If you’ve ever wondered why a smokey eye looks so good on your best friend but doesn’t have the same effect on you, TikTok might have an explanation. The term “visual weight” has recently gone viral on the app, thanks to creators like “Princess Raquelle,” who draw their inspiration from East Asian techniques. The design terminology — which basically describes an element that attracts the eye — is now being used in makeup tutorials as a way to enhance your natural features. “The day you learn whether you have high or low visual weight is the day you instantly increase your pretty privilege,” says one TikTok creator in a recent video.
It’s an intriguing concept, to be sure, but one that doesn’t have a lot of real-world advice associated with it yet — which is why we consulted beauty experts to help you figure out your visual weight and, more importantly, how to put that information to use with actionable makeup tips. A note before we get into it, though: New York makeup artist Ehlie Luna says the theory should be viewed only as a starting point for picking makeup that suits you, not a hard and fast rule.
What Does “Visual Weight” Mean?
In short, visual weight is an informal measurement of how prominent your features are. A face with high visual weight has larger or well-defined features that are prominent, says Dallas beauty creator Jess Todryk. Take Angelina Jolie's jawline or Julia Roberts's lips, for example. On the other hand, a face with low visual weight has features that look more harmonious, meaning the individual elements don't stand out as much as the overall face shape and size, Todryk says. Think of Selena Gomez or South Korean singer Yeji.
When it comes to makeup, knowing your visual weight can help determine how your face best “handles” cosmetics so you can optimize your features, Luna says. And even if the categories are described as high and low, neither is superior — it’s more about getting to know your own face better, says Philippines-based beauty creator Jam Zoleta.
How To Determine Your Visual Weight
One popular way is the iPhone Mono filter method, where you use the phone app to compare your face with and without strong contrast. The other way is to look at old pictures or think about your previous experiences wearing makeup, Todryk says. If you often think your face feels overpowered by a dark smokey eye or a bold lip, that might be an indicator of low visual weight. Other creators on TikTok also use the app’s Bold Glamour filter as a standin for trying dramatic makeup IRL to make the determination.
How To Enhance A High Visual Weight Face
If you have high visual weight, you can use makeup to play up your most prominent features. And because your face can typically hold a lot of product without looking overpowered, Todryk says to consider going big.
Eyes: Eye-makeup options that complement a high visual weight are vast. Winged eyeliner and vibrant eyeshadow colors are all fair game, while tightlining your eyes with black pencil amps up their intensity.
Cheekbones: Bronzer, blush, contour, and highlighter are harder to overdo because they work with the natural contrast of your face. If you have particularly high cheekbones, you can go all in. Don’t be afraid to “carve those babies out,” Todryk says.
Lips: If your high visual weight is focused around your lips, red lipstick was meant for you. But, because your lips already get all the attention, why not try more unexpected shades like deep plum or hot orange?
How To Enhance a Low Visual Weight Face
When it comes to those with low visual weight, the key is to avoid anything too strong. Natural makeup will suit you best, Todryk says, but also any makeup look that provides balance or draws the eye to the center of the face (verses to one feature).
Eyes: Having low visual weight doesn’t mean you can’t play up your eyes or need to skip liner, but softer shades can make your overall look more striking. That might mean brown or navy eyeliner instead of harsh black, or applying shimmer eyeshadow in the same color family as your skin tone, rather than going for a high-contrast shade.
Cheekbones: Having an all-over, even glow maintains your natural facial balance. Highlight and contour looks best when it’s closer to the perimeter of the face and doesn’t go past the outer corner of your eye. Blush and bronzer (in subtle tones) also benefit from being placed higher on the cheeks instead of on the apples.
Lips: “Your lips, enhanced,” is the guiding principle for the best lip colors on low visual weight faces. A slightly darker-than-your-natural-color liner and a clear or tinted lip gloss on top is an ideal combo that leaves room for experimenting.