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Glam grunge makeup is having a moment — again

Fashion Beauty Runway - glam grunge makeup is having a moment — again
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I know what you’re thinking right now: “It’s October, and that’s why this look is coming up again.” Well, of course, seasonal weather does play a part in our beauty mood du jour. But there is more to this sombre palette than meets the eye. Well, at least we’re moving away from the dreaded and oh-so-predictable-for-fall pumpkin spice latte. 

Grunge is clearly picking up. And in the last year, that was fuelled by the gloomy look favoured by Wednesday Addams that popped up everywhere when the show was streaming and everyone talked about it. For instance, the hashtag #grunge has picked over 7 billion views on TikTok. And breakouts like #grungeaesthetic (864 million views) and #grungemakeup (107 million views) are also trending strong. 

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Where Does This trend Originate From? 

Grunge is not a new phenomenon. It sprung in the early 90s on the music scene of Seattle where alternative bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden popularized a raw sound that influenced the culture and style of an entire generation

Its key components, like combat boots, flannel checkered shirts and cargo pants, were practical for staying warm in the damp climate of the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it’s true, lingerie, slip dresses and vintage 1940s and 1950s flower print dresses did play an important part for girls who also shaped the grunge aesthetic. And layering. The early part of the 90s decade was also the time vintage and second-hand shops started becoming cool fashion destinations for sourcing unique items. Those were probably the last years without fast fashion, which only started pouring into stores at the turn of the millennium, with quickly made, cheaper items manufactured in colossal quantities in Asia. But that’s another story. 

Grunge makeup, the logical extension of grunge style into beauty, was also a way to express one’s individuality and attitude, as well as to rebel against the mainstream beauty standards of the time, which were largely targeted towards the career woman: a palette of shiny reds for the lips, healthy rosy cheeks, and taupes and beiges for the eyes. 

Grunge, on the other hand, featured matte and slightly paler skin, smudgy eyeliner, dark lipstick, and cool-toned eyeshadow. It was also a more undone evolution of the goth looks that surfaced in London in the late ’70s and early ’80s, where an all-black makeup palette was the way to show a morose persona. 

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The Revival of Grunge Makeup

Grunge makeup faded away in the late 90s, as raves and sunny pop music ushered in by bands like The Spice Girls invaded the airwaves and party scene, with loads of glitter and glossy lips (Hello Juicy Tubes!) However, at the onset of the 2010s, thanks to the influence of TV shows like Gossip Girl, mainly through the tough girl character Jenny Humphrey and tons of photos of Tumblr — the cool social media of the era —, grunge was back with a new twist, which was more refined. Grunge makeup also became more inclusive, as people experimented with different colours, textures, and techniques.

In 2023, grunge makeup is back, but this time with a glam upgrade. Of course, the grunge of this year is still greatly inspired by the OG look, but now it’s more refined and polished. It still features the signature elements of grunge makeup, such as smoky eyes, bold lips, and matte skin, but with a touch of glitter, gloss, or highlighter to add some dimension and shine.

How It’s Worn in 2023 

According to Breanne Gershon, a makeup artist from Calgary, and winner of the Contessa for Best Canadian Makeup Artist of the year 2023, “glam grunge makeup is an intentionally thought-out style choice. It’s not a lived-in look. It’s taking the elements of a Barbie-style look but adding edge.” She believes the style is more of an attitude. It’s confidence and intelligence, while being shameless in its femininity. “I think so often people stereotype the Barbie/glam style. Being the maximum version of that character; and being able to laugh about it. That’s glam grunge to me,” she says. 

The glam grunge makeup trend has been spotted on many celebrities and designers who are known for their edgy and daring style. For instance, Rihanna has been rocking glam grunge looks for years. Just look at her signature dark lipstick, smouldering eyes, and flawless skin. Julia Fox (who dated Kanye for, like, two seconds) has been favouring extremely controversial looks in the last two years, pairing them with glam grunge looks like skinny brows and smutty dark eyeshadow. And Jenna Ortega, the OG who plays Wednesday Addams in Netflix’s Wednesday, has been showing off her glam grunge skills with space buns and stained lips. 

The glam grunge makeup trend has also been seen on the runway, as designers like Christian Dior , Alice + Olivia , and Louis Vuitton have incorporated it into their collections.  The runway looks have been more dramatic and artistic than the everyday ones, featuring exaggerated eyeliner shapes, metallic eyeshadow shades, and graphic lips.

For Breanne, “a great example is an eyebrow with a slit shaved in on an otherwise perfect eyebrow and face of makeup. It’s a dichotomy. It’s hyper-femininity and edgy. Done precisely, I think it really draws you in.” 

Technically speaking, she sees the current version of glam grunge as “a full face of natural finish foundation with soft matte setting powder, powder blush and two-dimensional highlights on the cheek and brow bone with a nice groomed brow, alongside soft glitter on the lid with a well-fitted lash and super precise liner.” The lips? They can even go soft, with a nude or a baby pink shade. 

As we can see, this version of the once very dark look has become much more adaptable for different occasions and preferences. And, in fact, rules have flown out the door when it comes to what is more ‘day’ or ‘night.’ For men or women. Young or old. If you like it, flaunt it! 

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