The Death of Trends: How the Beauty Industry Is Redefining Our Culture of Cool

PHOTO: @MKUPWITHSARAH

But even the definition of the word trend itself is under construction. Merriam-Webster defines the phrase as “a current style or preference,” which, when Carruthers was giving everyone Heidi Klum–esque fringe in 2002, meant something that could last a whole year. That version of trends no longer exists: Today, because of how fast-paced and reactive the internet is, the “current style or preference” everyone is obsessed with might only last a day. “Trends now have shorter lifespans and less of a cultural impact than they did before because we are now overstimulated with constant newness,” explains Georgie Greville, creative director for Milk Makeup, a brand founded on the concept of self-expression that has been masterfully capturing the spirit of millennial beauty consumers since its launch in 2016. “You can link it to the demise of glossy magazines, which used to dictate the trends that everyone followed. Now, trends are dictated by millions of influencers and what exists in Instagram feeds.

While makeup artists and hairstylists who’ve been around for decades might interpret this beauty climate as less trend-focused, ask a 20-something influencer, and they’ll likely report just the opposite. “I believe people care and are following trends more than they did 10 years ago,” says up-and-coming beauty Instagrammer and YouTuber Sarah LaPierre. “There are definitely the short-lived gimmick trends like squiggly eyebrows, for example, but overall I think beauty trends are still very relevant.” The way LaPierre explains it, consumers are exposed to new trends and looks through the influencers they choose to follow during their daily scrolls, and this inherently makes them seem more attainable, and therefore more impactful. “These influencers have the ears and eyes of the largest beauty brands and in many cases are setting the trends themselves,” she says. “Brands are allowing influencers to create their own products and lines based on what they love. In this way, I think the brands are also setting trends.”

Greville concurs that consumers are looking more and more toward influencers and brands they connect with on a personal level, even smaller ones that don’t have millions of followers, to decide how to shape their beauty routines. “More than ever, people are able to articulate themselves and their individual taste, so they can pick and choose what trends resonate with them,” she says. “Consumers have been niche-ifying beauty culture for some time now, which is represented by the staggering number of new, niche beauty brands you are seeing out there gathering cult followings.” Think GlossierRituel de Fille, and RMS. “Rather than the trends dictating the brands, now the new brands are the trends.”

What all industry professionals can agree on is that while consumers may no longer look to magazines and runways for wide-sweeping trends, the concept of pursuing what’s current will never be obsolete. “What happens in salons is no longer dictated by hard-core trendsthat change from year to year, but guests are still wanting what is cool,” says Carruthers.

Both experts and consumers can see that in 2018, there is at least one definition of “cool” visible throughout the beauty industry: individuality. “Right now, it’s trending to do your own thing and be your own person, whatever that looks like,” analyzes Jesse Montalvo, a beauty consumer and member of Byrdie’s private Facebook group, The Beauty Line. “The emphasis on trends and fads may seem muted, but I don’t think they’ll ever become a thing of the past.” As LaPierre puts it, “While I agree more brands and people are encouraging us to be individuals, isn’t that a trend itself?”

Makeup artists and hairstylists still play a role in shaping the beauty space, of course: Surveys we’ve conducted at Byrdie show that readers trust these experts specifically for beauty tips and advice over brands and influencers. And most of them are glad to serve that role—to take a step back from the hard-core year-to-year trend culture and have the chance to be a little more creative with their work. “There is no way to predict where his will head,” says Carruthers, “but for now, it’s fun to be … in a world where your hands are untied from super-specific trends.”

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