It goes without saying 2020 was a year like no other. As well as giving the world a common cause, it gave us Megxit, actual Brexit, a new president-elect of the United States, banana bread and even Connell’s chain. But despite some highs and a plethora of lows, beauty gave us the kind of consistency we all required, bringing some much needed solace to trying times and proving that amid all the turbulence its resilience is not to be underestimated again.
As with consistency, each year brings with it a fresh set of beauty focal points and while the pandemic undoubtedly influenced the trends of 2020, namely DIY haircuts, a return to skincare and big brows (thanks to maskne and, well, masks respectively), 2021 has a host of new and exciting things lined up.
CEO and co-founder of Cult Beauty, Alexia Inge, says, "Covid has highlighted that the modern world needs our products and services to help us function - to elevate our mood, project our personalities and emphasise our individuality – as well as to express the tribes we choose to be a part of.
"Beauty has become a mainstream cultural movement, and indicator – reflecting political, economic and social change. Where there’s conversation, beauty trends quickly follow."
Inge predicts the pandemic will continue to define our buying habits for the next five years, having already propelled us further towards quietly simmering trends like minimalism and conspicuous consumption in the last year alone. In the new year, she forecasts everything from New-Gen Hygiene, 'clean' beauty's more refined sister, to oceanic ingredients, which shift the focus from green to blue. Here, Inge reveals the beauty trends to know in 2021.
Whatever your thoughts are on 'clean' beauty - the kind that claims to be free-from certain ingredients (natural or synthetic) considered to be controversial or unsafe - the trend is about to be reinvigorated. "Post-pandemic, the evolution of ‘clean’ is ‘cleanical’: it harnesses natural ingredients, but with a parallel focus on lab-grown, performance-enhancing technology and synthetic ‘guard dogs’ to counter our heightened alarm around contamination," says Inge.
Given the current state of things, our fixation on all that is hyper-clean will see a continued need for functioning, pandemic-proof products that offer cleanliness, safety and protection. Enter New-Gen Hygiene, a category boasting beauty tech innovations like colour-changing hand sanitisers and micellar sanitising mists.
As with most recessions, we've gone from spending superfluously to buying only what we need, with particular attention to what actually feels good. "To win a place in our shrinking daily regimes, these ‘Luxmodities’ must be ‘everyday incredible’ – streamlined, minimised and concentrated products," Inge notes. Put plainly, in 2021, if you feel like you need additional steps to enhance the effects of your skincare, your daily routine isn’t quite cutting it and you'll probably soon start looking to invest in a 'luxmodity' or two.
Such products work to enhance the self-care experience we've come to cherish in the past year, rather than serving as a unnecessary regimen filler. Cult Beauty is currently seeing this in play with skincare serums, which are fast-becoming the new day creams. They've seen a 95 percent growth year on year and the e-commerce site predicts that in the years to come they will replace moisturisers as the cornerstone of skincare.
Though long overdue, the events of the past year brought the entire industry under renewed scrutiny for its lack of representation. Critiques of the sector went far beyond diversity in beauty campaigns and product offerings, and this time brought into question the backbone of the problem: of those with a real seat at the table, how many are from diverse backgrounds, and why do heritage brands fail to gain the traction they deserve?
Going forward, while we still tread uncertain terrain, Cult Beauty predicts we will be drawn to brands and products with a firm footing in the ancient and ancestral, which maintain meaningful connections to specific countries and cultures. "This is cultural attribution, shining a light on ingredients and rituals that highlight the richness of these worlds; celebrating and elevating diversity rather than exploiting it. Now, it’s about celebrating the beauty traditions beyond the familiar [and] bringing new beauty heritages to the fore in an honest, transparent and honourable way," Inge notes.
We've heard of green beauty, the type which sustainably supports of the natural world, but in 2021 we'll all be seeing blue. With our focus on ocean preservation growing, marine plant life is gaining attention for its potential of untapped beauty treasures. There are two motivations for this Inge explains, one being an exploration of the idea that humans have evolved from sea creatures, meaning that our mineral make up is synergistic with the mineral content found in the sea. The other, on a more psychological note, being that we are currently collectively searching for the kind of calming and eternal forces of the sea, which remind us of the trivialities of our concerns in the face of nature.
Indeed, the new fixation on oceanic ingredients will too create opportunities for sustainability commitments as brands explore circularity while paying close attention to the protection of our waters and the life they home.
Locked out of the outside last year, we managed to create our own micro-worlds of opportunity inside, featuring everything we needed to create wholesome, feel-good office, fitness and even salon spaces in the comfort of our own homes. From chic at-home fitness equipment to beauty treatment devices, Inge explains "the traditional binary separation of wellness versus technology is no more: self-assessment will integrate with smart tech to give consumers measurable ways of guaranteeing products’ success."
This means in the coming year you can expect everything from air monitors and smart mirrors which track health markers and skin concerns with suggested tutorials; biometrics and geometrics becoming increasingly embedded into everyday products; and our reliance on DIY tools reaching new levels as ‘hygiene meets hi-tech'. Watch this space.