What Is Byojaku Makeup? | CoolJapan

Characterised by red blush-lined eyes and pale foundation, we have to admit that the byojaku (meaning “sickly” or “weak” in Japanese) makeup indeed makes you look like you’re having a bad case of allergies. Now, you may be wondering why anyone would go through the trouble of putting on makeup to look sick. Well, because it’s cute. The fragility of looking sick and in need of comfort is just part of the appeal.

The trend did not sit well with everyone, though, with some saying that it’s “concerning”. While the concern is valid, several fashion and beauty trends are more nuanced, and when it comes to byojaku makeup, there is really more than what meets the eye. Learn more about this polarising trend, why it’s so popular and how you can recreate it at home.

Beyond the aesthetics of byojaku

What is byojaku makeup? Called the hangover look and the sickest beauty trend, it’s often presented as another strange, experimental makeup fad. But beyond being a fun look to try, it actually holds another layer of meaning. Byojaku is part of a larger style genre called “yami-kawaii” which means “sick/darkness-cute” which features medical themes including menhera (slang for people in need of mental health care).

Sweet motifs of pastels, ribbons and frills are juxtaposed with biting statements (“I kill you”) and melancholic ones (“I want to die”). Bisuko, an artist and illustrator who is one of the pioneers of the yami-kawaii menhara subgenre, told Refinery29 that he wants “to change the negative image of mental health issues” and that “there’s a demand for the things people are avoiding.” It’s a way of sugarcoating uncomfortable topics to make them more “palatable” which can make way for meaningful conversations. There is also a sense of solidarity among those who identify with this subgenre; knowing that someone else is going through the same thing can be comforting. Essentially, yami-kawaii can count as a social movement. But instead of placards, makeup and fashion are the preferred means of expression.

How to recreate the byojaku makeup

If the message behind byojaku makeup resonated with you or maybe you just want to try it out, here’s how you can do it.

Apply a light shade foundation

Unlimited Breathable Lasting Cushion Foundation Shu Uemura

shu uemura Unlimited Breathable Lasting Cushion Foundation Shu Uemura, SGD78/~USD59 (sephora.com)

As byojaku makeup’s goal is to look sickly pale, you’ll need to apply a foundation that’s one to two shades lighter than your complexion. Make sure to pick one that’s blendable so it won’t look too jarring. Foundation cushions are especially great for this and you’ll end up with a more “natural” pale look.

Lightly line the eyes

MicroLiner Ink - Crayon Matte Eyeliner in 05 White

MicroLiner Ink - Crayon Matte Eyeliner in 05 White, SGD38.~USD29 (sephora.com)

While typical beauty looks call for black eyeliner, byojaku makeup is all about white eyeliner. What you need is something that will call attention to your eyes in a subtle manner, so just very lightly line the rim of your eyes.

Blush it up

Jill Stuart Mix Blush Compact N in 16 Rose Box,

Jill Stuart Mix Blush Compact N in 16 Rose Box, SGD66/~USD50 (sephora.com)

Now on to the main event! First, apply one sweep of the blush. Next, apply one to two dabs of the blush under your eyes. It should be noticeable but not overly painted. The finished look should be similar to how it is like when you cried all night. The key is to use a shade that mimics reddish undereye bags like red or pink. Use matte or shimmer (not glitter) blush since these are more manageable. You can also use red eyeshadow for a cleaner look.

Finishing touches
Shiseido Brow Ink Trio,shu uemura Rouge Unlimited Amplified High Pigment Satin Lipstick

(Left) Shiseido Brow Ink Trio, SGD45/~USD34, sephora.com. (Right) shu uemura Rouge Unlimited Amplified High Pigment Satin Lipstick, SGD44/~USD33, sephora.com

For lips, you can use any light lip tint just to give your puckers a little colour. But don’t put on too much as you’ll need your lips to also look a little pale. As for brows, we would recommend going for the straight brow to complement the innocent appeal of byojaku makeup.