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Anyone who has been to a ’90s theme party knows the Barbiecore makeup trend of 2022 isn’t new, but it has certainly evolved. As most do, this trend has seen new life among TikTok beauty gurus and other makeup aficionados demonstrating how to do Barbie makeup in a modern era. Predictable washes of baby pink have been replaced by muted makeup looks and graphic liner moments that still capture the fun-loving essence of Barbiecore.
Opposite the makeup spectrum from the “clean girl aesthetic,” the Barbiecore aesthetic has clear roots to the hyper-feminine beauty trends of the ‘90s and early 2000s, when hot-pink Barbie Jeeps and Dream Houses were social currency and Elle Woods’ pink leather co-ord set was on every mood board. Both the beauty and fashion industries are in the midst of a ‘90s and 2000s renaissance, but the release of early photos from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie—to premiere in July 2023—set the internet aflame with mostly one wish: We all want to feel as happy and carefree as Margot Robbie does against a backdrop of pink everything.
Loud, hot-pink eyeshadow doesn’t sit on your face unnoticed, nor do glowing arcs of pink blush tracing your cheekbones. Just as others take notice when you enter a room like this—Barbiecore makeup fully activated—your own mindset can shift, too. While you obviously look different, you feel different. This much is true for celebrity makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran, who beams from my computer screen as we chat via Zoom about the rapid surge in popularity of bright, exaggerated, and largely pink makeup, fashion, and decor—dubbed “Barbiecore.”
“I had something different on, and I was like, ‘I’m not feeling the vibe,’” she tells me. “And now, I want to be on camera because I feel confident.”
On camera, Jaikaran, too, is Barbiecore personified, but with a fresh twist. She wears a hot-pink, sleeveless blazer, complemented by a full face of Mary Kay makeup. From pink Cadillacs to lip colors, Mary Kay is both synonymous with the color pink, and a trusted staple in makeup kits during the ‘90s and early aughts that’s evolved into the age of TikTok. Jaikaran created her eye makeup look using Mary Kay’s Warm Hues Eyeshadow Palette ($39), a six-pan collection of matte and shimmer finishes. She says she reaches for this palette often for its versatility across skin tones and across makeup styles.
“You can get your everyday looks in, but you can also play around with other [bolder] colors, like ‘Purple Vibes’ or “Sienna Skies,’” she says. “You don’t always have to do the traditional [eyeshadow] placements. For me, I did my bright pop of color on the inner corner with a fluffy eyeshadow blending brush.”
Combined with deep pink blush and pearlescent lip gloss, Jaikaran’s eye look—overall neutral save for the shimmering pink radiating from her inner corner — isn’t as much a severe grab-bag of pink hues as it is a dimensional gradient that’s equal parts fun and wearable. There’s nothing wrong with the former, but Jaikaran’s more subdued Barbiecore makeup is certainly easier and more accessible for those of us who need to dip our toes into the trend before being fully baptized in the church of Barbie.
Trying Barbiecore makeup IRL is just as fun as it looks.
My own makeup preferences range from “barely there” to “face-planted on a pile of glitter“. I’m not scared of loading up on color, but I do appreciate a trend with range. So, I tested Barbiecore’s versatility, first taking a cue from Jaikaran with a subtle Barbiecore makeup look and eventually transforming that look into something more… extra.
Following my typical light foundation routine using Armani Beauty Neo Nude Foundation ($44), I whipped out my own Mary Kay Warm Hues Eyeshadow Palette and basked in the reflective glow of the shimmer shades before blending “Sienna Skies” into my crease with a fluffy eyeshadow brush. Next, I took a smaller, slightly more dense eyeshadow brush and softly swirled “Purple Vibes” into my inner corner, focusing on diffusing the outer edges into a soft gradient.
To make the shade appear a bit lighter and pinker on my skin tone, I layered on a touch of “Peach Daydream” and “Golden Possibilities” with my finger. I smudged a mix of “Dream Big Brown” and “Purple Vibes” along my upper and lower lash lines, and I lightly filled in my brows with Benefit Cosmetics’ Precisely My Brow Pencil ($25). I topped the eye look off with a healthy amount of the TikTok-viral Maybelline Sky High Mascara ($9.48).
