts lipstick will make a huge comeback this summer, with punchy colours like orange and coral nailing the dopamine glam trend. "A lot of brands are doing unusual colour drops, for example Fenty Beauty," she told R29 recently, like the new Poutsicle Hydrating Lip Stains, $37, in a handful of bold, juicy reds. The key is to keep it matte (a lot easier to wear in warmer weather) to offset your glowier base.
Touch-ups are inevitable but Tilly's solution feels a little less like a chore. "A coloured lip balm is a great way to infuse a little more fun into makeup," she says, "even if you just dial it up slightly from a peach nude to an orange to begin with." In her own makeup bag, Tilly keeps Revlon Super Lustrous Glass Shine Lipstick in Dewy Peach, $14.99, and e.l.f. Hydrating Core Lip Shine in Giddy, $12, which provide a subtle wash of colour that perks up the skin.
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Unlike the one-size-fits-all 'clean girl' look, dopamine glam is about the feelgood factor and allows you to slot colour into your makeup as you see fit. As Tilly says, it's meant to be fun — and if you don't like it, you can always wipe it off. 
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