How do we feel about this ‘looking sick’ makeup trend?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to forego makeup, only to be told by someone, “You look sick. Are you all right?” Of course, this is infuriating. Ladies should be able to go bare-faced without worrying about “looking sick.”
But now, there’s an actual makeup trend where people are purposely trying to look sick, because the world is a strange, strange place.
According to Refinery29, this is a huge thing in Japan, where women are following the “me no shita chiiku” (“undereye blush”) trend. That’s right: women are purposely putting blush so high up on their cheeks that it is literally underneath their eyes. The effect is an “allergy” look, as often, seasonal allergies are accompanied by red-rimmed eyes. In fact, the trend is called “byojaku” which means “sickly.”
“Byojaku is characterized by pale skin, puffy undereye bags … and reddish skin around the eyes,” writes Refinery’s Ellen Freeman. “The result is a fragile, doll-like appearance that suggests you’re in need of looking after.”
Not everyone believes that this is the purpose of the trend. In fact, according to RinRin, a popular Harajuku model, the blush “brings a more youthful and innocent look to the face,” since the “chiseled” appearance of normal blush can make you look more mature. Toyko-based makeup artist Mariko Tagayashi also supports the trend. “Wearing a blush under your eye makes the eye pop and stand out, while covering dark circles,” she told WGSN. “It is also known to portray a kind impression to others.”
However, others say that looking ill is exactly the purpose of the “me no shita chiiku” look. Japanese trend blogger Kanako Karita explains that “According to Japanese school girls, a sickly face consists of pale skin, worried brows, and slightly tinted cheeks and lips … This look gives off the unapproachable, damsel in distress vibe that makes people want to protect them.”
Reminds you a bit of Little Red Riding Hood, doesn’t it? In fact, just a few months ago, Twitter user TCB created a campaign on Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake to raise money for her Red Riding Hood eyeshadow palette to support the look.
This concerns us: if young girls—or women of any age at all, really—are purposely trying to look like “damsels in distress” who need to be “protected,” is this setting us back? Do we really want weakness and fragility to be a fashion statement? Or are we overanalyzing women’s faces and overblowing a cultural trend that’s been misinterpreted? We’re not sure how to feel about this.
Cultural beauty trends, as we’ve seen in the past, are more complicated than they may appear on the surface, and, at the same time, women are often scrutinized for their appearance no matter what they do. But a trend that could be glorifying the concept of fragility in young women certainly raises a lot of questions about the ethics of beauty and the direction it’s going in. And that’s a cause for some concern.