Ombre brows, chiseled cheekbones, cut-crease eyeshadow, and a teeny-tiny contoured nose with highlighter at the very tip—maybe she's born with it, maybe she used 8 different palettes paired with a Valencia filter. The year is 2016, and thanks to social platforms like Instagram and YouTube, the aforementioned makeup features (sometimes paired with a super-opaque matte lip) have become the norm online, and although each technique gets a viral nickname of its own, the methods aren't anything new to makeup artists.
"Things like contouring and strobing, these are all tricks of the trade and when you're first starting out, it's what we in the industry call 'paint by numbers.' Meaning, things are mapped out on the face so that the highlighter, concealer, and bronzer go in certain places." says Joey Maalouf, makeup artist and co-founder of The Glam App. "What's happening is, people are pulling specific things from a paint by numbers technique, and amplifying it, which can be fun and exciting."
The widespread popularity of the trend could possibly be credited to the first family of contouring, better known as the Kardashians, with a ripple effect launching a thousand look-alike shots in its wake. The finished result is undeniably gorgeous, but after scrolling past the 10th selfie in your feed featuring the signature "Instagram makeup" look, things start to look similar and get blended together—not unlike that contour cream and highlighter used to create the effect.
"I call it internet makeup, because I think it looks so good in pictures lit with a Lumi case, and then the waterfall effect happens," Maalouf says. "You see a girl looking so stunning and you want in, then you post a selfie and all your friends and followers want to look like you, and it's an extreme version of it." In a sense, we're all sort of doing it for the 'gram, and Maalouf notes that thinking about how any given thing will be reflected on social media has become the way of the world. The popularity of contouring tutorials, which are pretty fascinating if you've ever sat through the full 10 minutes of one, makes the method more accessible and easier to comprehend.
Despite some backlash from the beauty community—Bobbi Brown, for example, voiced her opinions on why contouring was unnecessary—the "Instagram effect" isn't always a bad thing. In a sense, these trending methods bring techniques once used solely by makeup artists into the mainstream, and closer within reach to your younger niece who will never know the struggle of overplucking her brows.
While some of us may not have an hour to spend mapping out Lion King-esque stripes with 10 minutes to spare in the morning, certain aspects of the looks can obviously be tailored to fit your timeframe and your features. For example—if you already have prominent cheekbones, skip the shading powder and focus on highlighting. "You can be as extreme as you want with it, or you can be really light-handed and have the same effect," Maalouf tells us. "Pick the elements you like, and stick with those. Not everybody needs everything, and you don't need to paint on your nose every day." Amen to that.
In launching his powder-based contour kit ($32; ishbeauty.com) under his brand ISH, short for "I'm Smokin' Hot," Maalouf hopes to bring a less-intimidating way to approach the technique that is realistic for everyday life. And like any trend, Maalouf thinks the one of "Instagram makeup" will eventually come full-circle. "I'm sure this trend will eventually evolve into something else, so it's exciting to see the new methods that come into the beauty industry, and who inspires them," he adds. Until then, he's hoping that glossy lips, and full, super-long lashes make a comeback for the spring and summer season. That matte liquid lip, he says, may not have as much staying power in the midst of a heat wave. Our inner '90s-era cool girl couldn't be more thrilled.