Gen Z Loves TikTok-Viral Quiet-Luxury Beauty—Here's Why

Gen Z Says is a bimonthly column chronicling the latest trends in the fashion and beauty space through the lens of Who What Wear's own Gen Z editors. Expect a download on the upcoming class of tastemakers, emerging designers, and shopping and style choices straight from the generation setting the trends.

As an older member of Gen Z, I'm in the unique position of being able to lean into either Gen Z or millennial beauty trends and aesthetics. I was lucky enough to experience the cultural reset that was Anastasia Beverly Hills eye shadow palettes, but I also landed on the Gen Z side of TikTok trends—like the center part vs. side part debate, cherry-cola lips, and Hailey Bieber's glazed-donut nails. Of all the aesthetics that I've come across since using TikTok, however, only one has borrowed the ideas, practices, and lifestyles of the past while leaning heavily into the future: an aesthetic dubbed "quiet luxury."

Despite the nonstop debate over the veracity of its title and how it differs from the similar and extremely popular old money aesthetic, there's something about it that maintains a vice grip on its Gen Z audience. 

What is quiet luxury, and why can't the beauty industry get away from it? Quiet luxury is essentially another descriptor for elevated basics. In the beauty realm, that means a silk pillowcase to keep your skin and hair protected during your eight hours of beauty sleep, a red lip that can be trusted to complement your complexion year-round, or a fragrance that emulates refined sophistication.

Taking a peek at the TikTok videos associated with the aesthetic reveals its underlying traits. These videos are all about elevated basics across beauty and fashion, the idea that taking advantage of life's simple pleasures can be, in itself, luxurious, and how important it is to know one's self-worth. Searching the term brings up thousands of videos with an accumulated 309.8M views. But if you venture to look up the term followed by "makeup," that number jumps to a jaw-dropping 567.8M views with a majority of them drawing inspiration from socialite Sofia Richie's bridal and everyday makeup looks.

While Richie has an undeniable pull on the aesthetic, from her signature slicked-back bun to her perfectly groomed brows, there are a number of other celebrities and content creators who could be credited for their contributions. Jasmine Tookes, Meghan Markle, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley all make frequent appearances on social media platforms as inspiration for makeup, hair, fragrance, and general lifestyle content. Likewise, as with any TikTok aesthetic, there are particular beauty brands Gen Z gravitates toward that encapsulate the quiet-luxury aesthetic.

As much as these celebrities can be credited as cornerstones of the quiet-luxury movement, it's the content creators who are able to shape it into something new. These content creators portray an accessible quiet-luxury lifestyle and have access to products from beauty brands closely associated with the idea of luxury. The products that help people achieve salon-worthy strands or a low-maintenance yet high-impact manicure all share a common goal: to deliver luxurious results with each use while looking the part.

(Image credit: Who What Wear)

Take, for example, some of the most popular items used by content creators and celebrities alike in beauty content posted on TikTok. Can you spot the commonalities? Besides minimalistic, neutral packaging and a somewhat hefty price tag, it's the brand names that remain most recognizable—think about heavy hitters like Chanel, Nécessaire, and Laneige. These products can be spotted in the oversize marble showers, heavily populated vanities, and heritage-brand makeup bags of several of TikTok's biggest users associated with the quiet-luxury aesthetic, including those who haven't even built their audience with the ultra-niche trend in mind.

Meet Akilah Releford Gould: content creator, founder of Mary Louise Cosmetics, and the personification of a quiet luxury–inspired lifestyle. Yes, it could very well be said that Gould is no stranger to the finer things in life (her highest-viewed videos detail preparations for her lavish may 2023 Martha's Vineyard–themed wedding), but the entrepreneur also recognizes the power of finding luxury in the everyday beauty practices at the heart of a healthy lifestyle. Unlike a number of the small and large creators who have formally recognized the aesthetic as their claim to fame, Gould has remained true to her roots, acknowledging the influence of luxury products without categorizing herself as a quiet-luxury creator.

I connected with Gould to learn her thoughts on the TikTok-driven quiet-luxury aesthetic, her approach to content creation, and the must-have beauty products that keep her feeling and looking luxurious through every season of life.

(Image credit: @akilahreleford)

You're a content creator praised for your elegant style and founder of the skincare line Mary Louise Cosmetics. What was the inspiration behind the brand?

I launched it during my junior year of college at Howard as a pre-med student. I pivoted after its launch and came back to L.A. (where I'm from) to focus on the brand full-time. This was during the boom between 2013 and 2015 when everyone on YouTube was doing DIY skincare, and I was completely obsessed with it!

