https://www.smh.com.au-By Samantha Selinger-Morris
The ancient Egyptians might have thousands of years on us, in terms of being early beauty trend adopters, but did they have Miss Piggy lipstick, in the shade “Piggy Power”, emblazoned with the pig puppet’s favourite phrase, “WHO? MOI?”
It landed in shops in October (along with many other Miss Piggy-themed items from British brand Ciaté London, like a beauty sponge in the shape of her snout), and is one of many cartoon characters used, this year, by countless beauty brands to hawk their wares.
Anti-ageing is out, and dolphin skin is in.Credit:Illustration by Dionne Gain
If you have always wanted to paint your eyelids in a range of sickly green shades inspired by Baby Yoda (care of ColourPop Cosmetics), or take off last night’s mascara with a microfibre towel emblazoned with SpongeBob SquarePants’ face (care of MakeUp Eraser). This was your year.
Not everyone was on board.
“We’re too old for this shit,” said Hailey O’Bryen, co-host of the popular Australian beauty YouTube channel, Beauty News, in a video in October, referring to the launch of Kiko Milano’s Wonder Woman collection.
But, then, talking about being “old” is, so we’ve been schooled this year, so 1BCE-2019.
Now, it’s all about anti-anti-ageing. The latest must-haves? Age spots, and forehead wrinkles (in a campaign for Australian skincare brand Biologi, featuring un-retouched images of a 62-year-old model), grey hair (care of Instagram sites like Grombre and Silver Sisters), and the fire and brimstone attitude of a 19th century suffragette chaining herself to a railing. “THAT’S IT. WE’RE PUTTING OUR FOOT DOWN ON ‘ANTI-AGEING’,” read an article on The Body Shop’s website, earlier this year. “IT’S TIME WE CELEBRATE AGE, NOT FIGHT IT.”
So, it’s finally become passé to sell moisturisers, serums and sprays that promise to keep our complexions line-free, even as our hearts, livers, and other bits keep marching on to the relentless advance of time?
Answer: The Body Shop still sells a serum called “Drops Of Youth Concentrate”. And Paula’s Choice simply sidestepped the word “anti-ageing” by saying its sunscreen “limit[s] pro-ageing sun damage”.
Mary Phillips, Jennifer Lopez’s longtime personal makeup artist, was even more creative, this year, in coining a euphemism for having skin like a baby’s arse, without denouncing ageing: dolphin skin.
One of the most hyped beauty trends, it has been described, variously, as looking “youthful”, “radiant”, and, most memorably, as “inspired by the iridescent, wet-look highlight created as sun beams travel across the slippery curves of a dolphin”.
In a nutshell: slap on the cult German moisturiser Weleda Skin Food (as a natural highlighter), and other jelly-based products, like Morphe’s Eye Shimmers and e.l.f cosmetic’s Jelly Pop Flush Blush. Avoid matte products. And remember: you want to look “dewy” rather than “wet”. (Screw that up, and you’ll be nailing last year’s trend: glass skin.)
But we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Namely: the fox eye trend. The strategic use of eye shadow, eyeliner, and fake eyelashes to emulate the almond-shaped eyes of celebrities like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner – or, if you suck at makeup: pulling your hair into a high ponytail to “lift” the eyes – was huge this year. But many called the trend “racist”, and accused those of adopting it as guilty of cultural appropriation, with Caucasian women being applauded for a feature that Asian women have long been derided for.
The beauty industry also gave us stabs at solutions to century-old problems: the championing of Black-owned brands and blue beauty. At the time of writing, #blackownedbeauty had 58,716 Instagram posts, the vast majority aimed at supporting brands – and a community – that has historically been ignored by the beauty industry, by shining the spotlight on labels like Bread Beauty Supply (a hair range out of Melbourne), and cult makeup brand UOMA (by Nigerian-born beauty executive Sharon Chuter).
Worried about the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into our oceans every year? Brands like Ren and Kevin Murphy jumped on the blue beauty trend, this year, using reclaimed ocean waste plastic for packaging; Caudalie and Coola did their bit by releasing products free of oxybenzone, and octinoxate, which can kill coral.
But what about us? The actual people who are slapping down our credit cards to feel better about… the bits on our bodies we’ve been told to feel bad about?
We – thanks in a large part to the pandemic – are reportedly suffering from serious cases of tech neck, and blue light damage. Most of us, doctors advise, just need to shift our sitting positions, and take frequent walk breaks in order to keep the former (migraines, muscle spasms, jaw pain and the like, as the result of constantly hanging our heads, down, to look at our screens) at bay. As for the other scourge: blue light (also called high energy visible light) that is emitted from our laptops and phones, and reportedly leads to greater wrinkle formation and skin discoloration? Brands like Dr Barbara Sturm, Drunk Elephant, and Sunday Riley all came out with new products, like anti-pollution drops and moisturiser, to remedy the problem. (Most dermatologists simply recommend a physical sunscreen with iron oxides, which deflects the sun’s rays.)
Feeling overwhelmed, yet?
Try skinimalism. The trend of paring down our skincare routines, to three products to allow our skin to “breathe”, the routine – a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen, plus, if you’re feeling fancy, a serum – is a backlash to the famous 12-step K-Beauty skincare routines that peaked a couple of years ago. (This hasn’t stopped online retailer LookFantastic.com from spruiking 765 products in its “skinimalism” category, including everything from a lactic acid and HA “peeling formulation” to eyeshadows.)
You should cleanse for at least two minutes is one piece of advice from dermal therapist James Vivian
The good news? In a year that will go down in history for its focus on inclusivity, men’s beauty reached new heights, with numerous new releases, including L’Homme A la rose, a “free interpretation of a rose for men”, by famed perfume company Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris, Below Deck, an anti-chafing stick for men from Old Spice, and British singer Sam Smith’s “Beauty Secrets”, in a Vogue magazine YouTube video.
“To be honest, I feel like I need to figure out how to not touch my face,” the ‘Stay With Me’ singer said, before shouting out TooFace’s Better Than Sex mascara, and Haus Beauty’s lip gloss. “Because I read this thing that Meryl Streep said. To not touch your face, that’s how she remains looking so young.”
A sign that the anti-anti ageing trend is under threat? Listen, some rare trends – like the ancient Egyptians’ use of kohl, to line our eyes – do stand the test of time, but most fade. Soul patches, tadpole eyebrows and tandoori-coloured bronzer were big once, too.
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Samantha Selinger-Morris is a lifestyle writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.