Behind the sudden rise of minimalist beauty

Tender, fragile. Cropped image of beautiful female face with plump lips isolated on white studio background. Close up. Concept of female beauty and tenderness

There has been a remarkable change in the beauty industry. While trends are constantly evolving, we are not in the same place we were five years ago or even five months ago, it is impressive how much things have changed in this post-pandemic world (if we can still call it that). Minimalist beauty trends have made their way into every category (hair, nails, skin, makeup, even cosmetic and plastic surgery), replacing the over-the-top, super-deep practices we might have sworn to in recent decades.

Not too long ago, we painted our fingertips in maximalist designs, combining multiple nail art trends into a single manicure. We take an extra 10 minutes every day to blend the perfect smokey eye, contour our cheekbones, and bake our makeup just for a normal day at work. The celebrities we love have had breast augmentations, Brazilian butt lifts, and full face lifts 24/7. Now, however, the trend has changed: these days, less is more, and we’ve quickly adapted our beauty routines to reflect that.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on our beauty routines,” Megan Lavallie, makeup artist and beauty content creator, tells POPSUGAR. We know: you’ve heard a thousand times about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on society, but it’s true. “Many people only put on their makeup and hair when they answered a Zoom call. We got used to seeing ourselves without makeup every day and therefore it made us appreciate our natural features,” she says.

“We got used to seeing ourselves without makeup every day and thus it made us appreciate our natural features.”

All signs point to the minimalist shift, including the current top searches on Pinterest. “During the height of the pandemic, we had the highest searches for wellness, including topics like skincare and natural beauty,” says Swasti Sarna, Senior Insights Leader at Pinterest. That cultural reset that happened during the pandemic paved the way for TikTok’s “that girl” aesthetic and all the minimalist beauty trends that followed. “Pinners have been looking more and more for minimalist beauty trends, particularly the ‘clean girl aesthetic’ trend,” says Sarna. “Searches for ‘clean girl cosmetic makeup’ and ‘clean girl hair’ are each up more than 80 percent in May from the previous month.”

Current minimalist beauty trends include the fresh-faced “Skinimalism” look (think: fluffy, raised brows, freckles poking through your foundation, oils and lip glosses instead of matte pigments, and lots of blush); barely-there manicures (like milk bath shades, ’90s supermodel nail color, and Hailey Bieber’s viral glazed donut manicure); and effortless off-duty model hairstyles (claw clips, slicked-back buns, and sleek ponytails).

Even the world of plastic surgery, which arguably is and should be at least a little less focused on trends, has been influenced by this shift towards more natural looking results. That was what paved the way for the popular lip makeover treatment and led to many celebrities getting their breast implants and BBLs removed. We have made a complete 180 degree turn from the trends that dominated the 2010s.

But why now? In part, it may be because we needed a palate cleanse from where we were. “It seems to be a reaction to how over-the-top and wild nails were for a while,” says Eunice Park, manicurist and director of research and development for Aprés Nail. “Now everyone seems to be going back to more natural, wearable nails.”

Adds Devin Toth, a stylist at Salon SCK in New York City: “From a technical approach, minimalist hair trends give you the best bang for your buck. They’re the easiest styles to create and they deliver super eye-catching results, as whether it be slick ponytails, supermodel chignons, statement claw clips, one-length bob or unlayered lob, or even a solid blonde hair color.” (This last one is another big trend we’re seeing, a la the “Pamela Anderson blond” hair color trend.)

We have also become more used to seeing ourselves without makeup and have learned to accept that. “Pinners want to embrace their natural beauty and stick to quick, time-saving beauty routines,” says Sarna. Adds Lavallie: “That’s what minimal makeup, hair and nails are all about: they allow your unique features to shine through. It’s become less about covering up and more about the individual underneath.”

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