Dishing the Dirt on the ‘Clean Girl’ Aesthetic

Hannah Bentley

You may have seen the ‘clean girl’ trend circulating on TikTok or noticed celebrities like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner fashioning the minimal make-up look. At first glance, this might appear to be just another beauty craze. However, the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic has shone a light on the issue of inclusivity in the world of beauty.

The look can be characterised by girls with clear dewy skin, fluffy eyebrows and slicked back hair in a low bun (usually held by a claw clip). The aim is to achieve a ‘model off duty’ vibe. The women often wear minimalist jewellery and clothing such as gold hoops and plain but expensive-looking trousers and tank tops.

This TikTok trend follows a recent surge in skincare and wellness that took off during the pandemic. Many people took the lockdown as an opportunity to build healthier habits and focus on taking care of their skin. But whilst this look seems easy enough to achieve with a base layer of SPF and a bit of concealer, there are plenty of people who feel excluded and forgotten.

So does this mean BIPOC and fat women, acne-prone and textured skin are somehow unclean?

Most women who don this style are young, white, slim and seem to have impossibly clear skin. The issue with the term ‘clean girl’ is it suggests features that aren’t shown in the look are dirty and undesirable which has left many women feeling unattractive. So does this mean BIPOC and fat women, acne-prone and textured skin are somehow unclean?

Many black and brown creators have taken to the internet to vent their frustrations about the lack of inclusivity and bring attention to how, yet again, white women have co-opted a look. Gelled back hair and gold jewellery has been popular in black and latinx communities before white people jumped on the style. They point out how BIPOC women are called “ghetto” for wearing the same look which is now popular among white celebrity models.

A Twitter thread called ‘the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic but make it black’ was started in May by a black creator (@dizadior) in order to diversify the trend. The ‘clean girl’ look shown on black women highlights the Eurocentric beauty standards that the trend is promoting. The thread features women with untextured skin, straight or loosely curled hair and no one above a size 10.

‘Clean girls’ also glamorise a slow living lifestyle where they both look and live ‘cleanly’. Images show women in homes decorated in a minimalist style using white and cream colour schemes or out at Joe and the Juice holding a green smoothie promising the drinker a thorough detox.

The trend pops up under ‘that girl’ hashtags, a term used to describe women who appear to always be working on themselves and effortlessly float through life. This constant push for self-improvement can have a negative effect as people may feel they’re never enough.

When these are the faces we’re seeing on our feeds every day, it’s easy to forget that flawless skin is not normal!

It’s also important to note that these sorts of lifestyles and looks are very expensive to maintain, with high-end beauty products and apparel with big price tags. ‘Clean girl’ celebrities engineer their perfectly smooth skin through regular spa treatments and facials which is not possible for the rest of us. When these are the faces we’re seeing on our feeds every day, it’s easy to forget that flawless skin is not normal!

Influencers such as Izzie Rodgers are trying to find a place for women with acne and other skin conditions within the trend. Rodgers records herself getting ready following a ‘clean girl’ makeup routine but leaves her blemishes on show with no filters involved.

Beauty trends are rapidly changing all the time due to the nature of social media. Not only does this mean that many women find it difficult to keep up to date with what’s hot and what’s not, this quick turnover also encourages consumerism. There’s a constant need to buy new products and clothes so you can fit in. But with the ever-growing issue of fast fashion, these short-lasting trends are having a long-lasting impact on our planet.

I’m not telling you to burn your claw clips and throw out your BB cream. The beauty industry has a long history of favouring a very small margin of the population, so I’m simply inviting you to question what comes up on your FYP and think critically about the current beauty trends. It’s important to stay informed, be conscious of what trends you’re taking part in and call out the problematic ones.

Hannah Bentley

Featured image courtesy of Kalos Skincare via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @dizadior via No changes were made to this image.

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