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Soft grunge makeup: be an edgy rebel with a pretty twist

A woman wearing black lipstick demonstrating the soft grunge look

Soft grunge makeup is fresh and edgy. An intriguing fusion of rebellion and ethereal charm, it's the antithesis of flawless combined with a lived-in, smudged aesthetic. It may have a whiff of the ’90s, but there’s something distinctly ‘present’ about this toned-down look. 

The harshness of makeup trends from the alternative scene has given way to a more mushy, earthy look with a smattering of shimmer. Smokey eyes remain a cornerstone of this underrated style. They are most effective when paired with a hint of sparkle, or even a shade shifter, on bitten lips in impetuous shades. Combined they present the kind of detached cool that screams muted eccentricity.

But how do you go ‘soft’ on a semi-punk look without accidentally veering into full-blown grunge territory? This guide will unlock the secrets of soft grunge, transforming you into a modern-day muse with a touch of rebellious flair.

It is worth remembering that many elements of grunge are currently trending throughout makeup styles. The smokey eye. Skin tints. Bold brows. The list goes on…

Natural-looking skin: the perfect soft grunge canvas

Soft grunge makeup thrives on a natural, matte canvas. That means ditching the heavy, full-coverage foundation. Instead, opt for a lightweight BB cream or tinted moisturiser. You should be looking for a product that blurs and conceals without masking your skin’s natural texture. There is nothing wrong with embracing the occasional freckle or blemish, if you want to give off a raw, authentic vibe, but true ‘soft’ is better flawless.

Where this look does deviate from other happening makeup trends is the omission of a glowy finish. Grunge, in all its guises, is distinctly matte. 

A woman with bold, bushy eyebrows and dark lipstick

Brows: the boldly defined frame

Bold, bushy brows are an absolute ‘must’ of the soft grunge aesthetic. That’s great news if you want to be edgy but still part of the mainstream because full and fluffy brows are red hot right now. 

Create a fearless brow look easily. Simply fill in your brows with pencil or powder in a shade that matches your natural hair colour, but don't be afraid to experiment with slightly darker tones for added drama. Embrace the natural shape of your brows, adding a touch of texture with a brow gel or pomade for a slightly unkempt look.

There are plenty of new brow products appearing on shop shelves that make shaping and filling in the eyebrows a doddle. Fine-tipped pencils, for example, allow you to draw individual hairs while gel fibres enhance them. Avoid going for perfection. The laminated brow look is just too neat to be soft grunge.  

Eye makeup: where the soft glam magic happens

Smokey shades are considered the heart of soft grunge makeup. Increasingly, we are seeing greens thrown into the matte eyeshadow mix with cool-toned taupes, greys and browns. Use across your lids and crease, making sure your preferred shades are smudged at the edges for an authentic diffused, lived-in effect. Use a good blending brush to create a touch of blowout drama.

What makes soft grunge exciting is that the eye makeup doesn’t stop there. Don't be afraid to experiment with pops of unexpected colour like berry shades for a touch of individuality.

Other elements of this eye look include:

  • Glitters and shimmers: soft grunge is accepting of the unpredicted and that includes some sparkle. Why not dab a hint of glitter or shimmer eyeshadow on the inner corners of your eyes or along the brow bone to add a touch of ethereal beauty to your smokey matte canvas? Duo chromes, which have taken off over the past 12 months, are perfect if you fancy a touch of the unexpected on the centre of your lids. 

  • Eyeliner: go for the rebellious touch. Line your upper and lower lash lines. For this look, the liner has to be black or dark grey. Remember to smudge it slightly for a blurred, diffused look. Experiment with different wing shapes – think subtle flicks or bold, graphic lines – to express your unique personality.

Mascara and eyeliner products against a blue background

  • Mascara: add more drama. Give your lashes some serious attention. They need to be a spectacle, so a volumising mascara is essential. Apply two or three coats, focusing on both the upper and lower lashes for a full, fluttery effect. If you struggle to achieve volume, try using a mascara primer to add fibres to lashes before you apply mascara. If that fails, it’s false eyelashes all the way!

One of my favourite shade combinations is moss green with gold, and it could be a central theme of soft grunge. It’s still bold with an earthy twist, and a breath of fresh air compared to all those nude looks currently dominating the makeup scene.

The soft grunge look

Lips: more than a whisper of rebellion

Soft grunge lips are all about knock-out, unexpected shades with a touch of nonchalant cool. Ditch the traditional reds and pinks, not to mention those peaches that are set to trend, and seize the potential of deep berries, vampy plums and maybe even tense blacks. 

Apply lipstick straight from the bullet and smudge the edges with your finger for a bitten, kissable effect. No requirement for a lip liner pencil with this look! Why not add a lip topper for added relevance? Lip oils and glosses are significant fashion statements right now.

A young woman with an individual style

Ideas for soft grunge accessories

Complete your soft grunge look with a few key accessories. Layering necklaces, chokers and statement earrings can add a touch of edgy charm. Mix metals for a truly avant-garde look. Don't forget about your hair! Messy buns, braids and tousled waves all work perfectly with an edgy aesthetic.

Remember, soft grunge is about embracing your individuality and having fun with makeup. Find some additional inspiration from this useful feature in Glamour magazine. Don't be afraid to experiment with different colours and techniques to find your unique take on this captivating trend. Rock your inner rebel with confidence, and let your soft grunge makeup speak for itself.


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