Group 4

Welcome to the beauty empathy era

From New Age Bimboism to the compassionate convo around Bella Hadid’s nose job regret, our faces are no longer up for neggy discussion


Image: Jackson Bowley

Text: Jane Macfarlane, Brand Creative Director

Do you remember where you were when the news broke that Bella Hadid admitted her nose job? Probably not lol, but you might remember the conversation around it. The internet had a meltdown, but the shock was not over the fact that Bella had a nose job, rather that she was speaking about it publicly (toVogue, no less), after years of swerving rhinoplasty rumours. TBH, we all worked out ages ago that she’d had work done – her glow-up had been analysed by everyone, from TikTok trolls excavating her baby pics to plastic surgeons giving their professional takes. The nose job was not breaking news, but her public acknowledgement of it definitely was – and our collective reaction reflected a shift towards a more empathetic understanding of how beauty standards shape our decisions.

Here’s why the convo mattered:

  • Being open about getting work done is a new concept – admitting to procedures can make you super vulnerable to criticism, especially when you're high profile. 
  • Bella didn’t just confirm she'd had work done on her nose, she also spoke about how and why she regretted it, saying she wished she’d kept the nose of her ancestors. The conversation that followed prioritised the story behind Bella’s decision, over the result itself. 
  • Her admittance sparked conversations about societal pressures to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, surgery shame and whether or not our faces are up for public debate or not.

Alongside some scepticism, there was a vibe of understanding why Bella felt compelled to reshape her nose, as well as an acknowledgement of her right to love, hate or amend her appearance – an emerging attitude we coin beauty empathy.

WTF is beauty empathy?


/Byoo-tea/ ehm-path-ee/


1 The ability to understand and accept someone's beauty decisions, and beauty justifications, as their own

2 The understanding that someone’s facecard is not up for neggy discussion

It looks like…

  • Accepting, or just not critiquing, someone else's aesthetic/appearance  
  • Challenging societal beauty rules and learned beauty biases
  • Being patient with (or excited by) our own beauty flops 
  • Recognising cultural nuance and the backstory of a lewk and calling out appropriation when you see it


Is this rly necessary? 

Well, yeah. If you’ve consumed literally any form of media, then you know how pervasive beauty standards are. We’ve been subject to beauty dos and beauty don’ts for ages, and the lens of what was deemed acceptable and desirable is rigid, frequently contradictory and often boring. That clusterf*ck of stale standards, repetitive casting and impossible ideals is now being challenged – with much of this resistance happening online. 

Beauty democracy

The internet has become a bit of an anarchic beauty free-for-all – platforms are powered by user-generated content and endless threads of beauty convo, while self-taught MUAs dominate and traditional advertising no longer gets attention. Social media is fostering beauty democracy – giving us the opportunity to experiment with new looks, learn backstories, and celebrate beauty nuances and differences. 

“Unnatural beauty” without secrets, subtlety and shame

Whilst the internet provides a palace for beauty education and inspiration, it also acts as a minefield for the cultural convo around surgery, tweakments and modifications. Anyone who is open about their treatments runs the risk of being branded “unnatural” and therefore instantly unworthy of being considered genuinely attractive, as if “natural beauty” holds more value. In 2020, J-Lo made headlines for denying using Botox and claiming her youthful glow is due to olive oil, leading sceptics and dermatologists alike to label her claim brazen. In cases like this, public scrutiny often leads to more denial from the natural-beauty-claimant/enhancement-denier, which then leads to further criticism. It’s a nasty lose-lose cycle.

However, it seems that denial culture is, at least in part, being neutralised by the rise in procedure admittance and even procedure pride – from long-term deniers Bella Hadid, Kim Kardashian and Madison Beer all admitting alterations, to movements like New Age Bimboism reclaiming the beauty of obviously-enhanced features, like large breast augmentations and super-filled lips. Breakout Euphoria star Chloe Cherry, hailed “TV’s most loveable bimbo”, has become a modern beauty legend, thanks to her striking lewks and voice in the beauty alterations convo. Chloe proudly claims the inspiration behind her filled lips (a Bratz doll named Cloe!) and has openly defended her right to look how she wants, asking “why can't I do something that's ‘unnatural’ because I like how it looks?” Cherry showing up in mainstream media and beauty campaigns from the likes of Urban Decay and MAC is beauty empathy at work. She has always spoken loudly and proudly about her alteration and her lips themselves seem to reflect that same boldness – undeniably filled and glistening without apology. 


