Setting The Record Straight

7 TikTok Beauty “Trends” That Come From Black & Brown Communities

From long acrylic nails to tooth gems, these looks originated way before you realized.

Elite Daily; Getty Images; Shutterstock

Spend a few minutes on TikTok, and you’ll quickly come across GRWM videos where creators take you along as they get dressed, apply makeup, do their hair, and spill the tea on their personal lives. Not only do you feel like you’re right in their home, but you’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the exact beauty products and techniques they’re using. As a result, the makeup and skin care featured in these videos can quickly sell out, and the beauty methods creators use explode in popularity, too.

While buying into TikTok’s most popular styles, aesthetics, and techniques can be fun, the problem is that people often take credit for trends that actually belong to a culture or ethnic group. When it comes to beauty, the line between appreciation and appropriation often gets blurred. On the social media platform, bindis become “#facejewels” (the hashtag has more than 20 million views), baby hairs are known as “#stickybangs” (these videos have over 35 million views), and slicked-back hair gets called the “#cleangirlaesthetic” (a hashtag with a whopping 6.6 billion views). Not only do the communities where these beauty practices originated — sometimes centuries ago — become disconnected from the trend when they’re not acknowledged, but it also continues the cycle of disrespecting these groups.

Below, content creators and beauty experts share their thoughts on the TikTok-popular beauty “trends” that actually find their roots in the Black and brown communities, along with a couple of tips for appreciating — and not appropriating — the looks.

Brown Lip Liner & Lip Gloss

Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage

In August 2022, Hailey Bieber posted a video wearing a brown lip liner and a clear gloss on top, which led #brownieglazedlips to trend on TikTok (the hashtag now has over 43 million views). But “brownie glazed lip” is actually a look that’s been around for some time — notably worn by Black and brown women in the ’90s, including celebs like Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Lopez. “Wearing lip liner and lip gloss on top go way back,” Melania Cabrera, a 23-year-old beauty and skin care content creator from New York, tells Elite Daily. “It was mainly Hispanic, Black, and other women of color wearing it in many different ways. I recognize it a lot in chola culture.”

Growing up in Queens and seeing the lip combo everywhere, Cabrera says dubbing this look a “trend” eliminates the originality of the technique and erases the discrimination people of color used to face for wearing it. “The [problem] is white people stealing what POCs get discriminated and bullied for on a daily basis and not crediting, acknowledging or even respecting its origins,” says Cabrera. “It’s a repetitive and exhausting narrative. Nothing should be called a trend without first giving recognition to where it comes from.”

Slicked-Back Hair & Gold Hoops

Photo by Gotham/WireImage

The “clean girl aesthetic,” which was popularized by TikTok influencers is all about the athleisure and model-off-duty style worn by celebs like Bella Hadid. The style features simple glowy makeup, a simple defined brow, a slicked-back bun, gold hoops, and clean nails. While the #cleangirlaesthetic hashtag has billions of views on TikTok, it’s actually been a defining look of Latinx and Black communities for years.

Throughout her middle school and high school years in the Bronx, beauty and skin care expert Lakeisha Dale would wear her hair in a slicked bun or ponytail with large gold hoops and lip gloss from the beauty supply store.

For Dale, thinking of this style — a trademark in her community throughout the ’90s and 2000s — as a fad erases the struggle behind it. “Calling it a trend diminishes something that has been a part of the identity of most Black women,” she tells Elite Daily. “This was our look, but it didn’t stop society from telling us that we weren’t the beauty standard and it didn’t stop them from calling us ‘ghetto.’”

The Bindi

Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

The bindi, a colored dot or jewel that’s placed in between the eyebrows, dates back to around 1500 to 1200 B.C. It represents the ajna chakra, the third eye, which is an opening to spiritual wisdom. The bindi’s origins are in South Asian culture, and they’re often worn during cultural or religious events. Still, in recent years, non-South Asian festivalgoers have dubbed them “face jewels” and wear them as an accessory at music festivals. On the app, you’ll find non-South Asian creators applying them in video tutorials on elevating “festival gems” or achieving quick “rave looks.”

Growing up, the bindi was a significant part of 24-year-old social media manager Niha Chandrasekar’s culture. “Whether it’s a little black bindi my grandma wears daily or a colorful bindi for Diwali, it is a staple element within the everyday South Asian look,” she tells Elite Daily. Chandrasekar notes the irony in seeing people wear what is considered a normal part of South Asian culture as something new and different at a festival. “It’s ironic to see POC styles seen as achieving a ‘dressed up’ or ‘elevated’ look when it’s deeply integrated as a norm in these POC cultures.”

Although she doesn’t like the way the bindi has been appropriated within mainstream culture, Chandrasekar thinks there are ways to wear and appreciate the look as a non-South Asian person. “I personally love showing my friends my Tamil traditions and have them try Indian jewelry and looks as they’re so unique,” she says.

Long Nails

Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images

Acrylic nails involve adding long nail extensions to your nails to create a stronger and larger base for fun nail art. The look has been popular in nail salons since the ’70s and was actually discovered by a white dentist named Fred Slack after he broke a nail at work and fashioned a new one with a realistic-looking replacement, according to Nails Mag. However, the long, acrylic nail style has been a staple among Black women for decades. Supermodel Donyale Luna wore them on the cover of Vogue in 1966 with other popular Black celebrities following. In 1988, track and field athlete Flo J proudly wore acrylic nail art to the world stage while competing in the Olympics.

