TikTok’s Brown Lip Liner ‘Trend’ Doesn’t Sit Right With Me

Photo Courtesy of Alicia Lartey.
Every so often a newly coined beauty trend piques our interest and totally consumes social media. Recently it happened with 'siren eyes', not to mention 'strawberry legs'. This time around, it is the very simple (yet totally beautiful) combination of brown lip liner and lip gloss.
The brown-toned lip is such a classic look — and nothing new — but it has set the internet ablaze this past week. Why? Because it's now trending under a different name.
Enter: 'brownie glazed lips'.
If TikTok is anything to go by, model Hailey Bieber was the first to name it so when she posted a video showing off her makeup. "Ready for all the fall things including brownie glazed lips 🥹✨✨✨🤎🤎🤎," she captioned the post, which has amassed 3.8 million views and counting.
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In a post-'clean girl' era, brown lip liner with a slick of gloss seems to be a natural progression in makeup trends. It shines a spotlight on the lips — a facial feature which has been subject to many beauty movements recently — and borrows from the simple, natural makeup looks that have taken over TikTok of late. But it seems that this one video has gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
On TikTok the general consensus is that the issue isn't the application of these lip products but instead the suggestion that a new trend had been invented. Hundreds of disdainful commenters quickly began to remind Hailey — and TikTok influencers who followed suit — that the lip combo has been around for years. Most importantly, it has been a go-to look for many people of colour.
"You meant 90s Latin inspired lip combo 🥰," observed one commenter. The backlash didn't end in the comments section, with countless stitches and duets made by Black and brown creators showing images of '90s supermodel Naomi Campbell and R&B princess Aaliyah wearing brown liner and gloss. In a video with 1 million views, TikToker @beautybyroxc (aka Rukshana Begum) wrote of the brown lip liner and lipstick combo: "I did this tutorial over a year ago for POC. But now it's trending and they call it brownie glazed lips."

This is more than just brown lip liner and a swipe of gloss. It goes deeper than that, particularly if you consider that lip products in various shades of brown have been makeup staples for Black and brown people for decades.

Rukshana captioned the clip: "No hate to anyone, but I find it so interesting how something that was hated becomes loved once it's trending. So this one is for my brown girls." @makeupbymonicaa captioned her tutorial "Another 'trend' taken away from us", adding the hashtags #browngirlmakeup, #pocmakeup and #makeupforwoc. Elsewhere, some TikTok creators said that the 'trend' was especially insulting during Latinx heritage month.
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So why the uproar? Well, this is much more than just brown lip liner and a swipe of gloss. It goes deeper than that, particularly if you consider that lip products in various shades of brown have been makeup staples in Black and brown communities for decades.
Dark lip liner and a lighter colour in the centre was a signature look of '80s and '90s Chola girls: Mexican-American women with a distinct makeup and fashion style. In the late '90s and '00s especially, brown lip liner became a go-to among many people of colour as a way to try and make the trend for 'nude' lipstick (which was typically only sold in 50 shades of pink) work on deeper skin tones. Brown lip liner, like MAC's Chestnut, was (and still is) used to seamlessly define lips and to lend a subtle transition from the natural colour of the lip line to the lip colour of choice.
Forget Hailey for a moment. A quick TikTok search for 'brown lip liner' and 'brown lipstick' throws up a sea of white faces in videos captioned "Don't be scared of brown lip liner" and "You NEED to start using brown lip liner". In an industry where diversity in shade ranges has lacked considerably, it makes sense that Black and brown makeup wearers have expressed disapproval. The consensus? Countless makeup trends like the ones currently taking over social media are a shoddy repackaging of beauty aesthetics which have been around for years.
It's no wonder, then, that white people renaming the brown lip liner and gloss look is considered appropriation. "Some people will say it's just a makeup look and it was popular in the '90s," said TikToker @riristea. "[Others] will say that people of colour have been doing some fashion and makeup trends for years, but when a white person does it, it's considered 'trendy' or 'cool'."
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Similarly, TikToker @addison024_ asked: "So I'm called ghetto when I do it but when a white girl does it, she's not?" Addison says that the reason why Latinas in particular would wear such dark lip liner with gloss is because beauty brands didn't have the exclusivity or right colours for their skin tone. "We would resort to eyeliner and eyebrow pencils."

