Barbie famously has about 72,029 careers, but to me, she’ll always be chiefly known for her trendsetting. No matter how many planes she flies, chemicals she mixes, or nations she reigns over, the iconic doll’s true place in our hearts is right next to the plastic hairbrush entwined in the shiny pink Mattel box. The “Barbie look” has been many things over the years—from exalted ideal to cautionary tale — but it’s never not immediately identifiable. And covered in head-to-toe fuchsia.
In 2022, that glitter-soaked pendulum swung back in a serious way with the rise of the Barbiecore trend. Partially fueled by the upcoming Greta Gerwig film (with plenty of TikTok aesthetic kindling), Barbiecore is a celebration of all things hot pink, cheerful, and ultra-femme, from the doll’s signature fluffed-up curls to the dainty almond-shaped nails etched into her plastic hands. The Barbiecore aesthetic might be a very familiar one, but this take on the now-classic style isn’t without its contemporary upgrades and modern touches. Below, Byrdie speaks with top-rated beauty experts for an inside look at how to get the quintessential Barbie touch (IYKYK), right at home.
Where You’ve Seen It
The most notable thing about Barbie is just how long her rule’s lasted. Since the Barbie doll’s debut at the dawn of the ’60s, it’s been a best-selling children’s toy every decade since. Our modern idea of Barbie, though, didn’t get a foothold until the mid-80s when she transitioned from bendable dress-up doll to multihyphenate celebrity thanks to a widescale multimedia plan that brought Barbie onto movie screens, TV shows, lunch boxes, notebooks, clothes, makeup, and more. This is the Barbie most millennials and Gen Zers are most familiar with—the sassy does-it-all doll steeped in plenty of capitalist girl-power moxie, unafraid to streak her hair blue or drive her fuchsia Jeep to her community voting center.
Simultaneous with the rise of Y2K-flavored everything, the pink-on-pink Barbie aesthetic came roaring back into public consciousness last year. Celebrities like Zendaya, Anne Hathaway, and Lana Condor have all stepped out in Valentino’s season signature hot pink in very overt versions of the aesthetic, while other A-listers like Cardi B and Gigi Hadid have kept it more pared-down with touches of very pink makeup and bouncy, coiffed curls. Dua Lipa even went so far as to dye her hair a bold hot pink.
The key to taking the vibe from “oh, they’re wearing pink today” to an outright Barbie-approved look is in wearing multiple pinks—maybe it’s a dress and shoes, maybe it’s a top and eyeshadow, but it’s always pink-centric. And, of course, it seems like everyone’s timelines are utterly obsessed with the upcoming live-action Barbie film, with Margot Robbie in the titular role. Her take on the iconic figure seems to be definitively ’90s (perfect for the target audience, tbh) which means lots of fluffed-up hair, neons, and campy outfits.
To be clear, the original Barbie look was (and often still is) deeply exclusionary. The earliest conversations about her social implications largely revolved around the unrealistic-at-best, detrimental-at-worst body proportions that, when translated to human sizes, would render the poor girl incapable of even standing upright. Through the years, the inherent exclusionary racism of the platinum blonde Barbie rightly became a central focus, too, and Mattel released a few ill-advised special-edition dolls that underscored the company’s tone-deafness. Fortunately, the most modern iteration of Barbie is striving to be much more inclusive. Currently, Barbie is available in a whopping 22 distinct skin tones, nearly a hundred hair colors, and even five distinct body types.
How To Get Barbiecore Hair
Barbie’s plume of platinum curls is one of her original calling cards, but the modern Barbiecore look is fully about the style regardless of what color you’re currently loving. The name evokes images of healthy, shiny, thick, one-length hair to L’Oréal Professionnel Global Ambassador Min Kim, and she knows exactly how to nail it.
Sneak peeks at the new Barbie film show Robbie with a classic big, voluminous blowout which makes it a great place to start in building out a head-to-toe Barbiecore aesthetic. “The best way to achieve this look is with a volumizing and conditioning shampoo and conditioning regimen,” Kim explains, which will add shine-boosting moisture along with root lift and extra body.
“Blow dry with a large round brush and prep hair with L’Oréal Professionnel’s Transformer Lotion ($29), a cream-to-paste that is bodifying and protects hair from heat.” From there, lock in that fresh-from-the-Mattel-box shine with the very appropriate L’Oréal Professionnel Limited Edition Barbie x Steampod Flat Iron ($250).
Kim says classic blowouts work on all hair types and lengths, but more time may be needed if your hair is especially thick (either naturally or thanks to extensions or heat-friendly wigs), for tighter curls, and finer, limper hair. To make the blowout last as long as possible, she recommends focusing on volumizing prep products (think mousse, styling creams, and texture products), drying the hair in sections to lift the root, smooth out the lengths, and round the ends.
And if you do end up lusting after that instantly-recognizable blonde, Kim says it’s one you can literally ask for by name. Telling your colorist you’re after a “Barbie-blonde” is a great way to convey the tones and shade, Kim says, though photos are always helpful.
