If any of your most formative years were spent in the pre-social media age, the most captivating beauty trends of the moment might be more than a little shocking. The internet’s hyper-sharable nature, of course, makes it wildly easy to swap inspiration, aesthetic touchstones, and even elements of once-backstairs subcultures — including those that used to be seen exclusively in experimental editorials. Welcome to the “Glam Ghoul” beauty trend, a smeary, sultry blend of gothic, industrial, and futuristic elements that take makeup motifs once thought of as unflattering or extreme and turns them into the most coveted look of the season.
You’ve probably already seen the Glam Ghoul look, too, though it’s just now reaching its full zenith. At London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023, makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench punked up the Poster Girl show with faux piercings, spiked brows, and sweatlike makeup. Love her or hate her, Julia Fox’s...singular approach to beauty and fashion reverberated through the industry, making bloodshot eyes and sunken cheeks accessories in their own right. Really, that abjection is the key to this entire aesthetic — looking exhausted, preoccupied, unpredictable, and even a little feral is what elevates the Glam Ghoul trend out of mall goth territory and firmly into the realm of high-fashion.
Along with a piercing stare thats’s supposed to be menacing (but often ends up looking more pharmaceutically-induced, perhaps on purpose), the Glam Ghoul look is marked first and foremost by an outward bucking of typical “beauty norms” — there’s no concern for things like definition or bright, look-alive colors here. Celebrity makeup artist Allison Kaye is quick to point out that while the look is distinct and almost skeleton-like, it’s not at all costume or Halloween makeup and shouldn’t be treated as such. She notes three main elements of the aesthetic, all instrumental for recreating it at home: an invisible brow, hollow eyes, and a nude lip color that’s a near match for your own natural one.
Many of the most notable figureheads of the aesthetic, including model-creatives Princess Gollum and Gabbriette, seem to be inspiring more and more “mainstream” celebrities like Doja Cat, Fox, and even Kylie Jenner, who just appeared on Instagram in her take on the trademark look. Interestingly, Jenner seems to have either left the photo’s red-eye error as-is or added it in after the fact.
Princess Gollum and Doja Cat have both experimented with red contacts on several occasions, which illustrates an often overlooked piece of the aesthetic: a nod to the supernatural or even extraterrestrial.
If you’re looking to recreate the vibe or even just borrow bits of its edgy nature to fold into your own personal style, the easiest place to start is with the brows. Because we’re psychologically conditioned to expect eyebrows on a human — it’s part of why movies and shows about aliens alter brows first to convey an otherworldly feel — removing or camouflaging brows automatically introduces edge and a disregard for convention. Fortunately, there’s no need to actually shave or even bleach them. Borrow a trick from drag queens and stage performers and slick them down with a gluestick before applying concealer and powder, or leave them as-in but blend into your natural skin color with concealer or paint pots. “I would [use] a concealer pot, like the ones from NYX or MAC, and take a spoolie and brush through the eyebrows,” Kaye explains, adding that all you’re doing is simply lightening or darkening them to match your skin tone. “You can also take a root color spray that you would typically use on your hair, but spray that onto a spoolie and run through your brow hairs as well.”
According to celebrity and editorial makeup artist Lilly Keys — who works with stars like Olivia Rodrigo, Charli XCX, and Lexi Underwood — the beauty of this ‘90s-inspired look is just how imperfect it’s supposed to look. Keys says its undone nature lends well to everyday makeup, even if you’re not quite wading into the aesthetic’s more extreme end yet. “One of my favorite ways to do this is to use a pencil liner to line the outer and inner corner lash line, whilst leaving the middle lash line bare,” she explains. “Simply blend the eyeliner in with your fingers for that smudgy effect.”
Some called the so-called goth revival of the 2020s toothless, but this divergent trend finally has the bite many have been craving. For many, the appeal of darker subcultures has always been inherent — a subculture by definition exists outside the norm, traditionally welcoming those who’d feel like outcasts anywhere else and giving them a place for self-expression. While you could never call anything Kylie Jenner does subversive, the willingness to experiment beyond the usual is a promising harbinger of trends to come.