I’ll never achieve the clean-girl aesthetic — and that’s okay

by Gaby Agbulos

IF you haven’t already heard of the “clean-girl aesthetic,” let me explain it to you the best way I can. Being a “clean girl” means being minimalist in terms of how you look – your makeup, clothing… everything is done in a way that makes you look made up but in an effortless, “just-woke-up-like-this” way.

If you’re looking for examples, some of the most notable clean girls are Hailey Bieber, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Zoe Kravitz; while some brands often associated with this aesthetic are those akin to Glossier, Drunk Elephant, and Dior Beauty. 

The whole point of this aesthetic is to look gorgeous and put-together without even trying but the truth is, there’s a lot of work that goes into achieving this look. Some would even say that it takes more effort than doing a full face of makeup. 

For people like me, trying to achieve the clean-girl aesthetic feels like an impossible task. And that can’t help but hurt my ego a little, because what exactly would you call a girl who holds an opposite aesthetic? 

Dirty. That’s what. 

A feeling unfulfilled

During the pandemic, I found myself spending a lot more time on myself, especially when it came to my looks. I’d spend hours working out, putting on makeup, and trying out different outfits, all so I could spend the day in bed recording TikToks of myself and posting selfies to my Instagram dump and only to my Instagram dump. 

I’m not gonna lie – I got a lot of attention during this time, in the form of comments from random strangers which, for some reason, filled me with a sense of validation. 

Never mind that I was waking up way earlier and sleeping a lot later than I wanted to, never mind that I hid from social media anytime I had so much as a pimple on my face, never mind the fact that anytime I wore makeup I felt like a pig wearing lipstick.

Now that I’m in college, I feel like I’m surrounded by clean girls practically all the time. They look so beautiful whether they have makeup on or not, and when I’m around them, I always feel like I’m trying too hard – like I’m putting on a show. 

I have always tried to convince myself that the clothing I wear and the makeup I put on are all for me, and that is true. But what’s also true is that a part of me dies a little inside because I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be as beautiful as they are. I feel that the beauty I hold is just me trying to make up for everything I don’t have – that factor that makes a clean girl “clean.”

But maybe that’s okay. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with being a self-proclaimed “dirty girl,” no innuendo intended.

To each their own

As the dirty girl aesthetic started to blow up on platforms like TikTok, honestly, I felt a sense of relief wash over me. 

Serving as the antithesis to the clean girl aesthetic, the dirty-girl aesthetic means not caring about what others think about what you look like. It means wearing layers upon layers of makeup and putting on whatever clothes you want no matter how loud they may be, as long as it’s what you want to do.

It means dressing up like Adam Sandler if you want to, not washing your hair for a questionable amount of days, and saying “f*ck looking clean if it means that I don’t get to look like me.” 

Personally, I prefer the dirty-girl aesthetic because I feel that it better suits my personality. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in wanting to try, in putting an effort into how you look and making it obvious that you’ve done so. 

I’m not saying there’s one that’s better and another that’s worse. All I’m saying is that there’s something for everyone, and no aesthetic should be hailed as better than the other just because that’s what’s popular.

If you’re torn between the two, try them both out. Look at what suits you better without thinking about the opinion of others, or which of the two is more “socially unacceptable.”

As long as it feels more like “you,” that’s all that matters.



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