The problem with TikTok’s ‘clean girl’ aesthetic

Robert Hundley

“You know those women that normally glimpse clean? Their skin is constantly glossed, and they by no means seem like they are donning much too significantly makeup? You might not be them, but here is how to get their appear.” 

This is a trending audio that you have most likely observed courtesy of the TikTok FYP (thank you algorithm). While TikTok has released us to lots of micro-trends and aesthetics that leave us spiraling just one thirty day period, then forgetting them the future — the “clear girl” aesthetic has pierced by itself skin-deep into the subconscious of chronically on the net users everywhere you go. 

When the idea of the clean lady has been about for decades, it has normally appeared on Black and Brown women — a heritage of slicked-again buns, gold hoops, and buttery skin have now been co-opted and diminished to a mere craze, now represented by white gals. Via its TikTok virality, pictures of how to behave, appear and even consume like a clear female have uncovered society’s innate capacity to reinforce exclusionary Euro-centric elegance expectations. These beliefs have been extensive-standing barometers of class notion, building “capital beauty” the fighting force-feeding deceptions of desirability that can only be acquired. These expectations seemingly uphold hierarchal natural beauty norms that are generally unattainable, expensive, racist, texturist, or fatphobic. 

For decades, influencers have been regurgitating various types of inaccessible capital natural beauty in the construction of aesthetic video clips, fashionable mood boards, and unrelatable life-style posts. In creating exclusionary life-style bonds with their audience for engagement, influencers subscribe to the cleanse girl aesthetic because it amplifies present privileges like being skinny, having clear pores and skin, and straight hair. The aesthetic feels reminiscent of recycled tendencies like “a working day in my daily life” or “morning regime” video clips due to its structure showcasing seemingly excellent dwelling decor, expensive elegance solutions, and an “I woke up like this” mentality. This facade of easy existence, finally unraveling as an visual appearance influencers have expended hrs curating, is getting flushed out to grand audiences.

In an endeavor to improperly diversify this aesthetic, 1 creator posted “Clean Lady aesthetic but make it Black,” a thread that includes skinny Black women with straight hair in gentle-glowy make-up and neutral-toned garments. The common thread that garnered more than 92k likes is sparking dialogue amongst typically Black ladies. One tweet reads: “The difficulty with the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic is that it only signifies skinny, slim, unfastened curl textured desirable Black ladies with no blemishes on their confront, implying that any one outside of that aesthetic is dirty. You can just simply call it minimalist makeup.” 

The authentic thread sparked controversy, revealing the present mildew Black girls had been squeezing into, not only as a way to assimilate but also to steer clear of stereotypes. The debate on the cleanse woman aesthetic forced creators to turn inward and problem how internalized perceptions of Black women was fueling their possess misogynoir. Related trends like “Black girl luxurious” and “slow-residing” perpetuate a movement that uplifts wealthy skinny gals with zits-no cost faces and excludes others, subconsciously aligning with euro-splendor criteria. 

Rian Phin, social commentator, creator, and video producer based mostly in New York, states present day poisonous obsession with effortless splendor tactics is that, regardless of how developments shift, they invariably exist to ostracize very poor persons and those people who lack proximity to hegemonic benchmarks of desirability. “The ‘clean girl’ aesthetic says to me that we are even now seeking for strategies as a society to enhance hierarchies and create kinds of exclusion in the splendor place,” Rian claims. “Where once, the magnificence sphere was about inaccessible beauty product hoarding and paying out hrs mastering make-up approaches, now it can be about spending the same revenue and time on skincare, facial remedies, lash extensions, and so forth.”

As Western minimalist and elitist propaganda send indicators of contacting no-makeup makeup looks cleanse, it carries the connotation that grandiose actions of attractiveness, experimental glam, and cultural signifiers are dirty. It is no coincidence that the aesthetic framed by White girls that incorporate notions of cleanliness and minimalism panders to obscure types of femininity and purity tradition.

“The clean woman aesthetic is so special but so derivative,” Rian proceeds. “It’s inherently special but exists as an amalgamation of uptown white female lifestyle and Black and Latin 90s aesthetics.”

“Thoroughly clean female reminds me of the 2017 nameplate and white Air Forces pattern for people who would’ve by no means been caught lifeless in it just before, but for magnificence. The slicked-again buns and tiny gold hoops, paired with matching $100 a piece exercise outfits. They appear so very simple and attainable, but that’s what will make them so unique. Men and women who want to take part usually are not perceived equally. It’s disturbing how it isn’t really cleanse lady if you have no makeup, or even a no makeup seem, if you have significant cystic acne breakouts.” 

The concealment of labor and exertion eternalizes that the no-makeup makeup looks we have been executing is a system to disguise seems of anxiety connected to poverty, ailment, or the failure to suppress the body’s pure secretion. In Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Elegance Politics in Neoliberalism by Ana Sofia Elias, the author discusses how world capitalism “gathers the entire world into a person, the creating of a system requires on a form that flattens distinctions (even though not completely), and the making of femininity is marked by a concealment of the perform of physique making.” The writer carries on by declaring: “This work is so integrated into the acquire up of femininity that we may possibly be ignorant of the processes we have interaction in. In so considerably as we are conscious of them, we are inspired to translate the perform of carrying out so into the classes of ‘fun’, of staying ‘healthy’ and of ‘looking after ourselves’.”  

Specially in lockdown, many people today ended up seeking to outwardly accomplish an very easily perfect lifestyle, but some of the severe realities — like the mask-induced ‘mascne’ and the tension pimples that lockdown cultivated — uncovered how a lot operate was getting place into showing easy. Existence hit, and the only persons who were being residing leisurely ended up the uber-wealthy. 

In a chapter titled “Mapping Gross Bodies: The Regulatory Politics of Disgust” from Aesthetic Labour, author Breanne Fahs explains that women of all ages “explained feeling burdened with the task of taking care of unruly bodies, retaining ‘appropriate’ requirements of cleanliness, hairlessness, and thinness, and hoping that they would not offend or otherwise move outdoors of the boundaries of acceptable bodies.” It implies that everything slipping outdoors the bounds of ‘cleanliness’ will be regarded not only as out-of-pattern, but offensive. 

“The language of ‘gross bodies’ hence permeates women’s understanding of their own and others’ bodies,” she adds. “The need to willpower their have, generally-failing, always-in-need-of-maintenance, constantly-problematic bodies appeared each in overt and subtextual approaches all through women’s narratives about their bodies. Getting ‘too much’ represented a constant concern in women’s descriptions of fatness, system hair, and menstrual sexual intercourse.”

In latest improvements in the direction of embracing genuine no-makeup skin and the actuality of natural beauty, there have been a number of strategies still left unedited in pursuit of “getting real” about what pores and skin in fact seems to be like. As the tradition shifts from centering wellness tradition, nutritious dwelling, and minimalism by the lens of whiteness, thinness, and perfectly textured pores and skin, the future of attractiveness primed to rise in its put will with any luck , depart the clean woman aesthetic powering. 

Abide by i-D on Instagram and TikTok for a lot more on attractiveness and social media traits.

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