High vs. Low Visual Makeup Theory Is Taking TikTok by Storm, but Does It *Actually* Work?

This could change the way you do makeup

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high vs low visual makeup a collage featuring lady gaga, emma stone, naomi campbell and selena gomez
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Love it or hate it, TikTok has become a mecca for some of the most interesting (and rather questionable) beauty trends. And while it can be overwhelming to keep up with them all, a new hack has emerged and we think it might actually be useful in elevating our makeup routine. The ‘High vs. Low Visual Weight’ theory has made its way to our feed, so we asked a professional makeup artist to explain what it all means and if we should test it out ourselves. 

Meet the Expert

Mat Wulff is a professional makeup artist and an Ulta Beauty pro team member. He specializes in dramatic and soft glam looks with a client list featuring Kristen Chenoweth, Kathy Hilton and Tori Monet. 

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What Is Visual Weight?

According to Wulff, visual weight refers to which facial features stand out and attract the most attention based on factors like size, color and placement. Once you figure out your visual weight, it can help redefine your makeup routine, from changing how you apply your products to focusing on specific shades to enhance your features. 

high vs low visual makeup a collage featuring dua lipa, angelina jolie and michaela coel
Karwai Tang/Rich Fury/Getty Images

What Is High Visual Weight?

“High visual weight refers to facial features or elements that draw more attention and stand out prominently compared to other features,” explains Wulff. “These elements tend to attract the viewer’s eye first and serve as focal points in a portrait.” Common features can include high cheekbones, sharp jawline, defined brows and fuller lips. Some notable examples of folks whose faces have high visual weight are Angeline Jolie, Naomi Campbell, Michaela Coel and Lady Gaga.

How Should You Apply Makeup for High Visual Weight?

It’s all about bold, sharp and vibrant makeup like ‘Rockstar Makeup’ and ‘Unapproachable Makeup.’ You want to make a statement and draw attention to your prominent features. 

  • Lips: Go for deep reds and browns to make your lips the focal point of the look. Or, consider lining your lips and opting for a juicy gloss instead like Rihanna above.  
  • Brows: It’s all about defining your brows and using a brow pencil to perfect your arches
  • Eyes: Lean toward dark eyeshadows (i.e., black, browns, blues), utilize eyeliner for a striking winged moment and finish with volumizing mascara.  
  • Face: Since those with high visual weight tend to have striking features, Wulff recommends contouring and highlighting to create dimension and balance. 

Note: Wulff suggests picking one or two of the above tips per makeup look so you’re not overdoing it. He explains, “It’s essential to balance the overall look by keeping the rest of the makeup more subtle. Avoid overwhelming the face with too many bold elements and instead opt for a more natural or neutral options for the remaining features.” 

high vs low visual makeup what is low visual weight
Steve Granitz/Taylor Hill/The Chosunilbo JNS/Getty Images

What Is Low Visual Weight?

“Low visual weight refers to facial features that are less prominent …These features may be smaller in size, have less contrast or might be positioned in less prominent areas of the face,” says Wulff. This can include plump cheeks, a rounded jawline and fluffy brows. Notable examples are Selena Gomez, Gabrielle Union, Jennie Kim and Halle Berry.

How Should You Apply Makeup for Low Visual Weight?

While high visual weight loves a full glam moment, those with low visual weight are better suited to a softer approach. As Wulff shares, “It’s important to focus on enhancing and subtly defining the facial features without overpowering them.” This look pulls from aesthetics like coquette, Barbiecore and Cloud Skin.

  • Lips: Go for more pinks, mauves and other nude shades, or grab a regular gloss (or lip oil) to bring out some natural shine.  
  • Brows: Maintain the shape of your natural brows by adding a bit of eyebrow gel (tinted or not) to set them in place. 
  • Eyes: Neutral shades are the way to go (or a bit of shimmer to brighten the lids). Then, add a few coats of mascara to really make your eyes pop. 
  • Face: Wulff suggests subtle contouring to define your facial features—sharp lines or shadows. He adds, “You want to focus on enhancing your natural bone structure in a gentle and understated manner.” Also, consider a lighter base, like tinted moisturizer or BB cream for a no-makeup makeup look. 

How to Figure Out Your Visual Weight

The easiest way to figure out your visual weight is by analyzing photos of yourself or simply looking in the mirror. This quick exercise helps identify the size of your features. Do you have high cheekbones? Then you might have high visual weight. What about a more rounded face shape? Low visual weight sounds more like it. 

Another way to figure it out is using the ‘Bold Glamour’ filter on TikTok, which many creators find helps them determine their visual weight. The filter gives users thick brows, a sharp contour and full eye makeup. If you find the filter looks natural on you, you may have high visual weight. But if you think it looks too much, you have low visual weight. Note: This effect can be highly subjective, so take it with a grain of salt. 

The third option is to mess around with photo contrasting. Once you select a photo of yourself, convert it to black and white and play around with the contrast levels. If your features are more prominent on 100, you have high visual weight. On the flip side, if they are more noticeable on 100, you have low visual weight. 

Does This Theory *Really* Matter? 

Like most beauty trends, you don’t have to follow this nor view it as the standard for doing your makeup. It’s just a fun and interesting way to see how a technique can change your look. It’s made to celebrate your natural features, not alter them to fit an aesthetic. It’s also important to note that having low or high visual weight does not mean one is better than the other. As you see from our fave celeb examples, both provide flawless looks that everyone can try—so how about giving it a shot? 

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...