…The “Puffy, Smiling Eyes” Look?

05 Jun

Personally, I’m a huge fan of watching make-up tutorials on YouTube. I came across a recent video from YouTuber Michelle Phan, who did a tutorial on how to achieve what she called the “Puffy, Smiling Eyes” look. On her blog, she also accompanied a link to her tutorial with this photo showing women with “puffy” eyes before they were photoshopped:

lj4E6WdoLNe9adhEt6NPl4s4So, I guess “puffy eyes” is an Asian thing? Being an Asian woman myself, I didn’t really notice that this was a “thing” before, but it seems to suggest that it is a flaw since these woman are photoshopped.

I suppose I am a little confused and surprised with her tutorial. It just seems really strange to me. What do you think of Phan’s attempt to create the flaw as a look? Why not just be natural if the flaw is what we are okay with?


Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “…The “Puffy, Smiling Eyes” Look?

  1. goodyeak

    June 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I too found her tutorial strange. It reminded me a lot of our discussion in class about the use of plastic surgery to alter and diminish ethnic markers. I’m specifically thinking of the discussion on the ‘double-eyelid surgery’ many Asian-American women undergo in order to make their eyes bigger, effectively ‘whitening’ their features. This new trend, the puffy eye look, also makes the eye look bigger and rounder. The main difference here is that the effect is created not by surgery but rather by make-up. Phan emphasizes that in this case, the purpose of the makeup strategy is only to accentuate ‘natural’ physical characteristics girls already possess.

    What I found really fascinating however was the language she uses in the video. The phrase, “If you pair your cute puffy eyes with small gentle lips, you’re going to look like a doll” conjures up an image in my head of a young girl, enforcing this notion of beauty as youthful, feminine and girly. Throughout the video she constantly repeats the words ‘cute’, ‘cheerful’, ‘sweet’, and ‘youthful’ finishing with “Good luck cuties”, reinforcing this idea that beauty is a youthful appearance.

  2. laurenkchow

    June 7, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Wow, I never knew this was a thing either! Apparently I have “puffy eyes” myself I guess, and I always thought it just made me look tired in photos…

    But anyways, I think it’s interesting that the tutorial seems framed around achieving this look because it makes you look happier, more cheerful, etc. This reasoning reminds me of the interactions straight men frequently have with women telling them to smile (which is apparently way bigger of a thing than I thought, a la Why do I need to look happy for everyone all the time? It kind of goes along with the whole women-should-please-others mentality our culture seems to have.

  3. leafelhai

    June 7, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I agree with Katherine’s reading of the trend– puffy eyes = larger, more alert/cheerful eyes (though as a self-identified sufferer/enjoyer of puffy smiling eye syndrome, I have to confess that I’ve never made that connection myself). This blogger draws the same comparison between the puffy eye trend and double eyelid surgery:

    Lilly’s question is still a very interesting one though– why do some people want to use makeup to artificially imitate a naturally occurring phenomenon, while others are doing everything they can to cover it up? The language Michelle Phan uses in her video illustrates this familiar tension between natural and artificial clearly:

    “I’m using here a dual-brow palette set that’s going to help me create natural-looking brows” [Aren’t the most natural-looking brows the ones that are /naturally/ growing on your face?]

    “Reshape your brows until you’re happy with the look. Remember, they don’t have to look identical. Identical-looking brows can sometimes appear too artificial-looking, so if they’re slightly off, that’s totally fine.”
    [If you don’t want to create artificial-looking brows, wouldn’t it be better to do nothing to them?]

    “take the time to line your eyes. It’s important to keep the line as thin as possible”
    [You need to add definition to your eyes, but not too much– that would look tacky.]

    Just as we’ve seen since the beginning of the course, it seems that the ideal beauty is one that imitates naturalness while in fact being wholly artificial. Maybe this practice of turning a “flaw” into a beauty trait could compared to adding moles (“beauty spots”) on the upper lip using makeup. A person might not want a natural, permanent mole, but an artificial (and natural-looking) one is desirable because it can be put on and taken off depending on the circumstance. As Peiss discusses, that’s part of the appeal of makeup– the ability to assume a completely new identity as the situation demands. When it’s natural, a mole or puffy eyes might be a flaw, but when they’re taken on voluntarily, they become a fashion accessory!

  4. varanass

    June 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I also agree with Katherine and Leaf that puffy eyes could be seen as more westernized, larger eyes. This video reminds me of another Asian woman, bubzbeauty, on YouTube, who has videos such as “How to get a Slimmer Face” and “No Makeup Makeup”. The first video discusses how you can achieve a slimmer, more “V-shaped face” with x, y, and z techniques to decrease the puffiness in your cheeks. The second video discusses how can attain “effortless natural beauty” by using minimal “enhancing” make-up. Through the beauty regimen recommended in the second video, bubzbeauty also highlights her cheekbones to create the illusion of a slimmer face. I was not expecting that she also used the highlighting make-up tool on her nose to “create the illusion of a higher [set] nose.” It seems as though many of these beauty practices are to shift her viewers towards an ‘average’, or homogenized look of beauty. It also seems as though these practices are directed more towards her Asian viewers rather than everyone, because, personally, I do not want to create any sort of illusion that my nose is any higher set or larger than it already is.

    Full videos:
    How to get a Slimmer Face:
    No Makeup Makeup:

    Sidenote: I also recently discovered Michelle Pham’s video channel on YouTube. What do you think of her make-up videos? They’re a bit more themed and extreme, but I’d be curious to hear what you guys think of them.
    Forest Fairy:
    Seductive Vampire:


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