I have really dry, eczema-prone skin, so I was making face masks and creams to try, and one of the girls on my dorm floor asked if I was selling it. The premise of the brand is reviving older beauty rituals of the past in new, fun, and fresh ways for Gen Z and young millennials. It's taking all the things we loved about the beauty rituals the women of our family taught us and reengineering those for the future.

Recently, there's been an uptick in searches for the quiet-luxury aesthetic among social media users, especially on TikTok. What is your definition of the term, and how, if at all, does it apply to your lifestyle?

I think it's interesting because I was in no way intentionally trying to jump on the quiet-luxury trend. My wedding just happened to be at a time that was really popular on social media! I think the wedding was grouped into people's idea of what quiet luxury is, whether that's their definition of what a luxury-driven wedding would look like compared to something else or the style of dress. Certain beauty products and brands have definitely played a role in the aesthetic since people will select what they think pertains to it.

Right now, I like to think of it as valuing quality over quantity. It may not be the amount of something you show, but more highlighting or prioritizing one of something that is super special. My personal idea of luxury still goes back to quality, but anything can be luxurious. Having access to water bottles is luxurious for some, while going to the mall on a Monday and having a solo lunch can be luxurious to others. For me, something doesn't have to be designer or expensive to be luxurious.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Akilah Releford Gould)

Your "get ready with me" and "come along with me" videos often double as beauty-maintenance vlogs. How would you describe your approach to maintaining everything from skincare to haircare?

My mom has played a huge part in how I approach beauty and is an inspiration to my skincare brand's mission of reviving older beauty rituals. From a young age, simple habits like washing your face every night to carefully removing makeup from the eyes are taken from my mom. It's as simple as going into your bathroom, lighting a candle, putting on your favorite pajamas, and doing a full skincare routine. It's less about the product and more about the ritual itself that feels luxurious.

How did you put together your timeless TikTok-viral bridal look?

The inspiration behind the entire wedding look was Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard vibes. The first vacation I took with my now husband was to Martha's Vineyard, and it was the place where we fell in love. It was also my first chance to explore New England, which is where he's from. I've always loved clean lines on a wedding dress for a timeless look, especially when it includes a bow. I mean, I had this huge one on my shoulder!

I wanted something I would look back on 20 years from now and still think it was the right choice. I knew that if I went with anything trendy, I would regret it and question why I wore it. I wanted a makeup look and dress that would make for good wedding photos forever. Both my wedding and reception dresses fell into a retro, nautical aesthetic.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Akilah Releford Gould)

When it came to your big day, you worked with a talented beauty team to bring everything to life. What was that experience like?

I have a mood board for every single thing that goes on in my life! I probably have 50 different active Pinterest boards. When I got engaged, I put together one for the wedding. The inspiration behind the hair was a throwback Chanel supermodel look with swoops, curls, and bounciness like a Karl Lagerfeld muse. For the makeup, I didn't want to do anything too heavy that would look [good] during the daytime and could also be worn at night during the reception. So I went for a '90s brown makeup look for a Black girl!

Are there any luxury beauty products you swear by?

I have so many, but I've had to redo my entire body and skincare routine because I'm pregnant. I'm still finding new luxury items that are okay to use, but right now, I love Nécessaire's Bergamot Body Wash, Make Up For Ever's foundation, Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle fragrance (sometimes, I switch it with Le Labo's Thé Noir 29), and the 111Skin moisturizer. In and out of the shower, I love using the Mary Louise Miracle Serum. For hair, it's all about Oribe's dry shampoo.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Akilah Releford Gould)

What self-care practices do you hope to pass on to the next generation of beauty lovers?

Find the time to make your life luxurious. It's not even about the products! Take 20 to 30 minutes and put together your own self-care routine that you can do. The overall practice I want to pass down is taking pride in your self-care and grooming to make yourself feel your best. As a founder and entrepreneur, my schedule is different every single day, so I have to find time dedicated to my self-care routine. The routine I do at night influences my entire week since it can be customized with different products depending on what I need from it, especially seasonally. Making time for yourself is the best self-care practice I can pass down.

Shop Gould's Luxurious Favorites

Maya Thomas
Assistant Beauty Editor
Maya Thomas is Who What Wear's assistant beauty editor based just outside of Seattle, Washington. Her strong love for all things beauty and fashion stems from a strong childhood interest in the fine arts. During a gap year spent in Paris studying the history of French fashion, she shifted her focus to English literature and journalism as a student at Loyola Marymount University with the goal of one day pursuing a career in fashion. After graduating in May 2021, Maya began freelancing for as a contributing commerce writer while also building a following on her lifestyle blog, When she's not writing, Maya spends her free time catching up on reading, perusing art galleries, and enjoying a night out at the ballet every now and then.