Perhaps you've heard: These are unprecedented times. Did you know? Things are weird and bad and sad in a lot of ways right now, and we're all just taking it day by day, trying to figure out our own ways to cope and find our own moments of joy. Amidst this backdrop, it's been interesting to see certain trends bubbling up on social media, particularly in the beauty space. And no, I'm not talking about botched quarantine self-haircuts. I'm looking at you, Sailor-Moon-inspired makeup tears flooding my Instagram feed.
This is the makeup trend I've been most taken with of late. It's maudlin yet campy and fun, mesmerizing to watch come to life and conveys just the right amount of anguish for these dark times — but in, like, a fun way. It's the Harlequin tear of the modern era. And it's really having a moment.
Tearful makeup isn't exactly new. See: aforementioned Harlequin face paint, not to mention the glitter tears that were oh-so-trendy back in 2016, and the many iterations of makeup tears we've seen on the Gucci runway, created by the talented hand of makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver. But this particular version, which depicts dramatic, flowing tears cascading down from the eyes and over the cheeks is a cartoonish, exaggerated take with which it's hard not to be enamored.
I first spotted this look in my Instagram feed via Mi-Anne Chan, a video director at Condé Nast entertainment who often posts videos and photos of her elaborate, artful makeup experiments on the platform. Her video displays a close-up shot of her face as she paints flowing blue lines down her cheeks and tops them with glitter. She cited Sailor Moon and Ali, a makeup artist based in Houston who is known on Instagram as @iservelookz, as her inspiration for the look.
Ali, it seems, should be credited as one of the originators of this trend, as she's actually been experimenting with several different versions of it dating back to at least October of last year, per her Instagram feed. (She could not be reached for interview for this story.)
The flowing-tear makeup trend has also begun to appear outside of social media, with a life in commercial beauty. To promote its Pride Edition eyeliner, Nyx Cosmetics created a rainbow version — not a bad way to showcase a full shade range, it seems.
For her part, Chan was drawn to this look for its emotional catharsis. "I've been pretty emotional these past few weeks — aren't we all — so I've been spending a lot of time in my feelings looking up cute images that make me feel better like fluffy cats, cakes and Sailor Moon memes. All this time remembering Sailor Moon made me think about how I've always loved watching the characters on that show cry. They have such a way of illustrating a good, cathartic weep, whether it's by shedding a single tear or an avalanche of dramatic tears," she says.
That reminded her of Ali (@Iservelookz)'s makeup tears, and she decided to try her own version. "I really wanted to play up the texture of water and tears with this one using gloss and glitter. The focus is definitely on the stream of tears running down my face, but I decided to keep the look cohesive by applying a clear gloss — Tower28 gloss in Chill — on my eyelids and lips. Then, went in with some glitter just under the eyes to make it look like my tears were glistening."
Chan sees this tearful trend as an apt symbol for the times. "I don't want to speak for everyone, but I'm feeling very emotionally raw right now. Some days I wake up feeling great, some days I wake up feeling horrible....I think there's a lot of power in a good, cathartic cry, the kind that's physical and visceral and makes you feel exhausted and ultimately better after. There's also a nod of nostalgia in this look that's like a safety blanket right now. It feels nice to remember those things."
The look really resonated with Chan's 50,000+ followers; her post garnered more than 106,000 views, inspiring many to try out their own makeup tears. "There's a lot of love for Sailor Moon out there, so I wasn't surprised that people resonated with the look in the comments, but I am really surprised at how many people have tried this look at home. It's not a very 'wearable' look by any means and it makes me so happy to see people painting their faces and setting up mini photoshoots in their bedrooms," she says.
One such follower is Tynan Sinks, a copywriter for Becca Cosmetics, who spotted Chan's version of the look on Instagram and gave it a go for himself. "Mi-Anne is such a huge inspiration to me. I love it because we each have our own unique perspective on beauty, but we share a love of color and bold looks," he says.
For him, the Sailor Moon tears weren't necessarily reflective of any particular mental state or message, but rather a way to occupy his time while socially isolating. "I think this look is most appealing because we're bored. Drawing on your face is the perfect distraction," he says. "I mean, I know we're all locked up and feel like shit, and perhaps the Sailor Moon tears are a very literal representation of the panic and anxiety and sadness that is eating away at everyone, every day. I'm sure that some people see this look expressing the longing to go outside and run around in the summer sun, and missing our friends and the affection, physical and otherwise, from the people we love. But I just thought it was cute."
Finding joy in this social media-based micro trend has been helpful for Sinks, and he's content to let campy makeup just be what it is: campy makeup. "I feel like people are always looking for a deeper meaning with makeup, especially from people who don't identify as cis women. So much of the time, for me at least, makeup just is what it is: pretty and fun. Beauty means so many different things to so many different people. To some, it's expression, to others it's survival. But also, beauty for the sake of beauty is okay," he says. "No one asks guys why they choose to, I don't know, grow a dumbass mustache or whatever. I don't feel like artists should always have to justify why they put on makeup. I drew a beautiful gradient of tears on my face because I was curious about what my interpretation of the look would be, and then I took them off and made dinner, you know?"
Homepage/main photo: Courtesy of Mi-Anne Chan
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