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Calling All Eyeliner Enthusiasts: Grunge Makeup Is Officially Back

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The Return of Grunge Beauty

I know, I know—the beauty trend cycle can be exhausting. Grunge beauty was all the rage in the ’90s and early 2000s, and you might be reluctant to trade in your no-makeup makeup looks for messy eyeliner.

But the tides of beauty are changing, and with those tides, it’s time to move away from the intense cultural obsession with “clean girl” makeup and into the world of lined eyes and vampy lips. If you’re in a phase of your life that involves more harmlessly chaotic nights out than everything-shower-and-glass-of-wine nights in, congratulations, because the ’90s-inspired grunge makeup looks that dominated the fall/winter 2024 runways are about to become your new go-to.

Whether you want to relive your Avril Lavigne emulation days, switch up your everyday makeup routine for a night out, or simply try something new, the grunge eye makeup trend isn’t as intimidating as it might seem. I spoke with makeup artist and CTZN Cosmetics founder Naseeha Khan to learn why grunge makeup is trending in 2024, how to replicate the trend yourself, and the best products for getting that intentionally messy look.

The Rise of Grunge Beauty

Like fashion, beauty trends are cyclical. Often, the exact opposite of one trend will emerge within a year or two of its peak. This is the case with the transition from the “clean girl” makeup that dominated runways and social media in 2022 and 2023 to the grunge eye makeup looks on the rise in 2024. Khan attributes this shift to the oversaturation of simpler makeup on TikTok and Instagram, prompting artists to adopt a messier vibe.

“The transition from no-makeup makeup to dark, more intense eye makeup looks is likely a pushback from minimalist looks and a pivot to maximalist looks,” she says. “Creators on social media and makeup artists saw this clean look becoming overdone and wanted to switch it up by adding more color and definition to looks.”

Beyond the runways, the grunge beauty trend is currently saturating pop culture. Julia Fox’s intense eyeshadow looks from late 2023 have undoubtedly fueled enthusiasm for more dramatic makeup. Fans were also drawn to the smudgy eyeshadow worn by Alison Oliver as Venetia in Saltburn. Musicians like Reneé Rapp and Cardi B have recently been seen sporting messy smoky eyes. Khan even credits the trending “mob wife aesthetic” for the widespread desire to bring the drama back to makeup: “Bolder, more vibrant looks are starting to resurface more. The ‘mob wife aesthetic’ went viral, focusing on smoky eyes and overdrawn lips—just one example of grunge glam coming back,” she says.

@aliciabreuer0 #grungemakeup ♬ Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

How to Achieve the Grunge Makeup Look

If you’ve pared down your makeup routine to the bare minimum and find this trend intimidating, fear not. Khan explains how you can achieve the grunge makeup look without needing complex eyeliner skills. Here are her top tips:

Start Subtle, Then Build

“If you are feeling intimidated by a grunge makeup look, it is best to start subtle and build products to your desired look,” Khan suggests. “Neutral, brownish eyeshadows and a brown or black eye pencil are a perfect place to begin.” Use a fluffy eyeshadow brush to blend dark brown and black shades into your crease and lower lash line. Depending on how dark you want the makeup, you can add mascara and call it a day. To take the messiness a step further, incorporate smudgy eyeliner. “Follow your base by gently using a black eye pencil on your lash line and smudging with an eyeliner brush as desired,” she says. For some rock-and-roll energy, add a dark, overlined lip.

Don’t Worry About Perfect Application

The best part about the grunge eye makeup trend is that perfection isn’t necessary. “The best part about grunge makeup is that there are no hard rules; it’s meant to look unpolished and rugged,” Khan says. “While the grunge looks are bold, the makeup application is supposed to be simple in practice.” You don’t need to apply your eyeliner perfectly or stress about matching both eyes—that’s part of the charm. Khan even suggests smudging your eyeliner with your finger for the optimal grunge look. The undone trend is about experimenting and bringing fun and creativity back into your makeup routine.

Keep the Colors Neutral

While there are no strict application rules, Khan recommends sticking with neutral colors, especially when starting out. “A matte base, smudgy eye makeup with flattering neutral eyeshadow, and overlined lips with a darker nude liner that suits your skin color,” she advises. Initially, skip the glitter and opt for matte browns, blacks, and dark blues for your eyeshadow and eyeliner. As your technique evolves, you can introduce smudged colors, but dark neutrals remain the core of the grunge eyeshadow palette.

Choose Long-Lasting Products

One thing you don’t want is your dramatic eye makeup running down your face in the middle of the night (or day). For this reason, Khan recommends long-lasting products. “Any basic black eyeliner pencil, especially a waterproof one, is best for this look to last all day and night,” she says. “I also recommend using multiple coats of a buildable mascara to emphasize the lashes.” If your makeup collection lacks smudgy eyeshadow and liner, here are a few makeup artist-approved products to kickstart your grunge eye makeup journey.

Shop The Viral Products Here


Waterproof Gel Eyeliner



Powerline Lasting Eyeliner



Ash Eyeshadow



Mini Xenon Eyeshadow Palette


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