How Makeup Artists Are Responding To The Changing Beauty Trend Cycle In 2021

Here's everything you need to know.

by Samantha Tse
Originally Published: 
Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images
female getting her makeup done

Red carpet events, music festivals, and fashion weeks were never just about the clothes. They're also a platform for celebs, creatives, artists, and their glam squads to experiment with inventive beauty looks and inspire new trends for the upcoming season. With a once-crowded calendar of these spectacle-heavy events becoming increasingly limited — Copenhagen Fashion Week announced it was going fully digital due to new virus restrictions and this year’s award shows, including the Oscars, are being pushed back from their usual time frames — beauty brands and makeup artists are changing how they work and also anticipating a number of shifts in beauty trends in 2021.

The pandemic has forced the industry to adopt new ways of working, whether it’s safety precautions on shoots and backstage at fashion shows, or creating looks that are Zoom-friendly or work well with masks. Brands and makeup artists have risen to the challenge. Some have done away with trends and are focusing on individuality, while others are predicting a softer approach to glam. To get a sense of what to expect in beauty this year, TZR spoke to top makeup artists — those who work with celebs and brands and create looks for fashion shows and red carpet events — to share what they're anticipating, how they’re approaching this season, where they’re seeking inspo, and who they’re following on social media.

Erin Parsons, Maybelline Global Makeup Artist

Courtesy of Erin Parsons

This season, expect the trend to basically be the anti-trend — it will be about drawing upon your own creativity to craft a look all your own, predicts Maybelline global makeup artist Erin Parsons.

“I'm not looking for trends and I never did, but honestly it doesn't feel like there's going to be a trend other than people embracing uniqueness, originality, and art," she tells TZR.

Of course, makeup artists like Parsons will always be pivotal in creating beauty trends (we stan the bold lips and heart beauty mark she created for Christian Siriano’s autumn/winter 2020 show), but this season will look different, she says — "I don't think people are going to do 'the red lipstick.'" Chalk it up to the ubiquitous face masks being worn for the foreseeable future: Parsons foresees that over-expressing personal style and celebrating individuality will be ever more embraced and the most effective way to stand out in a sea of half-covered faces.

“That’s the trend, to not be like anyone else,” she adds. “For me, trends are dead.”

For Parsons, Instagram and other social media platforms has continued to be a source of inspo. Currently on her radar? @anominalia, @uglyworldwide, @sweetmutuals, @blackbirdkhai, and @anatakonyourface.

Kate Lee, Chanel Makeup Artist

Courtesy of Chanel

Technology and social media have always been instrumental in how new beauty trends are learned about and established. But this season, expect tech to also be something we form our beauty looks around.

"With the onset of green-screen virtual premieres and the inventive ways people are sharing their beauty concepts at the moment, I think we can look forward to lots of unconventional beauty looks and ideas coming from that,” Lee tells TZR.

And then there's Zoom, FaceTime, and other video communication platforms, and their now-even-more-outsized role in helping us connect with others amidst WFH, decreased travel, and real-life-turned-virtual events. These also affect how we put together our looks, and will only continue to do so, she adds. “Zoom has given everyone the opportunity to control their appearance," Lee says, including "lighting themselves perfectly, trying new makeup looks, and setting up the perfect WFH area in which to be comfortable on camera."

Other predictions Lee has? Bold, trend-eschewing eye looks, thanks to mask-wearing — look forward to "glittery eyelids, colored mascara, and beautiful highlights," she says — and unabashed ingenuity. "I think this moment is about personal expression and experimentation, rather than following a specific trend," she says.

As for where she's finding inspo these days, the Yorkshire-born makeup artist has been going on virtual tours of museum exhibitions in London and New York, the Descanso Gardens to learn about seasonal trees and flowers, and down the rabbit hole of Tumblr and Pinterest. Nowness is also "a constant joy," Lee says, thanks to their short films on performance art, travel, and fashion, and #morningmeditation series on Instagram, as well as Isamaya Ffrench and her unconventional and inventive approaches to beauty.

Sarah Tanno, Global Artistry Director at Haus Labs

Courtesy of Sarah Tanno

Going bold and channeling both energy and environment: that's how Sarah Tanno, Lady Gaga’s long-time MUA and Haus Laboratories’ global artistry director, plans to approach this season. "Build[ing] looks based on the energy around us, the story we are telling, and the place we are currently in ... that is what starts the trend rather than 'follows' it," Tanno tells TZR.

Challenging conventional narratives has always been Tanno and Gaga's beauty M.O., and this season is no different — and perhaps even more so with changes we've all had to adapt to over the last year. "It's been a learning curve for all of us in every field trying to adjust," she says, but "it’s pushed me to believe less in trends, and just do what's right for the moment and not just 'what's in.'"

Lately, Tanno has been “living in Chromatica", Lady Gaga’s newest album, which will be a strong reference point for her this season, alongside fashion, music, and her epic book collection. She’s favoring bold plays on color, monochromatic looks, and color blocking for 2021 because “in Chromatica, no one thing is greater than another" — a Lady Gaga quote that Tanno says is "actually how I’m approaching beauty."

Tanno is a big supporter of her fellow artists and when scrolling through her Instagram feed, her faves include @erinparsonsmakeup, @hungvanngo, @lotstar, @jameskaliardos, @thevalgarland, @dendoll, @fulviafarolfi, @peterphilipsmakeup, @tyronmachhausen, @patmcgrathreal, @nikki_makeup, and @claudiu.burca (just "to name a few!").

Jillian Dempsey, Celebrity Makeup Artist & Founder Of Eponymous Makeup Brand

Prioritizing the way beauty makes you feel is top of mind for makeup artist Jillian Dempsey.

