Grunge Make Up Tips


Grunge make up: Achieve the original indie grunge makeup look in 3 ways: classic, indie and modern. See our grunge tips, tutorials & style advice.

Grunge Make Up Look #1 – Classic

Actually, a lot of people into the grunge lifestyle in the 90s simply didn’t wear make up. Why style your face when you haven’t changed your clothes in days? Why apply make up when you could be making music in a garage?

The classic grunge make up look was heavy on the eyes, matched either with the bright red lipstick favoured by Courtney Love or Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland (who invented the grunge fashion known as kinderwhore style) or nude on the mouth. This evolved into a make up style that had the media beating their breasts: heroin chic.

The heroin chic look involved using your make up box to achieve dark, sunken, smudgy black eyes. Combined with matte nude lipstick and pale skin, this gave you the look of a, well, a junky. It was very pretty though. The media thought this grunge make up look condoned drugs and with heroin chic on the rise the models started getting even more emaciated… but it wasn’t grunge’s fault. And make up is just make up. So let’s look at our first grunge make up look, the classic style.

Keynotes for classic grunge makeup:

  • Smudgy
  • Sexy
  • Pale
  • A touch consumptive

How to get the classic grunge look

  • Use a nude lip colour and keep it matte – or go for bright red lipstick if you prefer.
  • Use lashings of eyeshadow in black, grey or brown.
  • Get a black, eyeliner (grey and brown eyeliners also work) and apply your eyeliner to both the upper and lower lids.
  • Use plenty of mascara.
  • Keep the skin nude or pale – one shade paler than you are if you want your grunge eye make up to be prominent.
  • Paint your nails a dark colour (black, grey or navy) to finish.

Grunge Make Up Look #2 – Contemporary

Alexander Wang did us a favour by trying a new take on grunge make up – still nicely consumptive, but working with a palette of browns rather than black and grey.

Grunge Skin: Only moisturiser is used on the skin which is left absolutely clean. No foundation, blush or primer – nothing. If you have blemishes, you can apply foundation in your normal way but keep the look matte and avoid using blush on the cheeks.

Grunge Lips: The lips were utterly nude. If you’re a lover of make up you can get heroin chic grunge lips by going for a matte nude lipstick.

Grunge Eyes: The grunge statement was made with the eyes. They featured a mix of sepia MAC Cream Colour Base, a deeo brown paint stick (MAC Eye Shadow in Brown Down would work) and a slick of vaseline painted across the lids almost to the browbone for a greasy-eyed look. Well, we don’t know if Mr Wang used vaseline for those lovely grunge eyes. But that’s what we would use to get that gloss effect. No eyeliner for this look. You want to look as though you have heavily bruised and shadowed eyes from sleepless nights.

The heroin chic grunge hair featured on Wang’s models was, incidentally, created by a supremely low side parting and really quite a lot of max hold hairspray to keep it in place. Research tells us those grunge hairstyles were held in place by baking the hairsprayed tresses with an ultra-hot hairdryer.

Grunge Make Up Look #3 – Indie

For this, we’ve used Agyness Dean in her grunge fashion mode (actually, isn’t it a bit more Ramones than grunge? Nevertheless, ’tis nice).

Grunge Skin: Use an ivory base foundation (or a foundation one shade lighter than your skin, no more – test it on your hand to be sure. It has to blend in pretty seamlessly with your hand but just have a very slightly pale effect).

Grunge Lips: Go for whited-out lips. Use a matte nude lipstick, or smear your chosen foundation onto your lips then apply nude lipstick / gloss on top of that. Your lips do get a bit dry and cracked if you use foundation as a lipstick though.

Grunge Eyes: Experiment with a nude yellow-brown shadow that will make your eyes look sunken, as though you’ve had too many late nights. As though you’ve danced with the moon and the stars, but never woken up in time to see a daisy opened to the sun.

Main photo: easyNeon