2021 makeup trends

What Does Our Relationship to Makeup Look Like Right Now?

And what trends do the experts predict we’ll see in the months ahead?

We’d be shocked to find anyone who hasn’t altered (if not entirely given up) their makeup habits over the last 12 months. Social distancing, office closures, double masks—life looks nearly unrecognizable in many ways, and while it may not seem as significant as forgoing family visits or eating inside a restaurant, our beauty routines were definitely not immune to changes. But now, with a dim, distant light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many of us are starting to revisit our favorite cosmetics, yet the question still remains: What role does makeup play when our way of life may never be the same?

Whether you wore minimal concealer and mascara or loved a full face beat pre-COVID, you probably spent some amount of time attending to your face, and despite your reasoning for using cosmetics, the people you interacted with throughout the day noticed (consciously or unconsciously). Now those exchanges are almost exclusively through a screen of some kind, which means our motivation to exert some level of effort on our appearance is…lacking. It would be easy (or at least ambitiously optimistic) to assume that once the virus is under control, everything will return to normal, but the habits we had in place are no longer so ingrained, which has led us to reconsider our relationship to beauty and makeup, especially. Do you actually feel more powerful when you apply that red lipstick? Or did a particularly well-designed marketing campaign convince you that the two were connected? Is it time to reconsider our attitude towards cosmetics altogether?

Shifting Perspectives on Makeup

For makeup artist and brand founder Danessa Myricks, these questions had been on her mind well before the pandemic, especially as she was developing her own line of products. “Makeup is such an emotional thing,” she says. “Because we’re at home and you don’t *have* to put makeup on, it makes you think differently. It’s really based on desire more so than need.”

She believes that collectively we are prioritizing effortlessness and ease with our beauty routines much more than ever before. “People have come more into themselves, and we’ve begun to feel more comfortable with less. So that desire to put on tons of makeup on a daily basis has shifted.” But that doesn’t mean that makeup as a tool to feel better—about yourself and about the state of the world—is going anywhere.

The concept of makeup as a professional obligation has all but disappeared, especially considering the rise of Zoom filters to disguise a night of bad sleep, which is why makeup artist Anthony Nguyen predicts that once we can safely be around friends and family again, everyone will take full advantage of makeup as a tool for self-expression. “People have missed the self-love and care of their usual glam routine,” he says. “So once the mask is off and there’s a rare moment to be seen with a full face (whether it’s just for a photo or an evening with your quarantine circle), people will take advantage to spend some extra time with glam and make it more of a moment.”

And while a healthy percentage of us will probably always embrace an easy-breezy approach to makeup, Myricks sees an increasing number of people who are exploring more adventurous beauty looks. “It’s like when you get dressed and throw on a color—you feel very different than if you wear white or black,” she says. “Color just does something. It makes you feel different. Color immediately puts people in their happy place.”

This idea of using makeup to express joy rather than to appease a corporate notion of presentability is hopefully one that will carry us throughout the rest of 2021 and for years to come. Because makeup can and should be fun, a mode of self-expression, and the delight we’ll all experience once we can finally ooh and aah over each other’s perfect cut crease or iridescent highlighter will feel that much more satisfying.

Makeup Trends for 2021

With our attitudes towards makeup shifting to hopefully a more positive mindset, what exactly do these artists predict we’ll see in terms of trends in the months ahead (which will likely still include masks for the foreseeable future)?

“I think people are more concerned with everyday looks with longevity,” says Nguyen. “People have been focusing more on eyes and brows, but more of a cleaned-up, natural version of themselves, such as the microblading or lamination brow trend, or waterproof mascara or lash extensions to emphasize the eyes.”

Myricks also sees an increased focus on product performance, saying, “Long-wear products kind of re-emerged again. Still being effortless, easy, and approachable, but lasting a long time.” She cites our recognition that some products, like cream blush or ultra-dewy foundation, just can’t stand up to a few hours of wearing a mask, so consumers are on the lookout for products (like a lip stain or adding a primer before complexion products) to help our makeup stay put throughout the day.

And since the vast majority of people can only see our eyes, both artists believe that eye makeup, like winged liner or bold eyeshadow, will be a mainstay of our routines. “Playing with graphic and colored liquid liners always makes a comeback,” says Nguyen. “It’s simple with a bold statement.”

“People are becoming a lot more creative with their eyes,” says Myricks. “They’ll wear glitter when they’ve never worn glitter before. Or they’ll experiment with a neon winged liner. Or maybe they want the duo-chrome look on their eyelids. Things are simple as finger makeup, like finger-painting with color and just swiping it over the lid. Or making a butterfly or heart—and it [isn’t] specific to younger makeup. Everybody across the board is just really having fun, playing, and expressing themselves.”

Whether or not you want to paint a butterfly on your eyes (which, let’s be honest, sounds delightful), it’s clear that now is the time to pull out all the stops with your makeup should you see fit. It’s highly unlikely any person will object, whether on Zoom or a socially distant visit, to a little extra sparkle. We could all use it these days.

In need of a few playful makeup products for 2021? Shop our favorites:

Twin Flames

Danessa Myricks
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