Hindsight’s a wonderful, and terrifying, thing. So what exactly have we learnt from the 2010s, and what do the 2020s have in store?

TEXT: HARRIET PUDNEY

Photography by Adam Bryce; Styling by Sara Black

Some things you can only see at a distance, and that tends to include the go-to beauty look of the day. Remember the blocky brows of 2012, penciled, powdered and bordered in concealer? They looked completely normal at the time. That was just what brows were doing. We didn’t know any better.

Now, at a remove, they look dated and over-the-top. For 2020, we prefer our brows to be feathered and full. Bad news for anyone who overdid the tweezers in 2003, but really, just as much of an intentional look. In another 10 years, laminated brows will look equally historical.

Which, really, is about all we can say for certain about the shape of beauty to come. Women plucking their brows into thin, art deco arches in the 1930s didn’t think, “Ah, what an of-the-moment look.” It was just what seemed fresh and stylish at the time, which is always shifting. Those shifts often come in directions that seemed unlikely until they happened. Remember the harsh ombré dye-jobs of 2009-10? Or the crimped, curled and straightened all-in-one styles of the early 2000s? Trends are hard to predict at the best of times, and here we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Looking to the future feels impossible.

And yet, it will arrive. We’ll come out the other side of this, eventually, and what comes next is currently an open question. The last few years have seen beauty and skincare become huge business — cosmetics giant Coty bought a 51 per cent share of Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics for US$600 million last November.

At the time, Forbes speculated that the brand may not have staying power, and amid our current economic insecurity, that’s a bigger question again. In June, Unilever paid US$500m for luxury skincare brand Tatcha, and October saw Shiseido spend US$845m on clean beauty heavyweight Drunk Elephant. There’s a lot of money tied up in beauty right now. As for how the industry weathers this period, we’ll have to wait and see.

If there’s one thing that’s going to see us through right now, it’s connection. That’s exactly why freelance make-up artist Katrina Wrobel started her Instagram account The Artist Edit, which now boasts more than 238,000 followers.

After leaving an on-counter job, Vancouver-based Wrobel says she “missed the community connection of being around and being inspired by other makeup artists that I had when I was at MAC.

“With my job now, I’m typically the only make-up artist on set and I really started to feel that void. It seemed the best way to combat that was to create an online space where I could share and interact with other makeup artists,” she continues.

“I wanted the page to also act as a resource for people to see what’s happening in the editorial and digital make-up world.”

Wrobel posts beautiful, surprising and often unconventional work. If you weren’t already aware of her page, look it up — every makeup artist you know likely already follows her. It’s hard not to be inspired by the skill and creativity she showcases.

“I want to share looks that are diverse, edgy, well-executed and interesting,” she says. “What does well is always interesting to me. Overall, videos seem to perform better more often than photos. Images of high-contrast makeup, holographic looks, extreme gloss, and photos that are taken with strong, warm lighting tend to get the most likes.”

Glitter, gloss and brows have all been major presences on Instagram since Wrobel started her page in 2016. She credits the app for essentially birthing the entire microblading industry, as people sought to achieve the thick, angular brows they saw online. It’s a source of inspiration, for sure, but it can also have a flattening effect.

“The look that originally popularised make-up on the platform is simply referred to as ‘Instagram make-up,’” Wrobel says. “It was the end all, be all of looks online: highlight, contour, baking, false lashes, cut creases, matte full lips, meticulously carved-out and filled-in brows and a filter.”

You’ve got to respect the artistry that goes into creating such a look, Wrobel says, but she’s been glad to see people embracing diversity and individuality. There are about as many definitions of beauty as there are people on the planet. A broader range of representations can only be a positive. In 2018, Glamour called it the Fenty effect: Rihanna’s beauty line pushed other brands into expanding their shade range, and now 40 foundation options is considered almost standard.

Also now a given: high levels of transparency. Elisia Gray, Lush buyer for Australia and New Zealand, says she’s seen customer concerns shift from animal testing and fair trade, to more specific questions about exactly how ingredients and packaging are sourced.

“Now more so than ever before, customers not only care about the brand aligning with their own personal values, but care about the way the product is produced and who produced it,” she says.

That means Lush needs to be constantly adjusting and updating its approach. If they can’t show us the whole process of an ingredient, they won’t use it, Gray says.

For example, last year the company stopped using eggs in its products. Even in free-range production, Gray says, “there are some hard truths of egg production that are difficult to face up to.”

“When we visit the hens, we can see them living freely and eating good-quality food, (our supplier would even treat the hens to watermelon on hot days) but what we cannot see, is the process that happens before those hens arrive at the free range farm.

“The hatching of thousands of eggs at commercial hatcheries, the sorting of the chicks into the females to be sent on to farms to lay eggs and the male chicks to go straight to their deaths.”

There’s no way around that, Gray says, so while Lush isn’t 100 per cent vegan yet, the company is moving in that direction.

They’ve got lofty goals — Gray quotes one of Lush’s founders, Mark Constantine, saying they’re trying to save the planet through cosmetics.

“We are getting to a point now where we can no longer talk about climate change as though it’s a looming threat; it is happening and it is a business reality,” Constantine says.

“[Lush is] not the number one cosmetics company, but for the sake of the environment, we really need to be.”

We’re all needing to adapt to a changing world right now, quicker than even seemed possible a few months ago. Whatever happens, 2020 will surely be remembered as a year of upheaval, and it’s likely to have long-lasting effects on the ways we connect and share inspiration. In a decade, we could well be living in a completely different world, and that includes beauty. However, if current trends are any indication, we can expect to see greater creativity and transparency than ever before. Globally, the beauty industry is worth more than US$532 billion. Where it goes from here, we’ll have to wait and see.

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