The makeup trend called “boy beat” has become Instagram’s version of the Telephone game. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different definition.

My definition of boy beat is based on what my friend Ross told me. He regularly performs in drag as Lemon Chiffon but just started wearing makeup as Ross. “I’ve started to wear boy beats, and I want this to be a regular thing,” he texted me the other day. (For the uninitiated, “beat” is a term that originated in the drag community that refers to immaculate makeup application.)

It’s when I wear makeup as a boy and still identify as male.

I asked him what boy beat means to him. “It’s when I wear makeup as a boy and still identify as male. I’m not putting on makeup to be a drag queen or female passing.” His boy beat includes highlighting his cheekbones with a low-key luminizer, filling in his brows, and occasionally applying subtle smoky eye makeup. “If I’m going out, it’s to make me feel more glam,” he explained to me. “Because I wear the same clothes from day to night, the makeup makes me feel fancier.”

Over the past couple months, makeup artists on Instagram, on the other hand, have interpreted boy beat as a no-makeup makeup technique that embraces so-called imperfections such as stray brow hairs, dark circles, freckles, and redness in the way that men do. Many have been crediting YouTuber Sarah Cheung for inspiring them to try out the look. She created a tutorial video in January and explained boy beat as “accentuating features that we usually would consider flaws, like rosacea, acne, dark circles, while still making it work and adding a lot of structure. It’s kind of a reversal of the Instagram perfect skin look.” Basically, Cheung does her makeup to look like the way that guys who don’t wear makeup look every day, completely flipping Ross’s definition around.

It’s accentuating features that we usually would consider flaws.

To accomplish her boy beat look, Cheung started off by applying foundation on the spots where she “needed it” with her hands. Then, she tapped a brown cream blush along the tops of her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. “I’m trying to make it mimic rosacea or sunburn,” she explained. Next, Cheung filled in her brows with a pencil to create a bushy look and make them seem “like your brows have never seen a pair of tweezers before.” The same pencil was also used to speckle her face with faux freckles. Then, Cheung swept eye shadow on to emphasize her dark circles and create discoloration on her eyelids.

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