While we are still fed brands and trends that promise flawlessness, there are glimpses of our cute, little imperfect selves being celebrated in the mainstream. TikTok has become a breeding ground for alternative beauty experimentation and anti-aesthetics, with viral trends that let “flaws” be forgiven and celebrated, like scummy makeundersdrawn-on dark circles and skin texture reveals. We are becoming more sceptical of perfection served up to us on the FYP: for example, the hyper-flawless clean girl aesthetic that previously had TikTok in a chokehold has received an equal force of scrutiny, with netizens simultaneously critiquingdecolonising and parodising the trend.

Beauty empathy in brands

While many beauty brands have jumped onto a surface-level diversity bandwagon, others have a more expansive and empathetic approach, heralding a wave of content, campaigns, and casting that reject palatability and tropes that are traditionally used to sell beautifying products and procedures. 

The skin neutrality movement, led by brands like Topicals, shows skin and skincare in an untrad way, rejecting boring before and afters that rely on a subjective goal of improvement. Topicals show talent flexing their textured skin and skin flare-ups with fun beauty looks. Their approach to content shows that your skin, no matter its condition, can coexist with your vibe, and positions the brand as a force that seeks to support you, not “fix” you. 

Beauty brand Jecca Blac celebrates the faces and stories of gender-nonconforming people in their casting. They pair their content with advice and practical tutorials on topics like masculine vs feminine contouring and beard shadow coverage, understanding their customers’ circumstances, and approaching their products with their specific needs in mind. They’ve recognised that different beauty experiences need representation in more ways than just casting, and are arming their customers with skills and products to effectively represent themselves.

Tyler, the Creator’s GOLF Le FLEUR also successfully rejects traditional palatability in casting, using visibly aged hand models to display their nail polishes. Hands are often noted as a factor that reveals our age in a negative way – this approach flips that stigma. These examples acknowledge that different factors and circumstances can influence our relationship with, and what we want and need from, beauty.

Beauty rebellion continued

Beauty empathy allows us to fight back against boring beauty rules and think freely about how we want to look, whether temporary or long-term. And as a result, we are in a collective experimental phase, from mainstream celebs’ unexpected looks to mags pushing the boundaries of beauty. So, how can you spot beauty rebellion?

  • Keep an eye out for mainstream beauty taboo-breaking – this year we had Doja Cat’s fashion week face paint and Lil Uzi Vert’s belly ring, but we predict more unexpected looks on the brink of beauty showing up.
  • Check out publications and platforms that reject beauty ideals and instead promote creativity, like Circus Magazine.
  • Look for beauty looks that aren’t centred around a trend or an event, and instead, are inspired by moods and feelings.
  • Expect more fandom empathy. Stans often obsess over the changing looks of their idols (for better or worse), and we predict less criticism and more understanding and celebration, like Lana Del Rey’s stans coming out to ferociously defend her after trolls criticised her appearance.
  • Tap into aesthetic forgiveness. We can expect formerly blacklisted trends, like scouse brows, to be appreciated in new ways as we move away from beauty dos and don’ts.

Even with a legion of beauty rebels, there is still tension between traditional expectations and the people, brands and platforms that are pushing for a difference. It's unlikely that we’re about to dive into an empathetic utopia where everyone minds their own beauty business, but it is likely that a thoughtful approach from brands and celebrated differences among the beauty community will lead more people to feel excited, or at least unaffected, by other people's beauty decisions. That’s pretty stunning. 

For more content like this, explore the rest of the Digiverse, or connect with us on TikTok or Instagram. If you’re a brand or business and want to inspire your audience in innovative ways, reach out to our strategic & creative lab