Many brands — and social media — find white faces more palatable than Black and brown faces. As a creator myself, there is nothing more painful than watching someone else receive flowers for something you did first.

Speaking to Diet Prada, makeup artist Sir John (who counts Beyoncé and Gabrielle Union as clients) emphasised: "All you had was a lip liner and a clear gloss back in the day. We had to be creative and try things in an unorthodox way because of the lack of products for Black and Brown people." Others on TikTok are referring to the newly viral brown lip liner trend as the gentrification of makeup.
Content creator Alice T says that not only does this type of fanfare add to overconsumption and the fast turnover of trends but it erases the context from which it came. Alice emphasises the shared dismay of erasure that people of colour face in the beauty space, not least because cultural appropriation remains a huge issue within the beauty community.
Linasha, a blogger for dark skin representation in beauty, also feels strongly about this. She describes TikTok's obsession with brown lip liner as "ridiculous" and is dismayed at the profiting from and capitalising on people of colour. Makeup artists are also making their feelings known, including MayTahmi. In the comments section of a recent video of hers, people of colour laughed at the concept of brown lip liner and gloss being a new thing.
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Makeup trends tend to pick up steam when co-opted by white creators, often going viral and leading to brand deals but always excluding the original Black and brown artists. As a creator myself, there is nothing more painful than watching someone else receive flowers — not to mention be paid — for something you did first. To be blunt, many brands and social media find white faces more palatable than their Black and brown counterparts. There have been countless accusations of online censorship of women of colour in the past few years, for example.
The problem with giving others credit for a trend is that it erases the history and significance of Black and brown people by removing them from the conversation completely. As a result, people of colour are often passed up for opportunities within the beauty industry, or their work becomes a pin on a mood board for a white creator. This is personal to me. As a beauty expert, I have seen my creativity being used by white people for brand campaigns, for instance. It feels as though being Black means I don't deserve to be paid for my work. The brown lip liner trend struck a nerve with me in particular. Like most of TikTok, I couldn't quite understand how a concept so normal to me — a makeup lover — could be rehashed in this way.
It isn't just makeup. Many beauty trends appropriate well-known themes from Black and brown women without proper credit. 'Glazed' skin was a thing way before it was tied to celebrities. In fact, it was popularised on Twitter by aesthetician Tiara Willis, who is known for the hashtag #glazeddonutgang. Tiara uses the phrase to refer to a healthy and hydrated skin barrier. The skincare movement soon gained traction within the Twitter skincare sphere, which is largely spearheaded by Black aestheticians.
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Social media in general is the problem here. Influencers and beauty obsessives are so often convinced that they have invented a so-called trend without realising that they are appropriating culture. I have seen this type of malicious rebranding with beauty trends before. Not too long ago, 'body slugging' made an appearance on the trend list, which is simply applying Vaseline to your body. This is something my mum did for me as a child. A similar notion is 'hair slugging': a TikTok concept which involves slicking your hair with oil and leaving it on overnight for softer strands come morning. But hair slugging wasn't born on the app. To Indian women in particular, it's known as hair oiling and has been practised by people for centuries, writes Indian journalist Varsha Patel for Refinery29. As a young girl, Varsha says that she was often ridiculed for practising hair oiling. It is astounding that social media has the power to turn cultural traditions and distinct markers of Black and brown beauty communities into fleeting trends.
There's a solution to all of this. It's so easy to avoid backlash through some very simple research. The saying 'nothing is new under the sun' is highly accurate and it's not hard to work out whether a particular style or technique holds cultural significance for a group of people. I understand that mistakes are made; we're all human, of course. But that is the beauty of being able to delete content, edit captions or add a footnote with some sentiment of a proper makeup trend credit.
It seems makeup artist Sir John agrees. "When you have a megaphone that goes out to millions of young, impressionable people, it's your job to know," he concluded in his interview with Diet Prada. "As long as we're having the conversation about equity in beauty, we're in a good place."

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