TikTok’s Food + Makeup Trend, Demystified

Whenever the internet’s reigning it-girls — you know, the Hailey Bieber and Sofia Richie types — debut a new makeup look or manicure, TikTok rushes to give it a catchy new name. There was “strawberry girl makeup,” born out of Bieber’s brushed-up brows and pink blush, and “blueberry milk nails,” inspired by Richie’s light blue polish. Don’t forget “glazed donut skin,” “tomato girl summer,” and “cinnamon cookie butter hair,” also co-signed by Bieber and her fellow influencers. Sense a pattern here? Clearly, we’re craving beauty trends named after food. But why are we swapping out cosmetic descriptors like “matte” and “dewy” for fruits and pastries in the first place? 

The impulse to zhuzh up products with cute, catchy names has been around ever since marketers learned that appealing to young people is good for business. Tapping into cross-sensorial signifiers like smell, taste, and atmosphere can help hook a younger set that might not care about makeup for makeup’s sake but does associate, say, birthday cake with something sweet, celebratory, and ultimately, desirable.  

Millennials might remember begging their parents for Bath & Body Works’ cake-scented body mists and Lip Smackers’ soda-flavored lip balms. Popularized in the early 2000s, these novelties allowed our younger selves to wear — not just eat — our favorite sweet treats. More recently, we’ve seen an uptick in food-themed beauty drops: think Dunkin’ Donuts nail polish and Too Faced’s Pop Tarts-inspired eyeshadow palette. But it wasn’t until TikTok’s beauty community blossomed circa 2020 that the food-makeup connection became a way to better visualize what exactly we’re buying into.

According to Catie Wiggy, a licensed esthetician and beauty brand consultant, food and beauty have long been linked. “From ancient Egyptian milk baths to modern avocado-infused hair care, the influence of food on beauty remains a constant thread throughout history,” she says. “It reflects the enduring connection between the beauty offered by mother nature and our human beauty rituals.” 

Cat Quinn, MAC Cosmetics’ executive director of trends, believes food is a universal language that people are more inclined to understand than esoteric beauty-speak. “You can communicate so much through the taste, smell, touch, sight and even sound — crunch, slurp, squish — of a food or drink,” she says. “Food beauty trends offer a clear mood board and a welcome invitation to try and taste. And they go beyond color and offer notes on texture — there’s a big difference between a peach lip and a peach jelly lip.” 

The proof is in the pudding. After Bieber’s berry-colored cheeks and faux freckles went viral, the hashtag #StrawberryMakeup ballooned to over 110 million views on TikTok. #LatteMakeup boasts over double the engagement with 255 million views at the time of writing. Brands are catching on, too. Truly Beauty offers a Glazed Donut Shave Oil and Bieber’s own Rhode Beauty sells lip treatments in flavors like “Watermelon Slice,” “Salted Carmel,” and “Strawberry Glazed Donut,” a special offering created in collaboration wtih Krispy Kreme.

Don’t expect delicious-sounding beauty trends to go out of style any time soon. “[At MAC], we have a trend team dedicated to tracking early beauty movements, including those related to food, and we see a lot coming up,” Quinn says. “Going into 2024, crushed apricot makeup will be all the rage. We’ll move from pinks and reds to neutral peach and apricot tones.” She also predicts that rich, mocha-like makeup palettes, maple cinnamon-inspired hair colors, and toasted walnut nail polish will be on the menu this fall. 

TikTok’s barrage of food-inspired beauty trends might seem downright silly to some. At the end of the day, all they do is dress up run-of-the-mill cosmetics like pink blush and bronzer (pretty mundane stuff) as berries and coffee drinks. But perhaps our desire to romanticize our daily routines isn’t such a crime — after all, we eat it up when celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, and, of course, Hailey Bieber give us glimpses into their everyday, albeit glamorous, lives. Maybe delectable-sounding makeup is just a way to add a little flavor to our lives.