Nowadays, acrylic nail extensions are incredibly popular, as celebs like Khloe Kardashian and Billie Eilish have begun to wear them. Across TikTok, you’ll find acrylic nail art videos and people sharing their monthly set — #acrylicnails has over 17 billion views on the app — but you don’t hear much about where it comes from and who actually popularized the “trend.”

“My mother worked in a Dominican hair/nail salon my entire life, and I would always see all these gorgeous Black and Hispanic women getting their nails done,” 21-year-old nail artist Marbles Valdez tells Elite Daily. “It’s part of our overall self-care routine.” Although the look isn’t anything new to her, she has noticed that it has become more widely popular. “With new young artists/technicians coming through and creating fun and modern designs, it’s gaining lots of attention from people in different communities and backgrounds,” she says.

Despite the fact that it’s a beauty practice common amongst Black women, Valdez says that there’s definitely room to wear acrylic nails without appropriation. “Beauty lovers can appreciate and avoid appropriating by simply acknowledging the roots of acrylic nails/extensions and giving credit where credit is due,” she says. “Supporting young small artists is always a plus as well!”

Large Lips

Photo by STEFANO RELLANDINI/AFP via Getty Images

Ever since Kylie Jenner debuted her lip fillers in 2015, bigger lips have become a coveted feature. Under the #lipfiller hashtag, which has 5.7 billion views on TikTok, you’ll find tons of videos of mostly white people talking about or receiving lip enhancements. But before this, Black people were constantly shamed and sexualized for having large, plump lips. Beginning during the period of slavery, Black people were compared to monkeys or apes by white colonialists claiming that Black people had similar features to these animals. This continued, and during the Jim Crow era, white people in blackface drew on large exaggerated lips to mock Black people.

Islah Zareef-Mustafa, a 22-year-old freelance artist, says that the trend of resizing your pout is “infuriating.” “It is only called a trend when the majority decides that they find it appealing,” she tells Elite Daily. “Once big lips are no longer trendy, this natural Black characteristic is then devalued.”

“It is harmful because it allows non-Black people to capitalize off of features I’ve been shamed for,” she continues. “This also allows non-Black women to justify cosplaying as other races, introducing new conversations around ‘Blackfishing.”

Though over-lining your lips or using lip plumper isn’t necessarily appropriation, Zareef-Mustafa reiterates it’s important to learn about “trends” before immediately participating. “Beauty lovers can learn to appreciate without appropriating through reflecting on, acknowledging, and addressing the anti-Blackness in the beauty industry and community,” she says. “This will help creators and consumers decide how they can try out new looks without hurting other underappreciated and underrepresented groups.”

Tooth Gems & Grills

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With more than 480 million views on TikTok, tooth gems have increased in popularity as ‘00s trends like glitter and rhinestone have resurfaced. According to Anyamanee Chailom, a 27-year-old tooth gem technician in London, tooth gems have existed in various indigenous cultures, with roots in Mayan, Egyptian, Mediterranean, and Asian early civilizations. Using original methods, stones like jade and turquoise were drilled into your teeth, but now they are applied in a less invasive way with adhesive.

More recently, grills and tooth adornments have been a large part of Black music and fashion culture acting as “drip,” a way to display confidence and swagger. Grills were seen first in the ’70s, worn by West Indian immigrants, and later in the ’80s and ’90s by hip-hop musicians like Slick Rick. Female stars like Erykah Badu have been known to be fitted with them too. But recently, white celebrities like Hailey Bieber and Madonna have been spotted showing off the style.

Chailom thinks they have become a “trend” because of the resurgence of Y2K. But Chailom says that appreciation is possible as long as the roots of the practice are acknowledged and kept in mind. “I believe in mixing cultures and think it’s the way forward to truly connect and come together as a people,” Chailom tells Elite Daily. “I think we can take part and appreciate each other’s cultures if there is understanding and respect, and honor the history, instead of claiming it as something new and innovative when it isn't.”

Styled Baby Hairs

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Pandora

Slicking down your baby hairs means using gel or mousse to shape the small hairs around your forehead and temples into swirls, patterns, and designs. While the look has been popular in the Black community for decades — singer Josephine Baker helped popularize the slicked-back look by adding styled baby hairs in the 1920s — over the past few years, non-Black celebrities have adopted the look and content creators renamed the style “sticky bangs.”

Celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims has a lot of experience styling baby hairs — he even created exaggerated baby hairs around Janet Jackson’s hairline for a 2023 performance on her Together Again tour.

He emphasizes that while trends are fleeting, the culture that is often behind them is not. “The way we express ourselves culturally lasts forever,” he tells Elite Daily. “It will forever be imprinted in history and can’t be replaced.”

Experts and sources cited:

Melania Cabrera, NYC-based beauty and skin care content creator

Anyamanee Chailom, London-based tooth gem technician and founder of Chai Beauty

Niharika Chandrasekar, beauty content creator

Lakeisha Dale, beauty and skin care expert and founder of Melaskin Studio

Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist

Marbles Valdez, NYC-based nail artist and founder of MVZ Beauty Studio

Islah Zareef-Mustafa, freelance artist