“Before it’s in fashion, it’s in Vogue,” I recited dutifully as I waddled out of the house in the holographic coat I’d been eyeing since New York Fashion Week. On my way to math class, I stopped at the bathroom to check on my Gerard Way eyes. The dark pencil liner remained neatly tightroped across my waterline. Insert dramatic sigh of relief.
Now, I’m not saying that under-eye charcoal is a bad thing. I would know, having rocked that thing for a good year. But it was confusing to be walking around as an unknowing adherent of some once-avant-garde, now-subversive aesthetic. You see, being so last year is only fun if you meant to present that way. Despite the fact that I was still clutching my eyeliner as one would a weapon, I wanted to be “in” on the latest trends. I wanted to be relevant.
That’s when I realized that before it’s in beauty, it’s on your favorite Instagrammer’s face. Well, then, is there an exact science to exploiting Instagram for your #beautygoals? Personal experience tells me there is.
First, you have to make an account.
Before you say “duh,” let me explain. I think it’s important, for sans-clutter purposes, to make an account separate from your “main” that is dedicated to following your favorite style and beauty icons. No lining your feed with a mountain of posts from close friends. No stalking slime video accounts. And, of course, absolutely no disrupting your golden follower/following ratio with subscriptions to celebrities who won’t follow you back. So do it. Make that account.
Next, identify your personal style.
Are you an aspiring fairy, American baddie, or K-beauty guru? Which do you prefer, Too Faced Cosmetics or Fenty Beauty? Being able to pinpoint your own aesthetic is essential, I think, to feeling safe and at-home on Instagram. That way, you’re not appropriating or internalizing someone else’s definition of beauty, but exploring and feeding your own.
For that same reason, I like following Instagrammers who look like me. That means East Asian influencers with monolids and jet-black hair, such as Yoon Young Bae (@mulan_bae) and Ellis Ahn (@__ellisinwonderland__). This helps me figure out what trends might suit me, as I sit determining what suits them. It also inspires me to stay on top of my beauty game, instead of simply lamenting about my shortcomings or giving up. The similitude of their features to mine helps me set goals that are attainable, whereas the jarring differences between my appearance and those of tanned skin, frizzy-haired, and gray-eyed online personalities might impart to me the impression that “I will never be able to look like that.” It goes without being said that I will never be capable of magically turning myself into these people. But that’s completely fine. They won’t ever manage to look like me, either.
Lastly, make use of the Save function (that bookmark-shaped button on the bottom right of every Instagram post).
It’s there for a reason, okay? For profoundly lazy individuals such as myself, it’s a wonderful creation that helps keep an alluring selection of photos just a finger-tap away. And guess what? You can categorize the pictures you save. My variegated folders of pinned posts each have names such as “Makeup Goals,” “Body Goals,” and “Skin Goals.”
Unsure of where to start? What accounts you want to follow? Are you finding that you don’t look anything like an East Asian influencer with monolids and jet-black hair? No need to worry. I’ve compiled below a list of beauty accounts that have augmented and inspired the aesthetic of some of my chicest Instagram friends.
Caitlin, 18 (@caitlin_chaisson)
I really like experimenting with makeup, so I would say that I tend to have a “natural” daily style, but also sport a “bolder” style when I have the time. I would also say the same for my fashion sense. I like wearing simple yet flattering clothes on a daily basis, but also do really enjoy dressing up and sometimes trying looks that are more “out there.” Overall, I would say that my style is quite versatile. I don’t have a set aesthetic, and like experimenting and trying new things and seeing what I like and dislike on myself. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @nikki_makeup, which belongs to a British makeup artist famous for creating incredibly beautiful and natural makeup looks. I usually refer to her page when I’m doing my daily makeup or trying a “no-makeup” makeup look. She also does makeup tutorials on her stories, which I watch and try to follow.
- @lapetitevengeance, which belongs to a Canadian makeup artist who creates bold and colorful makeup looks. I usually get inspiration from her page whenever I am in the mood to try something new, as it features a variety of unique and fun makeup looks.
- @sortofobsessed, which is an account by a woman named Adri that reviews beauty (mainly skincare) products. I look through her Instagram page for ideas and opinions whenever I’m looking to purchase a new skincare product. The pictures she posts are very aesthetically pleasing, which is another reason why I love looking through her account.
- @beautyspock, which belongs to a UK makeup artist that uses different hair, makeup, and fashion looks to transform her appearance. A lot of her looks have a retro, vintage, and pinup sort of style to them. I love how she transforms herself using wigs, makeup, and clothes, and I oftentimes use her as inspiration when trying new looks on myself.
Ally, 17 (@o0ramenally0o)
My personal “vibe” is a mixture of bold and sweet. I like using pastel colors from time to time, but I also like bold and cool colors. Whatever I feel comfortable with. I love all things that I consider “aesthetic,” from clothes to posts on social media. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @sweet_apple_hips, because it posts inspirational pictures of fit and beautiful bodies, and even includes some tips. It’s a fitness account, and even though it has relatively few followers, it inspires me to be healthy, keep a slim look, and feel good about myself.
- @lulubai_, simply because Lulu posts beautiful pictures of herself that are aesthetically pleasing. She inspires me a lot because she shows how confident she is. She has a clean and beautiful natural look that inspires me to change into a more confident and outgoing person. I think her account is in the lifestyle and beauty category.
