There’s a general consensus in the beauty world lately: Black women in the UK have mastered “beat perfection,” a specific brand of polished, aspirational makeup that now feels distinctly British—or, as one person enthusiastically described in Twitter, “UK black girls have the best makeup in the game hands down!” Defined by a “skin-like” makeup base, shimmer under the eyes, glittery lip lines and false eyelashes, the UK Black Girl makeup aesthetic is gaining traction and praise from all corners of the internet. On TikTok, videos labeled UK Black Girl makeup have amassed more than 58 million views, and YouTube tutorials from Mela Child, Cee Loux and Beauty By Bemi offering a step-by-step guide to recreating the look have gained international appeal. . It’s not uncommon for US-based black makeup lovers to try UK Black Girl makeup on themselves (and look clearly more “BRI-ISH” as a result).
I am a black woman in the UK, but this growing reputation for perfect beauty is not something I can claim personally. And yet, as I look around at my glamorous age mates, all in full UK Black Girl makeup splendor, it’s a makeup technique I’ve quietly wanted to master. Mainly because it’s an image of ‘doing it all together’ sophistication that I’ve come to associate with successful black British women. Take for example UK Black Influencers like Melissa’s Wardrobe and Patricia Bright, who are praised for their “perfect beats” and lavish, aspirational lifestyles to match. These objectively successful women are routinely referenced in regards to popular “Black Girls in Luxury” lifestyle trends, where Black women are encouraged to aspire to an abundant and “soft” lifestyle that may be unattainable. On social media, it seems that if “soft life” is the attitude, then “UK black girl makeup” is the makeup look to go with it.
However, for celebrity make-up artist Bernicia Boateng, the UK’s black girl make-up style was simply born out of a real need for British black women to celebrate themselves and their own unique brand of glamour.
“I think that’s what people see, they see [UK Black Girl makeup] like trust,” says Boateng.
Bernicia Boateng is a celebrity make-up artist who works on the faces of black British stars like Michaela Coel. London-based MUA had recently been part of the main cast of Channel 4’s high life, a reality television show that charted the lives of successful young black British men of West African descent. Boateng is no stranger to the UK Black Girl makeup look and praises it for its understated glamour.
“I would say that our approach to makeup is very unique. because we are English and our approach to everything is a little more relaxed, a little more discreet, ”he explains to Unbothered by zoom. “My biggest beauty influence is soft glamour, which comes from the 90s R&B music video era and the [Black rom-com] movies that were on the market at the time, where the makeup is subtle, it’s there, but not quite there. And I think we have that perfect medium. I think [Black British women] really understands that when it comes to beauty, it’s about looking like you’ve transformed but still look a lot like yourself.”
While this look is considered understated and (somewhat) natural, it does require some decent makeup skills to recreate (“I can spend 30 minutes on this look and sometimes two hours,” says Boateng.)” With less emphasis on contouring harsh and a shift to a natural, near-perfect skin finish, UK Black Girl makeup looks like a close cousin to the “clean girl” makeup trend, an aesthetic that has seen its fair share of debates recently. Major opponents claim that the “flawless” perfect finish is limiting.
Similarly, some have criticized UK Black Girl makeup trends for imposing another standard of beauty and lifestyle unattainable, as one person. tweeted, “There is now a beauty standard for black UK girls, if you don’t wear expensive frontals, clothes and impeccable make-up you automatically put it on a stand, TikTok definitely makes things split…”
While trends like ‘clean girl’ makeup have their issues, for some black women, being able to explore more minimalist beauty looks like UK black girl makeup are signs that the beauty industry is evolving and that black women are no longer an afterthought.
“Makeup has definitely evolved for black women,” says Boateng. “There are so many more products on the market for us as brands like Fenty beauty really pushed the beauty industry to expand their color ranges to be more inclusive. And all those kinds of changes that are coming within the beauty industry have made us feel more accepted and more confident. And now we feel like we’re part of the world of luxury beauty because we’ve been considered.”
UK Black Girl makeup is certainly a far cry from the fun, colorful, dopamine-inducing beauty trends that are also all the rage right now. However, weren’t African Americans once the perfect canvas for bright and colorful beauty looks? As Boateng explains, “If I look back at my work from 2015, there is a huge difference in just a seven-year period. Now, I’m less focused on my eye color or putting lots of gold glitter all over my face, for example. That’s not the vibe anymore.”
No shine. Indicated. So what caused this change in the beauty environment?
“Black women have finally realized that we they can go for soft glam, there was a point where the only foundation that really suited black girls was maybe MAC Studio Fix Foundation, which is a very full coverage foundation. So in our minds at the time, there was only one way we could look, because that’s the only foundation that came in our shadow. We never really had BB creams that would suit black skin, so it was really hard for black girls with darker skin to get that easy, perky look, you know, ‘I’m going to apply my foundation with my fingers on the train’. that maybe white girls could do. We couldn’t do that, because there were no products for our skin tone. But now we can. And so we’re accepting that. And we are showing different layers of our beauty.”
During our conversation, Boateng recommends Nars Soft Matte Foundation, Fenty beauty lip paint, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze, Tom Ford Eye Color Quads, Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Setting Powder, and Kiko Milano lip gloss, if you want to try the look.
I make. I want to enter. I want to be a fancy girl in Pat McGrath makeup.
By their very nature, many social media born makeup trends are fleeting and of course not all black British women have to aspire to look like this, please do you? But I can’t help but want to get involved with the UK Black Girl makeup trend (sometimes) because it feels like black British luxury within my means. I have often wondered if a soft and luxurious life is simply a look or a feeling. Here, it can be a bit of both.
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