The Uncanny Valley Makeup Trend on TikTok Gets a Gold Star for Making Us Feel Uncomfortable

The uncanny valley makeup trend is hot on TikTok, but what exactly is it? Read on to see what creators are aiming to achieve with these looks.

Kelly Corbett - Author

Nov. 10 2023, Published 2:35 p.m. ET

TikTok/@bright.eyessstiktok users @beautybyzoeg @valeriya.eros
Source: TikTok/@bright.eyesss; TikTok/@beautybyzoeg; TikTok/@valeriya.eros

The Gist:

  • The uncanny valley effect is a psychological phenomenon that describes the uneasy feelings humans get when looking at something that looks human, but isn't.
  • On TikTok, creators are posting "uncanny valley makeup" looks by applying their makeup in a way that makes them look like they are a robot cosplaying a human.
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The robots have gone wild. They're everywhere and are seemingly trying to one-up humans.

While most of the artificial intelligence technology that has been created for our use is virtual, like a chatbot, there is AI technology being created that doesn't just think like humans, but also acts and looks like humans.

Take Mika for example. Mika is a humanoid robot with a job! She was created by Hanson Robotics and the global rum company Dictador, where she currently serves as CEO.

It's jarring how much Mika looks and thinks like an actual woman. But at the same time, it's still very obvious that she's a robot. That said, as an actual human being, it makes me feel some type of way. This feeling of unease when seeing a machine try to mimic a human is called the uncanny valley effect, per Verywell Mind.

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However, the uncanny valley effect isn't limited to humanoid robots. It can also be experienced when playing video games with human characters. Or how one feels when they spot a mannequin in a store or human-like characters in an animated movie. For example, before Shrek was released, children actually experienced the uncanny valley effect during test screenings of the movie, claiming that the original Fiona was too human-like.

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Not only was the OG Fiona making kids feel frightened, but some kids were crying when she appeared on the screen. Fortunately, she was redesigned before the movie hit the big screen.

That said, TikTok creators, particularly on #makeuptok are very much in their uncanny valley effect era — and we can't blame them. Since robots are trying to mimic humans, why don't we try to mimic them? That's the basis of the uncanny valley makeup trend, which we discuss below.

What is the uncanny makeup trend on TikTok?

In October 2023, TikTok users started posting videos of themselves in "uncanny valley makeup" for Halloween. The trend got a little traction. Surprisingly though, users were still fascinated by the idea of doing their makeup so elaborately that they looked like artificial humans after Halloween passed.

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In November 2023, videos of creators showing off their uncanny valley makeup looks created with the creepy-sounding audio Brutus (Instrumental) exploded onto the platform and the uncanny valley makeup trend was born. Some users even shared reaction videos of them surprising their loved ones with wildly unconventional makeup.

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To create an uncanny valley makeup look, most users piled on the foundation, applying it even over their lips in order to make their whole face look pale and fake. For their eyes, many users applied eyeliner to the middle of their lower lid, making sure not to connect the line to the rest of their eye as that would look too human.

One user even appeared to put something black, perhaps the peel of an olive, in her eyes to make her eyes look fake.

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Ultimately, the uncanny valley makeup trend on TikTok is a reflection of our complicated and growing relationship with new technology. It is unsettling, but will likely continue to be a thing as technology continues to advance. The trend is also just a fun way to laugh off our growing anxiety about the future of technology.

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