Is the Fox-Eye Makeup Trend Racially Insensitive?

Here's What Asian Cosmetic Experts Had to Say

Whether you're scrolling through TikTok or seeing your favorite influencers' posts on social media, you may have (knowingly or unknowingly) come across the viral fox-eye trend.

The latest makeup fad involves using eyeliner, concealer, false lashes and other cosmetics to emulate the elongated look of almond-shaped eyes – one that resembles, you guessed it, a fox.

The look is fairly easy to achieve. Legacy makeup brand Maybelline's tutorial explains how to do it in only six steps, and Gigi Hadid's makeup artist Erin Parsons showcased the look in a four minute Instagram video.

Eyeliner is often used to elongate the outer and inner corners of the eyes, while concealer can minimize the eyebrow's arch to create a straight-brow look. A popular trademark of the fox-eye trend, however, is its pose. Wearers of the new fad have been showcasing their completed makeup by pulling back the corner of their eyes.

Unlike the winged eyeliner trend, which has been around for years, the straighter tip of the fox-eye helps to achieve a more slanted and almond-shaped look, while a curved wing rounds up the eye to make it appear larger.

So what's the problem? Some users on Twitter argue that the latest makeup trend is racially insensitive to Asians, as the "slanted eye" look that is now lauded on white women was once the source of discrimination towards Asians.

One Twitter user claims that the fox-eye trend is "just white people colonizing Asian eyes," while another added that "racism towards Asians is so normalized."

"I showed my mom one of those 'fox eye trend pics where they're pulling their eyes all slanted and she was like 'yeah didn't they do that to you in school,' " Twitter user Sofie Halili wrote.

USA TODAY consulted with four Asian-American cosmetic experts to explore the racial connotations of the fox-eye look.

'When I was young, I got teased' for shape of eyes

Like many Asian Americans who have criticized the trend, Dr. Agnes Ju Chang, a board certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist, finds the look "offensive" to the Asian-American community, who have historically been mocked for the shape of their eyes.

"I have been a subject of racial slurs associated with the shape of my eyes," says Chang, who is Korean-American. "The slanted gesture associated with this makeup trend is … very insensitive."

Erwin Gomez, a Filipino celebrity makeup artist based in Washington, D.C., is happy to see people abandoning the white beauty standards and shifting to appreciate other eye shapes. Replicating this trend on his clients reminds him that "some think it's beautiful to have 'slanted' eyes.'"

"It's an expression of appreciation. I am honored if my clients wanted more slanted eyes, because when I was young, I got teased," he explains. "I was teased for having bigger lips too, and look, now everyone wants big lips!"

Ta Ming Chen, a Taiwanese fashion and beauty makeup artist based in New York City, believes the fox-eye trend has more to do with looking "sexy and mysterious" than "looking Asian."

"Asians have many different facial structures and features, like different types of eyes, even though our eyes may be smaller and more angular than white people," she explains. "Some Asians have more foxy type of eyes. Myself personally, I don't have that kind of eye."

What about the controversial fox-eye pose?

Many critics of the latest makeup trend have condemned the accompanying pose of pulling one's eyes back in order to create a more elongated look. After all, it's a common gesture made to bully Asians for their eye shape.

As an Asian-American makeup artist who is Chinese, Japanese and white, Marc Reagan,admits he initially perceived the isolated makeup technique to be "an exaggerated variation of the wing-tip liner," but seeing the popularized trend with its pose "stepped over the line into cultural appropriation."

"There is a huge difference between using makeup to create a shape or enhance a feature and a person tugging on their eyes to mimic a natural physical feature attributed to a particular race," he says. "Once that gesture uses a stereotype and is mimicked by those who are not from the same ethnic origin, that results in an insensitive form of appropriation."

Chang adds that while users of the trend may not have racist intentions, it "does not change the fact that Asian-Americans in this country have been subjects of this type of racial mocking."

However, some Asian-American makeup experts are not offended. Gomez believes the pose helps to showcase "how good the eyeliner looks."

'Take a moment to think about your actions'

Some of the cosmetic experts consider the fox-eye trend a form of cultural appropriation, while others celebrate the recognition of Asian beauty. With that being said, if someone expresses offense, listen to them.

"Take a moment to think about your actions and exercise your awareness of how your actions may be perceived," Reagan advises non-Asian users of the fox-eye look, especially as Asian-Americans face discrimination amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Even when the intent is not to offend, disregarding the perspective of others and their emotional triggers that stem from cultural discrimination creates a divide."

Will the fox-eye trend last? Chang doesn't think it's here to stay, but has some beauty advice: "Long lasting beauty is about achieving the best version of yourself."