As I write this sentence, I'm staring at an open makeup drawer, a fourth of which is dedicated to the pile of little concealer tubes I cycle through. I forewent a traditional nightstand in favor of having all my makeup next to my bedside, because as of late, all my mornings start the same: I wake up, blindly swallow a Wellbutrin, and cover up my dark under-eye circles with concealer in a futile attempt to make my colleagues believe I'm a normally functioning human and not a carcass who stays up until 2 a.m. browsing Zillow or TikTok.
You can imagine my momentary furor when I learned dark under-eye circles are a makeup trend on TikTok. And not in an "embrace your natural face" kind of way, but in a "I'm going to use eyeshadow to draw on literal dark under-eye circles" way. The trend appears to have started (or at least taken off) with TikToker Sara-marie Carstens, whose Dec. 29 video, in which she draws on deeper under-eye circles with a chunky makeup crayon, has racked up more than 7 million views and 1.2 million likes.
Other TikTokers have made videos about "enhancing" their dark circles. One user posted a video about the difference between her 2014 self loading on concealer and her current self sans concealer because "looking dead is hot" now. Granted, the trend of looking "dead" isn't necessarily new and definitely didn't start with Gen Z. Rather, it seemingly calls back to a smaller 2015 Japanese beauty trend called "byojaku," which translates to "weak" or "sickly." My fellow goths and emo kids of the early 2000s know this under-eye-heavy look all too well. Such a look isn't without its implications, though, namely that the idea of encouraging young people to aspire to a sickly look is problematic when you think about it.
Gen Zers, in all their subversive humor, have found the silver lining of the trend, the purpose of which isn't so much to look lifeless as much as it is to look like you were on TikTok all night. The comments on most of these videos are understandably supportive and hilarious. "Yes, make this a trend! I'm tired of using concealer," reads one comment. "I can give you my dark circles if you want," says another. Perhaps the most relatable: "Omg finally a trend I can participate in ✨naturally✨." They're not wrong. Normalizing natural faces in all forms is a crucial step toward further dismantling unrealistic societal standards of beauty that oppress generations of people from the moment they emerge from the womb.
"The fact that TikTokers are making dark under-eye circles the hottest new trend gives me hope that, one day, they will also make giant, juicy chin pimples and everything bagel seeds stuck in teeth sexy, too," Katie, 27, tells Elite Daily. "Seriously, though, it’s nice to see teens normalizing things that the beauty industry has put such a heavy emphasis on trying to hide."
Still, it's expected that you, like me, might feel a little miffed about the whole thing. Before I descend into whiny rage, I should clarify a few things. First, there is nothing wrong with dark under-eye circles. Not one thing. Second, you can do whatever you want to your under-eye area, dark circles or not. Third, I'm aware this is just a TikTok trend and it's not that ~deep~. As someone whose natural under-eye state is "recently got punched," the trend just makes me bitterly aware of the fact that I, like most, have been conditioned to feel like I need to buy $20 vials of flesh-colored goop for the past decade. And I did that for what?
"Why have I wasted so much money trying to look like I actually get the recommended full eight hours of sleep and a normal REM cycle, only to have a bunch of teens convince me it’s cooler to look like you went to bed at 3 a.m. after watching more than 12+ hours of Gossip Girl," says Katie. Steph, 27, echoes the same sentiments. "I’m all for people expressing themselves with makeup, but you can also achieve this look naturally by staying up until 4 a.m. watching Netflix." That hard truth doesn't change the fact my true frustration lies with an industry that, while still transforming and usually very fun, profits off of arbitrary "flaws" and thus our collective insecurities — and consequently has sucked my and your wallet dry for years.
Lest I sound like an obnoxious "I went through this, so you have to, too" type of person, I'll say that I hope dark under-eye circles move from TikTok makeup trend to, IDK, what they really are: a normal occurrence? Like freckles? If you have 'em, great. If you don't have 'em, great. If you want to draw 'em on, great. Is this the beginning of the end for concealer? Unlikely, although Gen Z has a proven track record of mobilizing behind a good cause in large numbers. Will this be a catalyst for every beauty brand paying me back for all the concealers I purchased? Also unlikely, but a girl can hope. If anything, being able to immediately roll out of bed and onto a Zoom in the name of a trend all the cool kids are doing isn't so bad.