Traditional Latina Beauty Trends That Have Gone Mainstream And Been Appropriated
If there’s anything that the debate over cultural appropriation has taught us in the past few years, it’s that oftentimes the mainstream likes to pick and choose what they deem “cool” from a culture they’ve traditionally shunned and claim ownership of it. One could argue that this phenomenon has disproportionately affected Latina beauty trends.
Sure, some of these beauty trends don’t exclusively “belong” to Latinx cultures, but others were born and raised in Latinx countries. So, without further ado, let’s run down the list of traditionally Latina beauty trends that have gone mainstream (whether we like it or not).
1. Baby Hairs
Although there have been countless articles and think-pieces bemoaning the appropriation of baby hairs, it’s worth repeating here. It’s frustrating that something that has been so traditionally maligned by white America has suddenly shown up on every runway and editorial magazine spread. Although we’re loving this trend because it celebrates something that has been so much a part of Latinx beauty cultures for decades, we can’t help but feel annoyed as well. We guess this trend just needed a Vogue stamp of approval to know what we’ve known all along: slicked down baby hairs are fierce AF.
2. Over-lined Lips
We put this one squarely on the shoulders of Kylie Jenner. Latinas have been overlining their lips decades before Jenner swooped in. Believe us when we say she didn’t discover MAC’s “Spice” lipliner. We have explicit memories of our mothers applying lip liner in front of the mirror with care before a big night. Like many other Latina beauty trends, there seems to be a general consensus that bigger is better. Which brings us to…
3. Killer Curves
Look, Latinas didn’t invent big booties. And not all Latinas have the same body shape! But it’s worth noting that traditionally, Latinx folks have celebrated a curvaceous figure instead of viewing it as undesirable. As Jennifer Lopez, the Booty Queen herself, once said: “My generation was very much focused on size 0 models…My mom and my grandmother were the ones who drilled into me, ‘This is how we are, and this is what’s beautiful’…Everybody I grew up with [had bodies like mine], and they were all beautiful to me”. Preach Jen! We’re right there with you.
4. Bold Brows
It took the advent of Cara Delevigne for the mainstream to finally recognize unruly eyebrows as the thing of beauty that they truly are. The problem is, they’ve always been beautiful to us. One could argue that the most famous pair of eyebrow(s) in history belonged to a Latina. We’re talking about Frida Kahlo, of course. Frida purposefully kept her unibrow intact as a silent protest to anglo-centric beauty standards that she considered oppressive to the Latina body. In addition to that, It’s also worth mentioning that most Latinas haven’t met an eyebrow pencil they didn’t like. There’s power in the brows, ladies.
5. Bold Red Lips
Okay, okay. This is one of those beauty “secrets” that is claiming it belongs to Latinas is a little controversial. However, there is some merit to the argument. As a very eloquent Refinery 29 article pointed out, Latinas’ relationship to red lipstick spans from Frida Kahlo to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Latinas have used red on their lips to emphasize their confidence, their femininity and their presence in general. As Dominican-American author Junot Díaz once eloquently wrote: “She’s applying her lipstick; I’ve always believed that the universe invented the color red solely for Latinas”.
6. Bronzed, Glowy Skin
Let’s be real: long before the #highlightonfleek movement, it was none other than the Latina Icon herself, Jennifer Lopez, who knew how to light up the room with her skin. But Jennifer Lopez isn’t the only one who has been committed to keeping it golden. Latin culture has always valued a sun-kissed look–especially the Latinx communities based in hot, humid places like Miami, Puerto Rico, and The Dominican Republic. Having a healthy glow means you’ve been on the beach, basking in the sun, which is how many Latinas spent their childhood.
7. Hoop Earrings
Latinas have been rocking hoop earrings long before this current wave of hoop-mania swept Instagram. Therefore, it’s slightly irksome that something that was labeled as too “ghetto” or “chola” before is now classified as red-carpet worthy. Like many writers have stated before, it’s not that non-Latinx people aren’t allowed to wear hoop earrings, it’s just that it’s wrong to give the white celebrities credit for a trend that Latinas have been doing for decades. It’s simply another example of how white America admires exoticism as long as it’s not too “other”.
8. Beauty Marks
Beauty marks have a long history as an aesthetic trend (just look at old portraits in any art museum). But in recent memory, it’s worth noting that beauty marks have been predominantly acknowledged as beautiful in Latinx cultures. There’s a reason the stereotypical “Chola look” conjures up images of girls with arched eyebrows and a beauty mark painted above their lips. Yes, people from all over the world can be born with cute birthmarks, but it’s inaccurate to give all the credit for their popularity to Cindy Crawford. Latinas have celebrated and emphasized their beauty marks for generations!
9. Long Acrylic Nails
Long acrylic nails really blew up in 2017 when Kylie Jenner began Instagramming her manicures. From that point forward, long acrylics officially hit the mainstream and were dubbed “Kylie Jenner’s Long Nail Trend”. This is frustrating because, for decades, Latinas’ love of long acrylics has been the butt of joke after joke. Not to mention, before the Kylie Jenner made them “cool”, the mainstream consensus was that they were “tacky” or “ghetto”. This just further reiterates the idea that Latinas’ beauty trends are often only accepted by the mainstream when a white celebrity promotes it.
