One of my more, um, deranged traits, is that I think I look prettiest during a good cry. Even in the midst of my biggest breakdowns, I can't help but sneak a peak at the nearest reflective surface and admire my glossy eyes, puffy lips, and flushed cheeks—though I could do without the snot trail that often accompanies my tears. I'm far from the only one who finds beauty in sadness, and the "Sad Girl" has been a cultural fascination for centuries, from art—John Everett Millais's tragic Ophelia, for example—to pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe and Laura Palmer.
Personally, I became most aquatinted with sad girl culture thanks to Tumblr in its glory days—the platform's visual nature and emphasis on community allowed sad to become an identity, not just a feeling. Lana Del Rey's "Pretty When I Cry" became my anthem, and I felt seen in the tragic heroines of Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides. There's a lot to unpack here—which I will do at therapy—but it allowed me and thousands of other women to find power and beauty in our sadness.
Today, the sad girl lives on—on TikTok, naturally. 2022's version of the sad girl is two-fold: In some way, everyone is a sad girl thanks to Gen Z's openness surrounding mental health and their radical vulnerability. Artists like Billie Eilish and Selena Gomez speak earnestly about their mental health struggles—not just channel them into their art—while videos of TikTok users doing the same are just as common as makeup tutorials. The irony-shrouded Tumblr iteration also lives on, manifesting in videos discussing the intricacies of the sad-girl Bible, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and collages from Tumblr staples like Buffalo 66 and Lost in Translation.
Add to the fact that one of the biggest emerging macro trends is looking disheveled (indie sleaze, blurred lipstick, "messy girl fall"), and it makes sense that a tutorial for "crying makeup" has millions of views. Ahead is everything you need to know about the viral crying makeup trend.
I am clearly not the only one who is into the way they look after a crying session, as content creator Zoe Kim Kenealy's video on crying makeup has 2.8 million views and counting. I was hooked as soon as she said, "this one's for the unstable girlies," over images ripped from my Tumblr mood boards, including model Gemma Collins crying on the runway.
"You know how we look good when we cry? It just comes with the territory," she continues. "Anyways, if you're not in the mood to cry, here's how to get the look with makeup." The results are a soft, smudgy lip, flushed cheeks, slightly red and glimmering eyes, and glossy skin—perfect for any sad girl.
Get the Look
Kenealy starts off her tutorial by focusing on the blurry lips. "We want that puffy soft lip, right?" she says. She uses the Soft Spoken Velvet Lip Creme ($24) from Em Cosmetics in the shades Manifest and Intuition, then blurs the edges with a brush. She then goes in and applies a neutral lip liner on top (NYX's Nude Suede Shoes, $8) to get a little bit of definition back. At the end of the video, she tops it off with Item Beauty's Lip Quip ($14) lip oil, for an ultra-glossy, wet look.
Next, she goes in with a cream blush over her eyes, under her eyes, on her cheeks, and across her nose. Kenealy uses the Fenty Double Cheeked Up Freestyle Cream Blush Duo ($34), but any cream blush will do as long as it's multi-use—"It's really a monochromatic moment," she says.
"Next, we're going to recreate that glisten in our eyes with some liquid glitter on the bottom of our lash line," she says before patting on K-beauty brand AMTS's glitter in shade 02. She then uses the About Face Vinyl Effect Eye Gloss ($14) "where you want shine," including the eyelids, cheeks, and cupid's bow. Kenealy finishes the look by curling her lashes (but doesn't seem to apply any mascara).
As I mentioned above, I love how I look mid-cry—after is another story—so I was down to try this as soon as I saw Kenealy's video. I don't own any of the products she uses, but luckily, it's pretty easy to recreate with what I had on hand. Kenealy didn't mention base makeup, but I made sure to perfect my foundation before I moved on to the rest of the look. I find that pink around my eyes can make me look sick and sleepy, so I wanted to make sure the makeup felt intentional.
I used a mix of the Saie Dew Blush ($25) in Dreamy and Victoria Beckham's Cheeky Posh ($42) in Major across my eyes, nose, and cheeks. My eyes don't tend to do well with a lot of makeup—especially red tones—so I kept it close to my lash line. For the glitter, I used Half Magic's Glitterpill ($20), and Aquaphor in place of the eye gloss. On my lips, I opted for Violette FR's Bisou Balm ($28) in Calisson and an Essence lip liner. I wish I had more of a velvety liquid formula, but the balm worked in a pinch.
At first, I wasn't convinced—my look was giving more "I have a cold" (to be fair, I do) than cute crying. However, it was a quick fix. After adding a swipe of mascara—nothing too dramatic—and seeing the look through my camera roll, I was totally convinced. I did, in fact, look like I just finished a good cry, and I love the mix of textures. While it does still feel a bit costumey, I'll definitely be incorporating a softer version into my look this fall—the shimmering "tears," in particular, will be a staple of my holiday party makeup to come. And when I want to express my sadness online—in the grand tradition of Tumblr—I have the perfect look.