What exactly is ‘boy beat’?

Words by Nicole La Ruffa

Illustration by Twylamae

Let’s investigate.

There’s a term that I’ve been fascinated with for quite some time (well, a few terms – why is no one discussing garage door eyeshadow?).  

In this case, I’m referring to ‘boy beat’, a phrase that’s been thrown around across beauty IGs and YouTube channels for the past year or so.

From what I’ve seen, it seems difficult to define the trend in simple terms. It’s a phrase people have interpreted in unique ways. My own personal ‘boy beat’, for example, is when I neglect plucking my monobrow for a few weeks. 

Sir John – the man responsible for Beyoncé’s makeup since 2010 – coined the phrase during a 2017 video interview with Allure: “[It’s] an androgynous way to look at makeup being masculine and feminine at the same time, adding a bit more structure than you would have naturally”.

It’s certainly not a new phenomenon (and I’m late to the game, admittedly), but it seemed to spark some interest after YouTuber Sarah Cheung uploaded a tutorial back in 2018 detailing her own spin on the subject. It’s a minimal – nae, grungy – take on Sir John’s definition, and it’s worth unpacking.

In her video’s description, she writes: “It’s very refreshing to take a break from using winged liner, overdrawn lips [and] exaggerated cat eyes just to achieve the goal of looking hyper-feminine.”

Instead, we’re met with fresh skin, brushed-up brows, and balmed lips (sign me up).

Then there’s the pièce de résistance the dark circles.

Come again?

If you do watch the video, you’ll notice Sarah adding a cool-toned shadow underneath her eyes (right in those shady hallows) to, as she puts it, “accentuate features that we would usually consider flaws”. The first question that springs to mind is, why would anyone want to accentuate their exhaustion? The second is, do boys really look that tired?

She also aims to mimic the appearance of rosacea or sunburn, tapping a rose-coloured cream blush across her cheeks and nose.

What if I already look like this, though?

That’s the gist of the video’s comments. Many are commending Sarah for her innovative angle while pointing out the fact that most of us don’t need taupey shadow to make it look like we’ve never laid our heads to rest. User Liv McGrath even writes: “My regular skin complexion, but make it fashion.”

That being said, I don’t think the lesson in this is to flaunt rosacea like a facial accessory, or to roll into the office looking like you’ve slept in last night’s grey smokey eye.

Instead, Sarah’s video raises a very interesting point: Is there merit in enhancing our flaws rather than just accepting them?

For some, it takes years or even a whole lifetime to develop a sense of self-acceptance. Once that’s been conquered, I assume the next step is to throw an acne-loving celebration, complete with balloons and pimple poppers (like party poppers, but themed). If anyone has managed to tap into this superhuman ability, please send directions.

In that realm, maybe the whole fake freckles trend is merely an extension of this idea. To some, this is considered a flaw worth covering (though, in my humble opinion, let us always embrace the frecks) while others proceed to speckle brown liner over their noses and cheeks.

So what’s the verdict then? Do we have a concrete ‘boy beat’ definition? Perhaps not. I still don’t know whether I’m supposed to look beat or beat up.

However, it does shed light on how we view our ‘flaws’, creating a new distinction between welcoming them with open arms and pointing them out with a golden arrow.

Or maybe it’s just something Beyoncé’s makeup artist made up. And in that case, we’ll follow along willingly.


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