10. Día de Los Muertos Makeup
Unsurprisingly, this “beauty trend” falls squarely under the “appropriation” category. It only takes a quick Pinterest search to discover the hundreds of non-Latinx bloggers and aspiring fashionistas who make up their faces in imitation of the traditional Dia de Los Muertos calaveras face painting. It’s understandable that the costumes and the makeup are beautiful–breathtaking, even. But what many non-Latinx people fail to realize is that for many Latinxs, Dia de Los Muertos is a spiritual, personal tradition that shouldn’t be used for views of their blog-posts.
11. Bandanna Headband
The bandanna headband is a hallmark of Chicana style in the Western states and started as a way for Latinas to reclaim for themselves what was often viewed as a negative image. It coincided with the Chicano Movement of the 1960s when people of largely Mexican descent in the Southwest US decided to demand equality from the government. Although the trend started among manual workers as, obviously, a means to keep the hair out of their face, it evolved into a proud fashion statement that Latinas chose to make–a reclaiming of the roots they had, up until then, been told they should be ashamed of. It’s not become a hallmark of the “Urban Chic” fashion aesthetic.
12. Long Flowing Hair
For the most part, hairstyle trends are cyclical. For example, short bobs were all the rage in the 1920s while bouffant-like beehives were popular in the ‘50s. But now we’re in an era where long flowing hair with a loose wave is in. Obviously, not all Latinas look alike nor have the same skin color, facial features, or hair across Latinx countries. But whether we like it or not, most Latinx cultures have traditionally held up long, flowing hair as a standard of beauty. At this moment in time, this beauty trend that was standard in Latinx communities is officially mainstream.
13. Brown Lipstick
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that in the 90s, Latinas were about that brown lipstick. Don’t believe us? Google your favorite Latina celeb + “90s” and you’ll probably find a plethora of photos of Latina celebrities on Google images who used to use the plummy-dark lipstick as their favorite shade. Unlike some beauty “trends” (ahem, Dia de Los Muertos), this one was not born and raised in the Latinx community, but it definitely took it by storm. Now, Insta-celebs like Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner have pushed it mainstream again. And we don’t even have to go to Sephora to restock! All it takes is a trip to mom’s old makeup bag.
14. Puebla Dresses
Embroidered Puebla Dresses have roots all the way back to 19th century Mexico. Needless to say, this beautiful piece of clothing has remained a staple for any Mexican woman who likes to celebrate her culture. That’s why we were surprised when we saw a version of it show up on the runways of Alberta Ferretti. It’s always interesting when a fashion designer recognizes the beauty of Latinx culture and re-interprets it with a high-fashion twist.
15. Brazilian Blowouts
Named after the country where it originated, Brazilian Blowouts are a hair treatment that smooths frizz and tames fly-aways by bonding keratin to the hair’s cuticle. Usually called the escova progressiva (progressive blowout) in Brazil, Brazilians loved it because many of them are mestiças (mixed-race people) with hair that ranges the spectrum from kinky-coily to poker straight. Around 2007, Brazilian Blowout-mania hit the US and it’s been mainstream ever since. We guess it was a secret to groundbreaking to stay quiet.
16. Frida’s Flower Crowns
Along with her aforementioned unibrow, society remembers Frida Kahlo for always wearing a colorful flower crown. Due to Frida’s rise to mainstream popularity, this flower crown has become the accessory du jour for the hipster-chic Urban Outfitters crowd. Usually accompanied by her signature braided up-do and middle part, this look is popular because it signals that it’s wearer is aware of how awesome Frida was. Which is great, because she was. But let’s not forget that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have been celebrating her memory with this same accessory years before it hit the mainstream.
17. Cross Jewelry
We’ve come a long way since that infamous Sex and the City episode where Carrie Bradshaw called gold jewelry “ghetto” and that she would only wear it as costume jewelry. Now, celebs are commonly decked out on the red carpet with gold cros earrings, necklaces, and their bracelets–and this trend is being labeled as “new”. In 2016, fashion outlets were labeling it as the latest “cool girl” jewelry trend. But we know better. Latinas have been wearing crosses for decades to celebrate their heritage as well as their relationship to spirituality.
18. Chola Style
We understand why the traditional “Chola Style” of baggy pants, dark lined lips, and buttoned-up plaid shirts has swept runways recently. It’s simple: because it’s cool. The origins of the Chola aesthetic originate in working-class Chicanas circles in the South-Western US. Chicanas created their own style to reject white culture. They utilized hand-me-down menswear and an exaggerated makeup look to blend tough and feminine styles together. Also optional: big gold jewelry, a bandanna as a headband, and a wife-beater tank top. Before Hollywood appropriated the look, the Chola style symbolized femininity, toughness, non-conformity and the history of struggle in the Chicana community.
19. The Cat-Eye
Latinas have always been queens of painting their eyes up with a sultry, cat-like flick at the end that many have seen as “exotic”. There’s a reason why many classic Hollywood movies that depicted Latinas depicted them in bright red, with plump lips and a winged cat eye–it was a look that was coded as “Latin Lover”. But maybe it wasn’t so much “exotic” as it was Latina women choosing not to assimilate to the more mellowed-down makeup preferred by mainstream America. Now, of course, there isn’t a pop star on the red carpet that doesn’t rock the Cat-Eye look.
20. Bejeweled Bustier
One of Selena Quintanilla’s signature looks, who doesn’t remember that scene in Selena when Jennifer Lopez puts one on for the first time, much to the dismay of her father? Flash-forward to the mid-2000s, Selena’s jeweled bustier has seen iterations on everyone from Katy Perry to Taylor Swift. It’s the ultimate pop star costume: sexy, glittery, and just as revealing as you want it to be. Let’s not forget to attribute the trend to the woman that started it all, though: Selena Quintanilla.