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Kim Kardashian contour snatched
Kim Kardashian

The age of the snatched face is over, the time of the sunken face has come

Grace Ellington charts the rise and fall of the heavily-contoured look that dominated the 2010s, and explains why ‘snatch fatigue’ has set in among young people

Grace Ellington is a make-up artist and the beauty editor at Polyester zine.

In 2012, Kim Kardashian posted “Wanna see how @scottbarnes68 contours?!” and, in doing so, changed the way we did make-up. The accompanying image of her unblended face dramatically drawn in sharp stripes seemed shocking then but soon became absorbed into the beauty canon. Ten years later we are only just starting to shift away from this specific vision of beauty. While micro beauty trends come and go at high speed, Kardashian’s photo marked a macro-shift that was not about a colour or texture, but a direction: three regularly spaced parallel lines stacked on top of each other, winging upwards and outwards, collectively forming the snatch.

Wind back to the beginning of the 2010s, the last few years pre-snatch, and Cheryl Cole’s round cheeks and baby features are considered one of the prettiest in England. Cara Delevingne is in rapid ascension, her slightly softer, fuller face omnipresent in fashion. There was an unselfconscious naivete to the most coveted faces at the beginning of the previous decade, something that feels a bit dated now, beyond just the hair and make-up choices. A hazy roundness and lack of regularity, a slight suggestion of laxity in the skin instead of extreme tautness. The line of the eyes didn’t replicate the angle of the brows, which might have been straight or curved, but rarely pointed upwards. There was less uniformity and fewer straight lines. We were still mostly looking at pictures taken by professionals in magazines and so there wasn’t yet that need to organise the face into a format that would look great on a phone screen. 

Kardashian’s early iteration of the snatch is characterised by full coverage, super bright under-eyes and extreme angles – a mixture of sexuality and highly manicured orderliness that was pioneered culturally by the Kardashian family (via the drag community). It was also perfectly timed with the beginning of Instagram, where the strict lines and clearly delineated structure of the snatched face translated better on first-gen iPhones with cruder cameras.

As the years went on, the trend for a full-coverage face started to wane but the direction remained – sculpted faces with perfectly symmetrical and regular upward lines. Something that started with make-up then crept into the structure of the faces itself via procedures such as PDO threads and Botox brow lifts. Face tapes started appearing on popular make-up accounts, pulling the faces of naturally sculpted models up even further. Towards the end of the decade, Bella Hadid was taking over and trends tracked with her own beauty evolution. The term “fox eyes” saw a big increase in searches, and social media became overrun with adverts for non-surgical procedures, at best offering a semblance of Hadid’s look and at worst creasing and folding the eyes in odd-looking ways in pursuit of an elevated outer corner. 

The first rumblings of ‘snatch fatigue’ began in the reaction to Hadid’s 2021 Cannes appearance. Dressed in a Schiaparelli Couture breastplate that looked like the exposed mechanism of her lungs rendered in gold, the most striking thing about her was still her face, which appeared to be stretched so tautly it almost looked painful.

Since then, a new, less taut trend has started to emerge. As a make-up artist, the beauty look I now see on moodboards everywhere is Iris Law in a haze of icy blue eyeshadow. The make-up, created by Sam Visser for Law’s first Met Gala, felt so fresh partly because of the absence of strict edges. Bleached brows are also slowly filtering into the mainstream, creating a look that emphasises the depth and curve of the eye socket, and models Amelia Grey and Gabbriette are becoming stars by epitomising a worryingly unattainable and potentially harmful new ideal based on gauntness in the lower face (looking thin and drawn, essentially). Coupled with a disappearing eyebrow and a hollow under-eye, the new look is not snatched – it’s sunken. It’s got a lot more to do with the shape of the skull itself than a smooth stretch of the skin.

The sunken face offers a sort of wan, unhealthy take on beauty that reflects a more disaffected outlook. Next to the tight lines of the snatch with its signals of health, wealth and optimism, it looks much more subversive, and appears playfully lazy. One of its signature features is very little base, especially under eye concealer, and while the eyes are often smoked and the lips overlined, the skin reveals darkness and shadows. Most of the make-up is worn in places where it’s pretty obvious – very unlike the snatched face, where the primary work is in the complexion. While both make-up styles can be heavy, snatched feels like it contains significantly more anxiety about disguising flaws and having a correct appearance.

Aside from Gabbriette and Amelia Gray, there’s also Mia Goth – who during the beginning of her relationship with Shia Lebeouf in the mid-2010s suffered many Daily Mail articles comparing her appearance unfavourably with the hyper-snatched Megan Fox – who is now emerging as a beauty icon for Gen Z. Her naturally extremely fair brows and heart-shaped face read as a slightly less stylised version of sunken.

Others have been less successful in replicating the sunken look. Kendall Jenner tried it with a bleached brow and circular smokey eye at the 2022 Met Gala but it doesn’t feel quite right. Ultimately in this era of tweakments, it is too hard to shift between one beauty ideal and the next if you have already made structural changes – a reminder that while facial beauty trends are longer lasting than the make-up on top of them, they are still trends. Procedures done to comply with the current beauty standards will eventually look as dated as cut crease eyeshadow does now.

Snatch fatigue could be related to changing attitudes towards the hyper-aspirational social media aesthetic. Where once the level of perfection felt empowering, now it feels impossible. The recent Indie Sleaze revival, alongside the TikTok trend for dark under-eyes, suggests that young people are embracing a more rebellious idea of beauty that feels reminiscent of the pre-social media and pre-snatch ideals.

Something about the snatched look’s obvious level of effort has also started to feel irrelevant. Whether the snatch is achieved surgically, requiring significant means, or via make-up techniques, requiring a lot of time, it telegraphs an intense commitment to looking perfect which no longer chimes with a population experiencing a cost of living crisis. The wealth gap between celebrities and normies has never felt more obvious. The sunken look seems to embrace a messier reality, and its hedonistic connotations feel a lot more fun to experiment with than the “perfectionism” of the snatch.

All that being said, the sunken face is certainly not a radical new replacement. Having one dominant idea of beauty that is largely helped along by surgical and non-surgical procedures – or by being a certain weight – benefits no one except those with the resources to emulate it. Ultimately, even they will be left behind as the ideal face shape moves on again. Now we are in a period of shift, it is a perfect time to resist the creation of a new archetype and instead try to find an individual beauty look that simply suits you.

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