"My concentration at the moment involves feeling good," she tells TZR. "I look for positive areas of beauty and fashion with an understanding that there is not one standard of beauty. Remaining open is key to giving customers and clients exactly what they want."

That ethos is also behind Dempsey's beauty app FYFE Beauty. She developed FYFE to be an educational tool with monthly tutorials from industry pros, with the aim of being a foundational guide for users to put their own spins on seasonal trends or more classic looks. "I like to think about making everything in beauty accessible, from natural beauty lovers to heavy makeup users," Dempsey says, so "it is really about breaking down makeup looks with ease."

Romero Jennings, Director of Makeup Artistry, MAC Cosmetics

Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics

Fewer fashion events has translated to even more tailored and targeted trends, notes Romero Jennings, MAC Cosmetics' director of makeup artistry. "We usually have to narrow down all that we see and highlight the most interesting and popular trends," he tells TZR, but "this new normal makes it easier to notice and report on trend as soon as it surfaces."

Jennings notes that "the adornment trend is stronger than ever," and has been creating one-off custom eyelashes during this lockdown period out of paper and metal.

And while he's been WFH recently like most of us — when usually he'd be traveling the globe working on photoshoots and fashion shows, and hitting the streets looking for inspo — he's been turning to MUA, musician, and doll accounts on social media (such as @pidgindoll) and magazines instead to explore the world. “Beauty, fashion and music are strong drives,” he explains. "I look from New York to Mars for inspiration." Some of his faves: British Vogue, PAPER, i-D, Tush, Faddy, Schon, Garage, Essence and Architectural Digest, as well as textiles and interior design magazines to spark texture and color inspiration.

Matin, Celebrity Makeup Artist and Lashify Ambassador

Courtesy of Matin

Last year, makeup artist Matin saw a big rise in lashes, eye makeup, and brow products, which he predicted with everyone wearing masks. And this year, he anticipates continued emphasis on the eye area, but with more of a move toward authenticity.

For 2021, lashes will still be strong, Matin says, due to a continuing sentiment felt by many over the last year. "I predicted that adorning one's eyes would become a big part of self-expression with everyone wearing face masks, and it did," he tells TZR. "DIY lashes and Lashify soared as women needed to fill in the gaps in their lashes when salons closed, while others just wanted to look beautiful without layers of makeup, especially during the summer months and with the heat of the mask."

But this year, Matin feels that people will do away with the "triple-filtered faces and one-minute tutorials with jarring music" that have dominated social media over the years. In that vein, one of his favorite social media accounts is @danaemecer, which he says "shows the reality and the 'perfect'" by peeling back the curtain on retouching and the effect of angles and poses on photos.

Jennifer Fleming, Celebrity Makeup Artist

Courtesy of Jennifer Fleming

For the red carpet, expect to see a move toward a more minimal and relaxed approach to glam, in the form of "a softer eye and much softer lip," celebrity makeup artist Jennifer Fleming tells TZR.

That's due to talent not wanting to spend as much time on hair and makeup as in the past, instead opting for a quick in-and-out over prepping for hours, especially as most events are virtual now, she says. Think: Softer, fluffier, and more natural brows, as well as softer eyes, Fleming says. And "it wouldn't surprise me if you see fewer people in lashes, a more natural lip color, or even just a lip color and softer skin."

Given the prevalence of masks in our daily lives, Fleming also predicts they'll inspire fashion and beauty choices instead of just being functional. We could see more masks on runways, as well as creative things being done with face coverings, she says. Fleming herself has been posting makeup looks that reference the colors and textures of her own face coverings, which often feature beautiful fabrics such as silk brocade.

Other places and people Fleming has been looking to recently: MUA Katie Jayne Hughes’ content, as well as aesthetician Dihan's #skincaresunday videos. "She breaks down ingredients in a way that is so simple, explaining what these ingredients are and what they do," she explains.

Porsche Cooper, Celebrity Makeup Artist

Courtesy of Porsche Cooper

With most events taking place virtually, adapting makeup strategy to what works best on video calls is key, says makeup artist Porsche Cooper. Basically, camera-ready — but make it Zoom.

“The end goal is what will look best on the video call, which is the look of weightless, almost heavenly veiled makeup,” she tells TZR. “It’s not the same as red carpet moments, but my clients still want to look like their most fabulous selves.”

These days, she's soaking up inspiration from international films and TV series — paying special attention to how other cultures interpret beauty — as well as art books and fashion shoots from bygone eras. And given her cerebral approach to makeup, it’s no surprise that Cooper's favorite social media accounts draw from all genres and forms of art, such as Harmonia Rosales, a "divine" painter who explores Black female empowerment through her art, and @VintageBlackGlamour, where you can see gorgeous BTS images and videos of singing and acting legends. Other favorites: @Alex_Elle, who encourages her followers via life mantras and poetry; @BeamingDesign, which mixes uplifting quotes and graphic design; and @Derrick_o_Boateng, which delivers the "most color-explosive, vividly stunning images," she says.

Sabrina Bedrani, Dior US Celebrity Makeup Artist Ambassador

Courtesy of Dior

While the world may be different now than it was a year ago, there are some beauty muses that will always remain classics for a reason — nature and art. And that's especially true for Sabrina Bedrani, celebrity makeup ambassador for Dior US.

Along with the trend-making creative vision set by Dior Beauty creative director Peter Philips, Bedrani tells TZR that she also looks to paintings, films, and photography, all of which are "still very much present in my life — [and] if anything, probably more than ever" — for getting her creative juices flowing.

And while she prefers these other forms of inspiration to scrolling on social media, there are artists and photographers she does keep a close eye on, particularly @calidagarciarawles, @deedsweaves, @dinkunst, @guillermo_arismendi, @christian_macdonald_studio, @slinkachu_official and @brigittedannibale.

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