Here’s How Iconic Beauty Trends Have Changed Over the Decades & What’s Up Next

Here’s How Iconic Beauty Trends Have Changed Over the Decades & What’s Up Next

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re looking back on beauty trends through the decades—what’s changed, what’s remained, and what’s to come (we have a lot to say about that last one). Keep scrolling for some of the most iconic beauty looks from the 1920s onwards, and what to expect for the 2020s.

The 1920s: Smoky Eyes, Red Lips & Finger Waves

The roaring 20s brought all the drama: heavy mascara, dark eyeshadow, and ruby red lips. With the freedom-loving flapper taking center stage, glam was all the rage. Translation? Noticeable makeup to emulate all of the hottest celebrities at the time. As for hair, women were embracing finger waves—a wavy style intended to soften the appearance of bobbed hairstyles.

The 1930s: Pencil-Thin Eyebrows, Light Eyeshadow & Short Hair

Remember when everyone over-plucked their eyebrows in the late 90s and early 2000s? You can thank the 1930s for that. Inspired by the women who appeared in silent films, pencil-thin eyebrows were the trends of the decade—often paired with pastel shades of eyeshadow, dark pink lipsticks, kohl eyeliner, and blush. Eyebrows were styled with a rounded upward bend, with many women opting to shave their eyebrows completely and draw them in.

The 1940s: Natural Eyeshadow, Red Lips & Victory Rolls

In the 1940s, World War II was in full swing, and many women were beginning to join the workforce. Because of this, makeup took on a more practical, quick, and long-lasting look. Not to mention, wartime rations deemed anything “excess” as inappropriate. Enter: natural makeup—light brown or beige eyeshadow, thicker eyebrows, light mascara, red lips (specifically Victory Red by Bésame), and plenty of face powder to create a matte look. Victory Rolls also took the spotlight. It’s speculated that these big, circular curls may have been imitating spinning planes as a sign of celebration.

The 1950s: Winged Eyeliner, Bright Lips & Glam

At the end of World War II, women embraced more freedom of expression with their makeup. Gone were the days of strict, natural looks—bring on the fun! Post-war glamor was filling every Hollywood movie screen, and thanks to Marilyn Monroe, winged eyeliner, bright lipstick, and creamy foundations became some of the biggest trends of the decade. Many women would line their lips to create a smiling effect, with the iconic eyeliner flick paired with pink lips.

The 1960s: Bold Lashes, Pale Lips & White Eyeshadow

If you’ve noticed a red-lip trend so far, the 1960s is where it all ends. In this decade, the eyes took all the attention! Think: bold, false lashes on the upper and lower lids, loads of mascara, and bright white eyeshadow (Twiggy vibes, anyone?). In order to make the eyes pop, lipsticks were mostly pale pinks and peaches. Defined eyebrows topped off the look with an arch and a tapered tail.

The 1970s: Light Makeup, Colorful Clothes & Natural Hair

The 1970s gave birth to retro, with people everywhere dressing in funky colors and crazy shapes to create a youthful appearance. Their clothing was juxtaposed by a fresh face and natural hair, giving the look of effortless beauty. Long hair, afros, and waves were very popular at the time. Not to mention, many women had grown tired of exaggerated eye makeup, instead opting for shimmery pastel eyeshadow, light mascara, lip gloss, and blush. Eyebrows were tamed with a clear gel and foundation was usually a shiny, translucent powder.

The 1980s: Neon Eyes, Bright Blush & Big Hair

As the 80s took hold, so did the color. So. Much. Color. Not only were neon lips a thing—neon eyes and blush were, too. Many men and women alike were experimenting with blue, pink or purple eyeshadow applied right up to their brow bone (sometimes all three altogether!). To complete the look, many rock stars would apply thick eyeliner and grow out their brows to achieve a bushy appearance. It was a fun time for people to play with “punk” makeup and big, wild hair!

The 1990s: Light Mascara, Subtle Eyeshadow & Burgundy Lips

Noticing a trend? It seems as though every time an extreme makeup look takes center stage, the next decade follows with the exact opposite. The 1990s graced us with a fresh face, including light mascara, neutral eyeshadows, subtle blushes, and foundation. Lipsticks came in nude shades with lip liner in pink and brown tones—but it wasn’t uncommon to see bold, grunge lips in burgundy, either. Hair varied with straight, sleek hair, crimps, and even twisted updos!

The 2000s: White Eyeshadow, Frosted Lips & Thin Eyebrows (Again)

We just can’t seem to shake the super-thin eyebrow craze, can we? The 2000s began with an eyebrow obsession—an emphasis on thin in the beginning, then ending with a manicured, arched look. One of the more popular trends at the time was an “icy” look, achieved with shimmery white eyeshadow and frosted pink lip gloss. As the decade came to a close, smoky eyes were all the rage, with an emphasis on blending.

The 2010s: Perfect Eyebrows, Contouring & Pouty Lips

The 2010s brought the rise of influencers, along with a major decade for makeup—false lashes, perfect brows, and highlighted cheeks. The biggest trend of them all? Contouring. The idea was to mimic a “desirable” bone structure by adding shadows and highlights. Shaping and filling in your eyebrows became more important than ever, as well as lip liners and augmentation.

The 2020s: Sustainability, Less Makeup & Glowing Skin

It’s too soon to say what the 2020s will bring, but so far there’s been a focus on sustainability and choosing ethical brands. We’ve also been seeing a lot of glowy skincare routines, with a collective movement towards serum-based products and highlighters. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention face masks! Many have opted to skip makeup as more and more people are working from home these days. Plus, who wants foundation smeared all over their mask? No, thanks! A bare face may be the face of the 2020s, after all.

What’s Next?

As we look back on the trends of each decade side by side, it’s hard not to notice the oscillation between “less is more” and bold, colorful, daring looks. Not only has this helped us evolve over the years, it proves that what feels right in this moment won’t always be here to stay.

Although trends are typically temporary, there’s no denying the evolving confidence they leave behind—and, not to mention, the courage to feel your best. They successfully force you out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to experiment with makeup, eyebrow shapes, and hairstyles to discover what works best for you. Over time, you’ll find that some trends work for you, and some just don’t. This is all a part of the journey.

One trend that will always remain? Healthy skin. Most women feel their best when their skin is healthy, clear and fresh. This is more important than ever before. With masks causing breakouts and smearing makeup, along with our social calendars scaling back, women have learned to embrace a much more low-maintenance approach to beauty.

This is why I see 2022 as the year of trendless beauty. We’ve been forced to slow down and look for a deeper meaning to beauty—and possibly life. For you, maybe that means embracing a new hobby, becoming more in touch with nature, pursuing deeper connections with family or friends, or just reflecting on who you are and what you want out of life.

Self-acceptance is the current trend, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. What do you think?


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