To finish my base makeup, I concealed my under-eye area and any redness with the Kosas Revealer Concealer ($28), and I carved out my cheekbones with Charlotte Tilbury’s Glow Cream Bronzer ($56). For a peach-tinted blush look, I buffed out the shade “Sienna Skies” from the Warm Hues palette onto my cheeks and dabbed a touch of Rare Beauty’s Liquid Luminizer Highlight ($22) on the tops of my cheekbones.
After, I dabbed on Pat McGrath’s Lip Fetish Divinyl Lip Shine ($38) in “Boudoir Rosé,” followed by several swipes of the Mary Kay Unlimited Lip Gloss ($16) in “Pink Ballerina,” a favorite of Jaikaran’s. “Every time my friends ask me what I’m wearing, I’m like, ‘Stop sleeping on this lip gloss,’” she says. “It’s really lightweight, it’s not sticky, and it feels super comfortable on the lips.”
With one coat, I can confirm the formula’s ultra-creamy texture is unmatched. But considering I spent the better part of my childhood with an unhealthy attachment to my own Ballerina Barbie, the name alone sold me.
The result was a glowing everyday makeup look that, to me, captured the whimsy at the heart of the Barbiecore trend.
Not long after I finished this look, my extra gene kicked in like clockwork. A chorus of voices whispering “Come on, Barbie, let’s go party” in my head grew louder and louder. Before I knew it, I was flourishing a brush full of SUVA Beauty’s Hydra FX Liner ($16) in neon pink across my eyelid. I frantically layered on more blush, using Makeup By Mario’s Soft Pop Powder Blush ($24) in “Poppy Pink.” I swept on more “Pink Ballerina” until it was practically dripping off my lips. It was a lot, and it was perfect. I looked like the earlier me’s cooler, older sister who’d kill your high school bully with backhanded kindness and buy you alcohol when your parents weren’t looking.
Barbiecore makeup changed me — physically and emotionally.
Both looks are cut from the same cloth. Although different, they utilize color in interesting ways, and they convey a similar sense of cheerfulness and positivity. Clearly, the Barbiecore trend is adaptable. But I didn’t expect just how much these looks would also boost my mood.
“There is definitely a link between doing your makeup and mood. When we think about happiness, we think about things that bring us joy and things that make us feel accomplished,” says Rachel Wien, PsyD, NYC-based psychologist and founder of Milestone CBT. “Doing makeup can bring us joy in the sense of enjoying the act of doing it and, of course, enjoying the results of how we look after doing it. It also can make us feel accomplished in the sense of having done something for ourselves, [exploring] new trends, or getting better at perfecting a certain technique or look.”
To be clear, a bright pink makeup look certainly isn’t a panacea for negative emotions or the laundry list of doom in the headlines. It is, however, an easy way to lift your spirits or express your creativity. Of course, I can experience these and more positive emotions when I’m not wearing makeup, but I’d be lying if I said that, sometimes, covering my face in sparkles and color didn’t make it easier to conjure up feelings of confidence or levity.
I looked like the earlier me’s cooler, older sister who’d kill your high school bully with backhanded kindness and buy you alcohol when your parents weren’t looking.
I’m not alone in this feeling. Several studies have supported the idea that being creative can make you feel happier. And according to Wien, makeup as a mood-boosting activity really comes down to time spent dedicated to something you enjoy. “This can be true for many people — many who wear bright, fun clothing tend to be more confident in their style choices and themselves overall. If someone enjoys fashion or beauty, playing around with color and trend can lead to excitement and joy.”
Jaikaran, on the other hand, thinks people just want to have fun—something naturally embedded in the Barbiecore trend. “Before, [the overall approach to makeup] was like, ‘Well, you have to do this and you have to do that,” she says. “And now, people are like, ‘No, I’m going to do it this way, and I’m going to have fun with it.’”
I tried my hand at Barbiecore makeup after several months of wearing little to no makeup. If I’m being honest, mustering up the energy to apply a full, colorful makeup look felt futile, given the ceaseless cycle of terrible current event after terrible current event. But finally taking the time to sit down and play with color felt like I was returning home as the prodigal son. If only for the couple hours I spent with myself, swiping and blending and painting, I felt calm and focused. Looking in the mirror after I finished, I felt like me again, the girl who throws any color on her face with reckless abandon and loves it. I felt ready to do all the things and make all the plans and throw my head back laughing at things that aren’t even that funny. In the spirit of Barbie, I felt like I could be anything. I won’t be letting that feeling go anytime soon.