The year 2021 was quite a time for beauty. Most notably, the notion of “the best in beauty” is better understood by a more nuanced notion: what’s best for you.
You don’t have to be a beauty influencer, expert or insider to have feelings about what had a cultural moment beauty-wise in 2021, but since these folks have access to more products and trends than most of us, HuffPost tapped beauty experts about the buzziest beauty of 2021 and what those trends mean for 2022.
1. At-home salon care
When the pandemic shuttered salons and spas, many people were forced to adjust how they kept up their beauty regimens. And as we opened back up, we noticed that people continued the at-home salon trend thanks to a slew of professional-grade yet user-friendly products.
“Realistically, most people in today’s world don’t have time to style their hair in a salon every day,” said Suzzie Monroe, founder of Luxbae, a boutique salon in West Hollywood, California. “For at-home styling, having an expert-recommended blow dryer, curling iron wand or flat iron is key. And with some practice, you can get pretty good at styling your own hair.”
Score amazing waves at home with Drybar’s The Beach Bender: For people who struggle with a curling iron, this tool creates easy beachy waves, and its ionic technology prevents you from over-styling and frying your hair.
Another at-home trend that continued into 2021 was DIY hair color, with some caveats. “I often give a custom mix of take-home toner to my clients so they can freshen up their color in between their appointments,” Monroe explained. “But I absolutely wouldn’t recommend dyeing your hair at home with box dye! These are also formulated much differently than professional hair dyes and are remarkably hard to reverse or change in-salon later on.”
Get great color at home with Aura’s personalized hair care color-enhancing pigments: Salon-grade, color-enhancing pigments are a gentler way to dye, and you can personalize your formula based on hair type and lifestyle. They can be added to a masque or conditioner.
2. At-home IPL hair removal
In line with the at-home spa, the market saw a deluge of high-tech beauty devices designed to enhance at-home procedures. One of the biggest trends was the at-home IPL (intense pulsed light) designed to zap away unwanted hair.
“Laser hair removal devices work by damaging the hair follicles during an active cycle of hair growth. Therefore, it takes multiple treatments, about a month apart, to completely stop hair from regrowing as hair grows in cycles,” cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, who performs laser hair removal at her New York office, told HuffPost. At-home zapping is surprisingly easy, but it’s critical to heed instructions. “For any product you wish to use at home, it is important to use precaution, follow the directions listed on the product carefully. Always be sure to read the directions.”
Try it at home with this SmoothSkin Pure IPL laser device: So easy to use, this FDA-cleared device assesses your skin tone and dials up the correct flash to ensure a safe and effective treatment. Expect to see results within 12 weeks when you perform the treatment once weekly.
3. Clean beauty at the drugstore
Clean and sustainable beauty has become a standard for people who want products that are free of toxic chemicals. The year 2021 saw the expansion of clean beauty into the mainstream market and even onto drugstore shelves.
A product that took off in popularity was Odele’s line of clean hair care and body washes at Target:
4. Skin care for menopause
Prior to 2021, beauty bloggers, brand ambassadors and editors rarely addressed menopause, despite the many skin care concerns this life stage ushers in. This changed in 2021 as more beauty brands tailored products specifically to the needs of women experiencing perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. “There’s a million pregnancy skin care products on the market,” Janet, a New Yorker in tech, told HuffPost, “but when it comes to menopause, up until recently, there was a real dearth. But women don’t stop buying skin care at a certain age. In fact, we kind of double down, and we shouldn’t have to do so in the shadows.”
Deborah Kilgore, the global director of skin care knowledge for Paula’s Choice, explained that “when estrogen levels drop, the once-strong signals that stimulate collagen, proteins, elastin, hyaluronic acid and other substances begin to weaken. As these signals fade, important messages become muddled, and skin can appear to age virtually overnight.” She noted that this does not “imply that you should use ‘stronger’ versions of products or ingredients that you already use.” Instead, Kilgore recommends switching up your routine to add “ingredients such as plant-based phytoestrogens, which have been shown to target the effects of estrogen deficiency and, as a result, complement your other anti-aging treatments.”
Get Womaness The Works smoothing body lotion from Target for $19.99: A luxe drugstore brand specifically created for the 40-plus crowd.
Get Hum Nutrition Fan Club for $40: A beauty ingestible formulated for women experiencing perimenopause and menopause.
Get Indeed Me-no-pause Cooling Mist for $20: An ultra-cooling facial mist designed to plump skin and relieve flushing.
5. All eyes on the brows
From barely there ’90s brows to glitter-enhanced disco brows, it’s been quite a year for the eyebrow. “Brows bring balance and proportion to your face and eyes,” Benefit’s global brow expert, Jared Bailey, told HuffPost.
Hollywood makeup artist Stevi Christine has thoughts on pulling off a great everyday brow look. “For everyday brows,” she said, “trends are a no!”
Christine recommended a technique called brow mapping to create the brow look that best suits your face. “We do a simple brow mapping to enhance your eyes and face. I’ll usually use a spoolie to map it out to see if one brow is a bit higher. I’m into a fluffy, accentuated ‘undone but done’-looking brow. Brows that give you confidence when you walk in somewhere, not that overpower your face.”
To get a great natural brow, try Merit Brow 1980, a volumizing pomade that adds a hint of color to help define arches.
6. Celeb-touted brands
From Jennifer Aniston’s LolaVie to Alicia Keys’ Soulcare, 2021 saw many celebrity-helmed beauty brands arrive. Although these are not a new trend, celeb-touted brands are being held to a higher standard than ever before. Super-influencer Jackie Aina, who launched Forvr Mood, a luxe self-care line, told HuffPost that celeb brands today have to be “interactive with their fans and customer base” to be successful. “Right now I’m loving Fenty [by Rihanna] and Rare Beauty [by Selena Gomez]! I feel like initially when Rare Beauty came out after Fenty, they were quickly looked at as competition, but I think they’ve both proven in the beauty space that they have their own voice, their own brand identity and they focus on different types of products. Even if there is any crossover, like let’s just say they both came out with a line of blush, they are both very different and stand on their own.”
If you want to give it a try, go for Rare Beauty’s Soft Pinch liquid blush trio. This limited-edition set by Selena Gomez includes a dewy and matte variety, including a “Selena favorite.”
7. Sheer foundation
Skinamalism trended hard in 2021, which meant that full-coverage foundation went the way of the dodo. Cosmetic dermatologist Dendy Engelman explained the benefits of sheer foundation, formulated with ingredients like “antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to actually improve the health of your skin barrier while you wear them. Sheer foundation is a smart option for those with mature skin, as it won’t get trapped in fine lines and create creasing. People with dry and oily skin types can also benefit from sheer foundations that work to hydrate and nourish the skin barrier all day long.” She told HuffPost this “no-makeup makeup look” is overall a healthier option for skin.
Try Saie’s Slip Tint, a tinted SPF that glides on with a dewy finish. The standout feature here is the color-matching service that allows users to send in a selfie to get a custom shade recommendation.
8. Extra lashes
Peeking out behind our masks and framing our faces when a bold lip was not possible, 2021 was all about the eyes and, in particular, extra lashes.
Style influencer Erika de la Cruz told HuffPost, “Lashes were huge this year because not only do they instantly elevate your complete look, but they’re often the only things needed on casual days.”
To get the look, try LoveSeen’s Troi false lashes. Jenna Lyons’ luxe lash line continues to sell well, with a variety of lashes for different eye shapes, skin tones, hair textures and style preferences.