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Renata Kaveh/The Globe and Mail

At Simone Rocha’s fall 2022 runway presentation in London, the collection’s uncharacteristically pared-down garments inspired makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver to use the Irish fashion designer’s signature pearl and gemstone embellishments as makeup. Similar adornments were spotted this season at Burberry, where makeup artist Pat McGrath spelled out the brand’s name on models’ faces with prismatic crystal gems. At Givenchy, body piercing-like orbs added to the collection’s heavy-metal aesthetic.

While a dramatic runway beauty look can generate instant online buzz for a new collection, such theatrical makeup shouldn’t be discounted as simple click bait. In fact, it illustrates the growing ethos of cosmetics as personal expression that has upended old school notions of a beauty trend cycle dictated by big brands. As de Kluyver told British Vogue at the Simone Rocha show, “I always love the idea that makeup is worn as a fashion accessory and is just an extension of your personality and identity.” Instead of inviting the question, “why would anyone stick jewels on their face,” this anything-goes attitude asks, “why wouldn’t you?”

As a visual communication tool, beauty has the power to amplify a designer’s vision for a collection and this season’s elaborate application of gemstones is no exception. “Any time makeup is used to create art, fantasy and a step out of the everyday, it enhances the experience of fashion as art and can help elevate a look,” Toronto-based makeup artist and hairstylist Sabrina Rinaldi says. These singular looks can boast cultural longevity and are often referenced by creatives for decades.

The face-gem moment traces its origins to what experts at industry trend forecaster WGSN refer to as the Gen Z-centric anti-perfectionist makeup moment. “This trend is about self-expression and individualism, rather than the homogenous beauty standards that are often force-fed to us,” WGSN beauty analyst Megan Bang says.

A big reason for the face gem’s current popularity is Euphoria, the Emmy-winning HBO series that embodies the Gen-Z zeitgeist. Its strong beauty looks often include glittering rhinestones near the eyes. Adventurous makeup lovers are obviously tuning in. According to WGSN’s Bang, search engine data shows that interest in the terms “face gems Euphoria” has risen 180 per cent over the past 12 months.

Donni Davy, Euphoria’s head makeup artist, credits the popularity of her artistry to the show’s framing of fantastical makeup as suitable for everyday life. “In the past, rhinestones were associated with people who perform on stage and wear extravagant costumes, but normalizing the rhinestone also normalizes unapologetic self-celebration,” Davy says. “Seeing these looks on a group of relatable TV characters who were not lit for ‘beauty’ but who were instead portraying real-life scenarios and really living in these makeup looks really helped to redefine this kind of makeup as accessible and totally wearable.”

To help make the look available to fans of the show, Davy recently launched Half Magic Beauty, a makeup collection that includes rhinestones backed with medical-grade adhesive. It is part of a broader movement in the beauty industry to encourage exploring artistic impulses through makeup products such as facial stickers. Davy’s offering joins equally inventive brands such as Isamaya, the makeup line by the boundary-pushing editorial artist Isamaya Ffrench that’s known for its chromatic skin finishes, and Pleasing, musician Harry Style’s playful celebration of colour.

Whether wearers choose to defy convention through conceptual makeup looks or simply want to have more fun with their cosmetics, it’s a form of expression that Rinaldi says has already made its way into everyday life. “In this somewhat post-COVID world, I think we all want to get done up and experiment with makeup and fashion and life a little,” she says. “Face gems just add to the magic.”


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Coat, $21,965 at Gucci ( Chloe earrings, $502 at Nordstrom ( Kaveh/The Globe and Mail

A trompe l’oeil manicure mimics the texture of slowly melting ice.


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Simone Rocha balaclava, $380, beaded bid, $720 through Kaveh/The Globe and Mail

Inspired by the Simone Rocha fall show, crystals encrust the eye line.


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Coat, price on request at Prada ( Earrings, $430 at Swarovski ( Kaveh/The Globe and Mail

This gilt lip treatment is an extreme expression of the season’s metallic glosses.


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Michons Marigot coat, $400 at 100% Silk ( Earrings, $400 at Swarovski ( Kaveh/The Globe and Mail

Emphasize an ornate hair line with a trim of silver pearls.

Styling by Nadia Pizzimenti. Makeup and hair by Ronnie Tremblay for Makeup assistant: Kathy Nguyen. Hair assistant: Priya Kumari Bilkhu. Manicures by Khristinne Manuszak for Nail Bar. Styling assistant: Shae Holt. Models: Sadie Kim at Next Models, Nyabel Gatkuoth at Sutherland Models.

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