TikTok beauty trends have a unique way of making me feel both seen and exposed. I’ll explain. In the pursuit of finding niche beauty hacks that work on my specific features — especially my Black features — I’ve become extremely self-aware about all the various nuts and bolts that make me, well… me. After all, it’s through time well-spent scrolling on TikTok that I now know that the siren eyes trend works well on my #hoodedeyes, that there’s an ideal way to contour my long, #oblongface, and, in more recent scrolling activity, that I have a prominent “double lipline” — and I may have been applying my lipstick incorrectly all along.
As a Black woman with full lips and a thick lip line around the border, the emerging double lip line videos on TikTok — which are currently garnering more than 6 million views on the social media app — are speaking directly to people with lips like mine. It’s a term spearheaded by Śola, a Black fashion journalist and UK-based content creator whose channel BeautyByŚola has been going viral for her make-up videos about her own double lip line. As she explains in her videos, it’s something Rihanna, FKA twigs, Gigi Hadid and more are said to have (and importantly, are celebrated for) yet double lip lines can be tricky when it comes to applying lip liner. Videos explaining how to effectively line lips like these are designed to be helpful but some have accused them of making people hyper-aware of something they may have otherwise been oblivious to. So what exactly is a double lip line and why should we care?
What exactly is a double lip line?
The phrase “double lip line” was coined by Śola after she learned she has a prominent vermilion border, which is the line just above the coloured portion that connects the lip tissue to the rest of your face. For some, this demarcation line between their lips and their skin is more defined and noticeable than others. It can mean that when applying lip liner and lipstick, the colour can bleed or look unnatural.
Speaking to Unbothered, Śola explains that she began exploring double lip lines out of a genuine desire to learn more about her own.
“It's all about lips right now,” she says over Zoom. “It started with all the various lip kits, and then everyone wanted to have full lips and started to get lip filler. As a Black woman with naturally full lips, I couldn’t figure out why my lip liner never looked good when I put it on. So I began researching and learned about the vermilion border.”
“I always said I had a double lip line because that's the only way I could describe it,” she continues. “And the only other person I saw had it was Rihanna. And I thought you know what, there has to be a way because she always looks fly”.
Śola explains in more detail that lip liner techniques like overlining can smudge or look unnatural if you have a strong vermilion border. In her videos, she explains to her followers the most effective placement of lip liner along the inner perimeter of the lip and recommends the use of neutral tone lip liner that matches your skin tone when using any shade of lipstick. For me, an avid lipstick wearer, these tips have been extremely helpful for creating a more defined pout.
“I thought, I'm gonna make a video on this, now that I've actually finally mastered [how to line my lips properly]. The double lip line is similar to videos I’ve done about ‘how to wash your braids properly’ or ‘how to do your passion twists’ or what are the best sunscreens for darker skin’, I have to talk about it because if I'm thinking it, someone else might be thinking it.”
Is a double lip line worth being self-conscious about?
Not everyone has been thrilled with the double lip-line discourse. As one user posted, “TikTok, I’m begging you, stop making sh*t up, what the hell a double lip line? Everyone has that to varying degrees.” Yet, despite some minor backlash, Śola is unfazed and wants to make clear that the videos are born out of her own real desires for her own features to be represented.
“Cosmetic surgeries and lip fillers have become more popular over the [last] decade or so, and people are much more exposed to having big lips, but this hasn't always been a thing,” she explains.
“When I was younger, I didn't see anyone that looked like me and I was bullied for the way my lips looked,” she says. “And it was hard for me to position myself in a space of thinking I was beautiful because I didn't see anyone with lips that looked like mine. While everyone in my family had full lips and looked similar to me, growing up all I saw were shows like Sweet Valley High and they didn't have lips like mine. So when I finally got into makeup, and I was putting on makeup, I didn't know how to do it.”
As a teen in the noughties, I hard relate to Śola’s journey of learning to love her full lips when they were once something people ridiculed. Yet, I’d personally never heard or cared about my double lip line before now. Could making an example out of it on TikTok make some more self-aware about their face and beauty than is perhaps healthy?
“Just because you may be late to it, doesn't necessarily mean other people may not be struggling with that particular thing,” Śola says. “I was never told when I was younger, that it was a nice, good thing to have, maybe you did, but I wasn't exposed to that. There are a lot of people who have had the same issue as me,” she adds.
“This is why I believe we need to encourage esteem in people that have these natural attributes that weren't esteemed before, because, for a long time, they’ve subconsciously, like myself, thought [they were] not good enough. But now, I shifted my thinking; this is actually something I can really work with. I know it's beautiful. And I know it's unique. I am reinforcing that by learning to work with my unique attributes,” she says.
Śola suggests that like with the natural hair community, where Black people began to learn about how to work with their specific hair textures, learning how to work with your specific lip shape opens you up to a better understanding of how makeup works on your face.
“It’s actually quite simple. It’s not something to be insecure about but something to celebrate. If my videos help you, then this is for you. If it's not, it's okay, it's cool. It's fine.”
In many ways, extremely niche and nuanced makeup tutorials are just more examples of representation within beauty. And, having more tailored tips only really leads to better makeup. This is certainly true for Śola.
“I feel like — especially among Black women — our lips tend to stand out for many of us. And they can be a centre stage part of our face. Now I get complimented a lot on my lips, and I now love the parts of my lips I used to be bullied for. And now when I do my lips with this new understanding of how to apply my lip liner and my lipstick, it doesn't look as if the makeup is wearing me.”
“It’s funny,” she adds. “I know other cultures do this too, but remember when our aunties and mums used to do the lip line and the gloss back in the nineties? They had the blueprint all along.”