13 Beauty Trends Experts Predict Will Dominate 2021
Expect to see some of the best innovations in the beauty biz.
After a truly tumultuous year, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all eager for a beauty do-over. Alas, even our beauty routines weren’t immune to the effects of 2020—as salons closed everywhere, we were forced to become our own hairstylists, estheticians, colorists, and dermatologists overnight. But a few bad box dyes and many DIY face masks later, we learned to assimilate into a largely at-home beauty culture. As we mastered the lymphatic drainage massage, root touch-up, and brow grooming, we learned about the cathartic power of self-care and came out stronger than ever.
That’s why we’re so hopeful for 2021, a year where our beauty know-how is at an all-time high. Even if the first half of it is reserved for virtual Zoom sessions in our pajamas, we’re officially bidding adieu to 2020 (good riddance) and signaling the start of a new decade with open arms and new trends. From ~luxe~ hand sanitizers and probiotic skincare to antibacterial haircare and a reacceptance of our natural hair, these are the forecasted beauty trends experts predict will emerge in the coming year.
Hand soap and sanitizer might not be the most glamorous of beauty categories—but hey, where there is necessity there is luxury. Beauty brands have already started to enter the space for the first time, and they’re more bougie and luxurious than ever (see: Byredo, Diptyque, and Nest Fragrances). Not only will the scents and packaging be upgraded, experts say formulations are also set to become more suitable (read: hydrating) for skin. “2020 was the year of harsh hand sanitizers and soaps,” says Joshua Ross, celebrity aesthetician in Los Angeles, Calif. “This will change in 2021 as the industry balances efficacy with sensoriality that is less irritating on the microbiome.”
Surveys have indicated that skincare brands touting ingredient transparency are gaining popularity. Consumers want to know what’s in their products, and rightfully so. This added pressure has caused companies to steer towards more sustainable formulas, whether via packaging, formulations, or reducing its carbon footprint. According to Barb Paldus, PhD, Codex Beauty founder and EWG board member, “If you can’t make the sustainable choice when creating a product, even if it costs you more, you don’t deserve to be creating a brand.”
Thanks to the pandemic, just about everything in our lives has turned digital. But while the damaging effects of blue light on skin are no secret, companies are discovering more innovative ingredients that can help combat these effects. (Take Goodhabit, a recently launched brand built entirely on the concept of blue light protection.) With ingredients like rosa rubiginosa, licochalcone A, turmeric, and algae, available formulations are only becoming cooler and more effective.
Face coverings are bound to become normalized even post-lockdown, making your skin more vulnerable to skin irritation. From soothing face sprays and face masks with zinc oxide to face masks made to alleviate the symptoms of wearing a face mask, you’re no longer doomed to break out whenever you go out.
It’s all about transfer-proof makeup in the age of COVID. According to Charlie Riddle, Global Creative Director at Stila Cosmetics, “Liquid lipstick in particular is making a big comeback this season. Women want products that will stay on throughout the day without having to worry about it coming off on their face mask.”
One pandemic later, no-makeup makeup is back. Marrying skincare and makeup, it's what Pinterest is deeming the "new glow-up." According to Pinterest’s 2021 Trends Predictions report, people are forfeiting a complicated makeup routine to embrace slow beauty and let their natural skin texture shine through (think glowy skin and visible freckles).
Microbiome health has been a buzzword in the industry for years, but Ross says that probiotic skincare will likely see a huge boom in this space. Brian Oh, CEO of Venn Skincare, agrees: “There are strong indications that microbiome skincare will be a big trend next year. This refers to an ecosystem of living microorganisms on our skin (there are billions of them). We are beginning to see products that combine probiotics and prebiotics (i.e., synbiotics) to more effectively balance the microbiome.”
Weeks of staring at ourselves on video calls have taken a toll. And we’re not just talking about Zoom fatigue—concerns of “Zoom Face” are also on the rise. According to Yelp Trend Expert Tara Lewis, Yelpers are flocking to the platform to investigate cosmetic procedures that address facial concerns like crow’s feet, eye bags, and forehead wrinkles. Sheila Farhang, MD, cosmetic surgeon and founder of Avant Dermatology, says that she has also witnessed this movement: “I am seeing an uptick in requests for eye area treatments, the most popular being lower eyelid blepharoplasty to reduce the appearance of under eye bags,” she says. “Before you come into the office, I recommend trying eye creams with caffeine to reduce swelling and brighten the undereyes.”
From hair-zapping lasers and microcurrent rollers to high-tech contouring gadgets, people are turning to at-home devices to treat their skin and body. According to Dr. Farhang, brands are inventing brilliant gadgets for both hair and skin that can make your beauty routine a million times easier and replicate treatments once limited to salons.
Considering that the average person touches their hair 10 times in one hour, it's probably contaminated with a whole host of bacteria and viruses that you can’t see. As a solution, brands (see: Safe Hair and BioSilk) are starting to develop antibacterial haircare; products (shampoos, cleansing sprays, etc.) with antimicrobial disinfecting agents that eliminate germs while removing dirt and grime.
The skin-ification of haircare is officially becoming mainstream. That’s to say there’s much more overlap between haircare and skincare, especially with the newfound focus on the scalp (which is also skin, after all). According to Dr. Farhang, some new trends include platelet-rich plasma (“liquid gold” injections that have scientific data that improve hair loss), an inside out approach (making use of supplements to help with hair health), and scalp-tox (botox on the scalp) for sweaty scalps.
With some of the most popular and most searched ingredients being bakuchiol, gotu kola, ginger, and witch hazel flowers, plant-based skincare is expected to hit a major surge in 2021. “Until recently, plant-based skincare was considered niche,” says Dr. Farhang. “With an increase in eco-conscious consumers, many mass brands are introducing plant-based products.”
Low-maintenance is the new high heat, or at least according to Pinterest’s 2021 Trends Predictions report. That’s not to say you should swear off flat irons and blow dryers (if you’re into the blowout look, you do you), but don’t be afraid to give your strands a break by air-drying and embracing your natural texture. And another PSA: braids are back! “Pinners will get creative with braiding techniques (including bubble braids and box braids) that are protective, low-maintenance, and glamorous. Beyond the braids, style mavens will add their own personal touch with beads or colorful highlights,” Pinterest said in its report.