How To Get Barbiecore Makeup
The easiest entree to the world of Barbiecore is undoubtedly makeup. Regardless of if you’re decked out in fuchsia below the neck, pops of pink up top can make any outfit Malibu Dream House-approved. According to Eddie Duyos, Pro Artist and International Educator for MAKE UP FOR EVER, you can draw a lot of strength from a look so focused on upbeat shades and overt femininity. “Sometimes people can mistake it for all the negative connotations that can be associated, but I see this look as a weapon of empowerment as well as a way to have fun with touches of bolder pink and neon colors,” Duyos tells Byrdie, listing strong blush, doll-like lashes, and a tie-it-all-together lip as hallmarks of the look.
That’s all contingent on nailing the perfect pink color palette for your skin tone, though. Duyos recommends flipping your lower lip out to take a close look at the color of your natural lip tissue. “This is a great start to use as the base tone for the perfect nude or pink,” he says. “From there you can raise the color intensity in that tone to achieve the look.” While Duyos says it’s possible to still look Barbie without pinks, it’ll require some major pastels and a stronger emphasis on those doll-like structures.
The good news, MAC Cosmetics Artist Fatima Thomas shares, is that there’s a pink that looks fantastic on everyone. “For a soft, natural version on medium to deep skin tones, try MAC Mineralize Blush in Happy-Go-Rosy ($33),” she says. Thomas explains that the mid-tone pink errs on the cool side without going completely cold—that’s a huge part of why she’s a personal fan, too. On the fairer end of the spectrum, Thomas recommends sticking with candy pinks which can also pull cooler on the skin, while very rich tones will respond well to a sumptuous Barbie-favorite hot pink like MAC’s Full Fuchsia blush ($29).
Major lashes are par for the course, ranging from wide-eyed and spiky to fluttery and flirty—like those kind-of-creepy, life-sized Barbies with shuttered eyes that close as you lay them down—but both need the structure an anchor of at least a mild eyeliner wing to mimic the painted-on doll’s eyes and cut through eyeshadow color.
To make pinks pop even brighter on deep skin tones, Duyos tells Byrdie that skin prep and priming are crucial, including colored cream eyeshadow primers. “Low-pigment products with a lot of filler ingredients can look powdery or ashy on deeper skin tones,” he explains, so high-performing products are a must.” One thing’s for sure, though: Barbie is not a matte lip girl. Glossy shine just elevates the glam appeal and adds so much fun to the look. Thomas says clear lipgloss is an ideal doll-like topper, and Duyos adds that a metallic finish can be an ideal finishing touch, too.
How To Get Barbicore Nails
Barbie’s never ready to party without the polished details that take her entire look into extraordinary territory. For so many of us, attempting to shellack Barbie’s itty-bitty etched nails with mom’s reject nail polish was a rudimentary first attempt at a DIY manicure. Though most standard-issued Barbies came with flesh-matching nails, their neat shape and length are key parts of the look. Celebrity nail artist Sonya Belakhlef tells Byrdie that pink surprisingly isn’t necessarily required to get the Barbiecore nail look, making the manicure a great spot for another, complementary color. “Look for anything really pigmented and bold,” Belakhlef explains. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be pink, but the colors have to be extremely saturated for that Barbiecore vibe. Neons are universal and complement any skin tone—you can’t go wrong with day-glow! ” Of course, though, they have plenty of recommendations should you want to stick with the classic color palette, listing ORLY’s Neon Heat ($11), Fancy Fuchsia, Va Va Voom, and Pep In Your Step as just a few favorites.
Perhaps just as important as the color is the nail shape. Belakhlef says that the exact Barbie nail shape is open to a bit of variation but largely ranges from rounded to almond depending on how long you like your nails. For those who prefer the shorter look, Belakhlef points to a squoval-shaped manicure they did on celebrity client Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (wearing ORLY Neon Paradise, btw) as a more natural-shaped Barbie manicure.
Once your manicure’s in place, all that’s left to do is preserve it. If you’ve yet to invest in a basic pair of rubber gloves for doing the dishes, make that a top priority—not only will it extend the life of your mani but you’ll avoid snags, rips, dehydration, and advanced signs of aging that accompany hot water and grease-cutting soap. “I know our nails have an evolutionary purpose as tools, but we’ve evolved past that now,” Belakhlef adds. “Use scissors and blades to open and break down boxes,” and they mention how aesthetically and hygienically harmful cuticle-picking and nail-biting can be. Finally, they say, make cuticle oil and hand creams a non-negotiable. “You make sure your face is hydrated and happy, you should do the same for your cuticles and nails.” An excellent point.
Barbiecore is about the look, yes, but see what assembling the aesthetic does for your mood. The entire trend is built around the buoyant effect of happy, cheerful pink—and have you ever seen Barbie down on herself? No, she’s simply not manufactured that way.