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2021: Beauty is getting back to its roots

Have you given up wearing lipstick in recent months? With its lockdowns and safety precautions, the pandemic has totally shaken up beauty routines as we know them, so much so that you might have found yourself giving up what once seemed essential. So forget glowy skin and neon hair streaks, because 2021 is all about embracing this more authentic, down-to-earth approach to beauty with confidence.

2020 was the year beauty went natural, with makeup giving way to minimalist beauty looks. Out went foundation, lipstick and assorted highlighters, as lockdown gave many people the chance to give their skin a break, let it breathe, and pamper it with self-care rituals. And it seems that we developed a taste for that, so much so that it feels like there’s no going back. So while 2020 thrust natural beauty upon us, 2021 will be the year we embrace it with confidence.

20201217 Beauty in 2021
Would women have embraced their gray hair in the same way this year without COVID-19? Image: Getty via AFP Relaxnews.

Neon streaks vs gray hair

Tendrils of neon yellow, blue, pink or orange hair was supposed to be the major incoming hair trend of the year, seen over and again on the runways of fashion’s four capitals, and adopted in advance by various models and influencers. But that was before COVID-19 hit and the pandemic turned everything upside-down. When hair salons were forced to close in the springtime, people weren’t panicking about a lack of neon hair dye, but simply the prospect of facing the dreaded “badger stripe” of gray roots that were sure to grow back during lockdown.

From Europe to the United States, people flocked to the internet to seek advice on dealing with hair at home. In fact, Google’s top trending “beauty how-to” searches in the U.S. this year include “How to cut men’s hair at home” and “How to color your hair at home.”

With tutorials, video calls and over-the-phone appointments, hairstylists went out of their way to help as many people as possible get stuck into home coloration. But, in the end, many people ultimately decided to go with the gray.

Like Helen Mirren, Isabel Marant and Demi Moore, many women chose not to rush back to the salon when lockdown ended, transforming what the collective imagination once considered a “flaw” into a stylish feature. After making tentative inroads for a few seasons, the trend, which is in tune with the wider “body positive” movement, looks like it’s here to stay. So show off your roots, flaunt that gray, and let’s smash the diktats in 2021.

Glowy makeup vs minimalism

Makeup is the (beauty) segment that’s been hit the hardest by COVID-19. While lipstick, in various forms and evolving textures, remained popular in many regions in 2019, consumers in many countries have completely turned away from it this year. With the mask a daily reality, lipstick seems to no longer be a beauty essential, with sales plummeting by as much as 50% year on year by mid-year in the U.S., down 49% between August and October in the U.K., and lip makeup products plunging in the spring in Japan (down 22% in March).

That proved a tough blow for brands, which had gone all out on dark shades and bold brights, from raspberry pink to deep plum and browns, as well as matte textures this year. It turned out to be a total flop total that no-one saw coming, and looks set to change the game for 2021. The same goes for facial makeup. In 2020, it was supposed to be all about glow, but, in the end, everything went minimalist. The multiple layers of foundation, highlighter and powder are gone, over, as people now look for a natural, healthy kind of glow, preferring to take care of their skin rather than try to hide imperfections.

And with COVID-19 putting us all in face masks, facial and lip makeup took a backseat while eyes moved center stage as the focus of attention. So while 2020 was supposed to big up bushy brows, women ultimately opted for perfectly groomed lines, a surprise trend that became (virtually) inevitable when face masks were made mandatory in public places in many global locations.

Clean beauty vs maskne

Anti-pollution, anti-waste and natural personal care products were destined to be big news in 2020, according to the various predictions of industry players and search platforms. And, as it happens, they weren’t entirely wrong. In terms of skincare, solid, natural, vegan and organic products gained further popularity this year. But in terms of trends, these were outstripped by maskne.

“Maskne” (or mascne), aka mask acne, burst into the beauty scene in 2020 as a new term to describe the irritation, spots and other blemishes caused by wearing face masks. Without the global public health crisis, products for treating acne wouldn’t have had such a bumper year. Internet searches about “maskne” saw a huge surge in June, up by as much as 811% and interest in premium solutions, including tools, among men and women has been registered in the U.S., India, France and other countries.

And while maskne should logically disappear with the disappearance of face masks, unless we’re destined to spend the rest of our lives hidden away behind facial protection, this perceived need to take care of our skin has nevertheless given rise to another new trend, dubbed “skip-care.”

Straight from South Korea, “skip-care” is all about “skinimalism,” stripping back beauty routines to the bare essentials to avoid endless layers of product. Put simply, it comes down to doing things better, differently and with less, letting skin breathe and getting back in touch with a more natural, more authentic kind of beauty. Make that your mantra as we head into 2021. CC


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