I’m trying to turn my account into one with an “aesthetic vibe.” I want to be able to inspire people in a good way, just like how these accounts have inspired me. I visit their pages often. I suggest that when you’re browsing Instagram, you should look for aesthetic and inspirational accounts and content that suit your style.
Raisha, 18 (@riceuhhh)
My personal style is built around minimalism and Korean street style mixed with French femininity. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @michellephan (a makeup blog), because it advertises makeup and shows tutorials. Michelle has helped me learn how to dress up and put on makeup.
- @annaakana (a comedy account), because the posts always talk about being bold and expressing yourself. Anna has helped me to be true to myself and to not give a f***.
- @blogilates (a fitness blog), because of its workout and diet plan posts. Cassey has helped me stay motivated and self-disciplined when it comes to fitness.
I visit these accounts all the time, and am never disappointed. I think the main thing these girls have in common is that they all embrace themselves and bask in self-love. I think what makes a person beautiful is the love they have to show and share.
Ilinca, 17 (@thirdculturestyle)
My personal style is edgy, trendy, experimental, fitspo, and simple. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @fashionfuckeryfemales, which is an account that features fashion influencers on Instagram. It shows a mix of different styles, but they all lean towards what might be considered street style. I really like being able to get new ideas and discover new brands and original pieces for myself.
- @hteet.c is an art account that reposts content from different artists. I really like this account because it has such a cool aesthetic that inspires my own aesthetic and art.
- @angelmoret, which is a fashion account. Angel’s style is unique. She wears a lot of color and patterns and mixes masculine and feminine styles, and I think that this reflects the way I want to dress.
These accounts are super interesting to look through because you never know what you’re going to find–that’s the best part about it. Going through the Discovery page on Instagram is definitely the best way to find cool new accounts.
Kells, 18 (@kehleers)
I’m your typical Asian influencer wannabe. I enjoy fashion, makeup, and just looking pretty. I particularly like beige-based colors. My favorite Instagram accounts are @annxhy and @kai.xpo, which provide makeup and fashion inspiration. To be honest, I think that Instagram has negatively affected my mental health, as I feel pressured to post perfect pictures and to be a perfect role model figure. I visit it every day. Sometimes it gives me motivation, but it’s exhausting. I feel so fake, and the content I post just doesn’t seem to show me for who I am anymore. As I said before, I feel like I’ve become a typical Instagram person.
Karis, 19 (@kaibread)
I’m someone who tends to prefer a more classic or minimalist style of makeup, but I also really enjoy makeup that gives beauty editorial vibes. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @dreamin.flower, which posts these really cool and effortless eye makeup looks. While they all look quite simple, there’s always something cool added onto them, like a blue accent or some duochromes. This really takes them to another level, and it inspires me to go beyond throwing on brown eyeshadow and calling it a day.
- @katiejanehughes. Katie is the epitome of glowy skin and wearable, editorial-style makeup looks. She experiments with shapes and colors, and it always looks so minimalistic yet bold. I’m not as into her fashion style, but the stuff that goes on her face makes me want to be more adventurous and creative with my own makeup style.
- @meicrosoft. Mei has a more “Instagram baddie” kind of makeup style. I think her attitude towards life and what others think of her is, in particular, very admirable. She’s unapologetic about who she is, and stands up for herself whenever people challenge her such attitude.
I follow these accounts mostly to see what I want to try out when I’m playing around with makeup. Two of the accounts I’ve mentioned feature Asian Instagrammers, and it’s really nice to see styles of makeup on eyelids that are typically perceived to be limiting on the options that can be attempted.
Haley, 16 (@haleysengsavanh)
My personal style is bold and business-casual-y, and I favor relaxed and natural makeup looks atop glowy skin. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @imjennim, which does lookbooks and beauty tutorials. It’s inspired me to show more skin and buy more statement clothing pieces, such as bright red jackets. Jenn is also a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle YouTuber.
- @iamkareno, which does vlogs, makeup looks, and other aesthetic stuff. Karen’s room is literally my room goals, and she’s definitely inspired my everyday makeup look. Karen is also a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle YouTuber.
- @wearetothe9s, @cassiemasangkay, and @riccipamintuan. These accounts do lookbooks and other aesthetic stuff, and have inspired me to explore local thrift store options more when I’m shopping. These people are also fashion and style YouTubers.
- @3ce_official, which is a makeup brand. It’s inspired my “fancier,” “going out” makeup look, which consists of big, glittery eyes and ombré lips.
Monica, 20 (@moni._.chen)
My personal style is preppy and kind of cute. I’ve often been described as having a “fobby” style. My favorite Instagram accounts are:
- @marilang_, which features petite fashion. I just really love Mari’s outfits and the way she edits her photos to have a vintage vibe.
- @ponysmakeup, which is a makeup account by my favorite makeup artist. Her YouTube channel taught me how to apply eyeshadow onto my Asian eyelids.
Browsing through fashion and photography accounts helps me figure out how to pose for my own photos, and gives me creative outfit inspo. Browsing through makeup accounts sometimes makes me feel self-conscious because I tend to prefer looking at Asian makeup accounts, where almost all of the female beauty gurus are extremely pale, use double-eyelid tape, or have had some type of plastic surgery.
(Responses have been edited for clarity.)