Are Viral TikTok Beauty Trends the Newest Form of Capitalism?

Sana Pethurupillai

Did you hear? Strawberry make-up is in! Actually no, it’s all about the siren eyes! Scratch that, blueberry milk nails and latte makeup are where it’s at right now. That is until a few weeks pass and TikTok circulates yet another basic beauty trend or practice or lifestyle for us to sink our teeth into. Suddenly we have an abundance of unused products sitting in our make-up bags and even more Pinterest boards of aesthetics that won’t be looked at again.

This constant cycle of trends has not only resulted in a hefty amount of damage to our bank accounts but also demonstrates how TikTok is redefining our standards of beauty today.

The cycle of old fashion and beauty trends resurfacing has always existed, but with the help of an app that can reach millions in a matter of a few seconds, I can certainly attest that this cycle is on a hyper-drive right now. All it took was Hailey Bieber to caption her blushed cheeks look post as “strawberry girl summer” and suddenly there are millions of views under the hashtag strawberry girl. The model has created a mountain of viral micro-trends across TikTok, all coined with food-typed terms such as cinnamon cookie butter hair or doughnut glazed nails. Yum.

Almost half (44%) of Generation Z have bought something based on the recommendations of influencers

But these overly cutesy names for basic pre-existing beauty styles have sparked a discussion on TikTok. Why are these hashtags suddenly blowing up, and have they been planted by the beauty industry to increase user consumption?

The pattern here appears to be a pre-existing idea or style which is copied by celebrities or influencers, who circulate the trends on TikTok using eye- catching names such as ‘blueberry milk nails’.

TikTok influencers and creators rely on the manufactured buzz surrounding the trends to make their living, and as a result, audiences are made to believe that they are missing out if they do not participate in the fad. In fact, almost half (44%) of Generation Z have bought something based on the recommendations of influencers, pointing to the impact that social media can have on consumption.

And with the further capitalisation of apps, such as TikTok, creating the shopping section ‘TikTok shop’, spending money is easier than ever before. These mainstream marketable trends are seen by users who then begin their shopping sprees. The issue is, that this cycle on social media is so fast-moving that by the time your stylish new blue nail polish is at your doorstep, blueberry milk nails are out and there’s a new thing that’s replaced it.

The discussion of these quick-flip viral trends illustrate how we have eventually become aware of this frustrating cycle and the capitalistic forces that lay beneath it, which have been escalating the overconsumption our generation has come to be known for.

These fleeting trends are mirrored in society – causing a constant change in the requirements for what is considered ‘beautiful’, which robs women of any sense of self-fulfilment.

The sudden emergence and fading of trends lead to an identity crisis where we have no clue what we actually like because we are constantly being told a changing image of what to like. When the very culture we are currently residing within teaches us to perceive ourselves through the gaze of the internet, we become alienated from personal values, morals and satisfactions as we scramble to reach ideals that do not even exist.

We are being sold our whole lifestyles at this point

Within the new era of beauty and fashion, we are being told to embrace individuality and differentiation more and more. Yet, somehow we are told to simultaneously partake in general trends and toxic lifestyle reproductions. You have to be yourself but also be able to fit into one of these boxes that the internet has created.

It appears that through these trends and influencer ads, we are repeatedly being encouraged to consume products that will help us adhere to a certain ‘aesthetic’. This curated identity has almost nothing to do with the lifestyle itself but everything to do with what we own and showing those items to others. It is a ‘curated identity’ because it really is that superficial and impersonal. It’s all about how you want others to perceive you, and not about showing who you actually are.

The paradox of encouraging individualism while simultaneously pushing these mainstream ideals on women causes a loss in individual expression, driving them towards a sort of conformity that they were trying to avoid in the first place. We are being sold our whole lifestyles at this point, ignoring the fact that we are multifaceted humans and instead being reduced to sellable ‘aesthetics’.

Essentially celebrities and influencers have become walking advertisements for these frivolous aesthetics but are they really to blame? When the beauty industry feeds off this symbiotic cycle of trend-to-audience consumerism, can influencers be creative and successful in the industry beyond trend-partaking?

When monetary gain takes precedence above individual expression, audiences and influencers alike are subjected to the demands of the market.

This furthers the question of whether we can ever be original anymore. Do you genuinely like latte makeup or the corporate girl aesthetic? Did you actually want blueberry milk nails or are you being told you need it? Would we subscribe to the ‘strawberry girl’, ‘clean girl’, or ‘coquette girl’ aesthetics if social media ceased to exist?

At the end of the day, it is just light blue nail polish.

Sana Pethurupillai

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

In article image 1 courtesy of @haileybieber via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @bellahadid via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 3 courtesy of @sabrinacarpenter via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

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