You guys know how when corporations are trying to sell makeup to you, they’re not just selling you individual products but rather they’re offering an image and a dream. A dream of the kind of woman you could become if only you’d buy this contour stick or this eyeshadow palette or brow kit. I mean I’m not exactly breaking new ground here… this is something we’ve all known for a while. Women in the 60s were being sold the image of the youthful, skinny, bug-eyed Twiggy woman while in the 80s they were promoting the Amazonian supermodel. Back in the 2000s, I totally admired the whole stick-thin blonde It-Girl heiress wearing gigantic sunglasses and toting around an even more gigantic handbag with a tiny teacup Chihuahua in tow look. Starbucks in hand, of course.
There’s no questioning who was the woman we’ve been pushed to aspire to be for the past couple of years… I don’t want to mention the name because I don’t admire them so much but I don’t have to mention her anyway: you know exactly who she is. And in the makeup giant’s quest to make us want to be her, we’ve been pushed contour kits and liquid lipsticks and high-coverage foundation. Everything we need to achieve that exotic, racially-ambiguous Armenian look. But now I think we’re seeing a new kind of woman emerging—The Cool Girl.
So who is the Cool Girl? I can’t name any specific woman the Cool Girl is based upon. I guess she probably does exist, but she’s probably an artist or a writer or a magazine editor AKA not the kind of person the general public would recognize. It’s funny because the first time the term ‘Cool Girl’ came to my (and a lot of people’s) attention is through Amy Dunne’s iconic prose in Gone Girl (the book and the movie) where she basically laid it out that the ‘Cool Girl’ is a myth and a fraud, a front put up to satisfy men. So it’s funny that the term is now being repackaged into something that’s meant to be desirable and aspirational. Not that I mind all that much—I’m pretty much the opposite of a ‘Cool Girl’, but I find myself really buying into it. So here are some of the elements which I think make up the Cool Girl Look.
Skin first, makeup second
That’s pretty much Glossier’s moto, isn’t it? Glossier, of course, being pretty much the first brand to really sell the image of the effortless Cool Girl. Makeup-lovers kind of balked against the brand at first, because they felt that their marketing was a bit judgmental and very “I’m not like other girls” (I never saw it like that, though. I mean I know that they’re just another brand which aims to sell me crap, but it’s refreshing to be sold something else other than the same ol’ same ol’) but it’s really began to find its footing, plus the fact that Glossier’s owner isn’t constantly getting into beauty guru drama will really prevent the company from crashing and burning.
So anyway, if you want to see the Cool Girl exemplified just go on Glossier’s page and look at the pictures. She’s all about a glowy, natural complexion and letting your skin peek through. Maybe a light flush on the apples of her cheeks, to indicate how healthy she is from cycling to work and drinking organic smoothies daily. No contouring, or anything which might make you look gaunt. No heavy undereye concealer. Of course, it does suck that the look kind of requires you to have good skin in the first place (when has Glossier or any Cool Girl-focused brand ever featured a model with acne?) but I think if you’re someone with less than perfect skin, you don’t have to completely omit all coverage (but if you want to, why not? Who decided that acne, something which occurs naturally, has to be covered up?) but ensure that it’s as well-blended as possible and that you look moisturized… that means no ‘baking’. Unlike with the Instagram Baddie, some shininess is generally accepted in the Cool Girl world. If you’re really oily, then keep some blotting papers in your pocket.
Emma Stone in La La Land. I don’t know if those brows are real but I couldn’t stop looking at them! (she definitely didn’t have those back in the Easy A days!) Either way, they’re very on trend.
There’s no denying that bigger brows are still in, but the evolution from the Instagram Baddie to the Cool Girl calls for a rejection of the harsh, drawn-on Instagram brow and towards a more natural, feathery brow. Basically, we want brows that look like you’ve been growing it out for a year without waxing or threading. ‘Filling in your brows’ means exactly that… just lightly filling in any gaps with a pencil and not drawing in a completely new brow on top of the ones you already have. We want soft and feathery, no harsh lines which look like they were drawn in with a template. Definitely no ombre brows and definitely no outlining your brows with concealer. Those tiny hairs which grow around your brows are to be appreciated, not covered up—they are what create that soft featheriness that the Cool Girl look requires.
If you already have full brows, then you can even omit filling it in altogether and instead just brush them up with some brow gel. We’ve previously done a review on two brow gels that work great, but another one I’d recommend is Benefit’s Gimme Brow. Asian brow gels are to be completely avoided—they serve a completely different purpose from Western brow gels and are not what you want for this look. Asian brow gels (AKA ‘browcaras’) are more for colouring in your brows to match your hair. We don’t want to change the colour of our brows. We just want them to stand up and look plump and fluffy.
Now this is where I make a distinction between two different types of Cool Girls. The ‘classic’ Cool Girl, which is exemplified by brands like Glossier (and some other brands like lilah b and Honest Beauty) is what I’d consider to be the ‘older’ Cool Girl. She’s a working professional, lives in a big city in some glamorous, usually artistic job. She has a small yet effective wardrobe of high quality clothing and carries an expensive handbag. In other words, she’s basically the same thing as the ‘French Girl’ that Francophiles worship so much (myself included. I own ‘Lessons from Madame Chic’!) and she tends to sport that fresh-faced no makeup-makeup look which people usually associate with Cool Girls.
But there’s another, younger breed of Cool Girls that I’ve noticed but don’t get talked about as much. I’d point out some specific Instagram and Youtube accounts as examples but I don’t want to feel like a creeper, but looking at Milk Makeup’s Youtube tutorials is a good start. These girls are the cool, hip little sister of the older, professional Cool Girl. They still uphold the basics of Cool Girl-isms… natural brows, very light foundation (or no foundation, just concealer), an interest in artistic things. But they are not as adverse to beauty experimentation as their older sisters are. Instead of balking at makeup and saying things like “I don’t wear much makeup but skincare is a must!”, they’re a lot more adventurous with makeup, but will treat it not as a means of beautifying oneself but rather as a form of expression.
This means that you might see more artistic, editorial looks on an otherwise bare face. And using makeup products outside of their purpose is a common thing for this Cool Girl. Maybe lip liner as colourful eyeliner or lipstick as eyeshadow. There’s always a hint of the counterculture with her, but she doesn’t delve into it completely. Like she might attend a punk show, but she’d never get a Mohawk.
So those are a few points that I’ve managed to pick up from the whole Cool Girl thing. Personally, I wouldn’t completely jump in and transform myself into one (not effortless enough) but it’s a really refreshing change for me from the onslaught of heavy looks we’ve had the past couple of years.