Culture Built 2010s Beauty: Here’s How


The end of every decade signifies the end of a beauty movement as well: from the vampy 1920s to Marilyn Monroe’s 1950s and BIG hair in the 1980s, each trend highlighted a wave of shifting cosmetic and cultural norms. With the amount of social commentary and current events held in the last 10 years, it’s no surprise that the 2010s possessed its own cultural and beauty shifts.

While we leave behind a decade of royal weddings and Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, here are the major beauty trends we spotted in the last decade.

Browning Beauty

After President Obama, the idea emerged that the U.S. was finally a “post-racial society.” Having a black president must mean we’d really made it, right? So wrong. The 2010s forced black and brown people to, again, fight for their rights to safety, respect, visibility, and equal/ equitable treatment. In 2013, #BlackLivesMatter demanded an end to police brutality and institutional oppression of the black community.

However, it grew to fuel a nationwide, far-reaching call for the recognition and representation of the black community across our culture: from politics and entertainment to, of course, the beauty industry.

#BlackGirlMagic gave a platform that hyped curls and black beauty often ignored in the mainstream industry. Then, the famous launch of Rihanna‘s Fenty Beauty sent shockwaves through the beauty ecosystem, forcing brands across the industry to follow suit and better represent customers of all skin tones. Finally, products were being made by and for black and brown people; models began representing the customer base more accurately and to ignore the shift was to be met with huge backlash (#sorrynotsorry Tarte Shape Tape).

The browning of beauty and fashion is too slow, but throughout the 2010s, we saw it come to the forefront of the cosmetic conversation.


The U.S. witnessed huge shifts in LGBTQ+ rights throughout the 2010s, and while society struggled with shifting gender norms, people of all identities expressed themselves and pushed cultural boundaries through beauty. As a traditionally female-dominated industry, women asserted new autonomy in beauty by deciding how and why they were going to use it.

Full-glam contours and highlights leaned toward hyper-femininity, while the boy brow and Sir John’s “boy beat” combatted stereotypes with a more androgynous look. We also welcomed men into the beauty sphere with James Charles becoming COVERGIRL’s first Cover Boy in 2016 and Manny Gutierrez as Maybelline’s first male ambassador in 2017.

The true win of the 2010s, however, was the increased visibility and integration of trans* and gender-nonconforming people in the beauty industry. Just this year, Laverne Cox graduated from OINTB prison stylist to Matrix’s Total Results ambassador. Meanwhile, gender non-conforming models such as Alok Vaid-Menon and inclusive brands like Fluide took gender-bent beauty beyond drag.

Although the U.S. still has its growing pains, the beauty community became a place of expression and refuge for all of our beauty kweens in the 2010s.

Caring for Ourselves

A reflection on the 2010s would be incomplete without a little #selfcare. The self care movement became a defining aspect of millennial culture (see our article on Chillhouse), with face masks and jade rollers becoming near-iconic. But memes aside, self care practices grew as we tried to cope with our increasingly stressful environment. This decade was packed with tension, from Trump’s presidency to Brexit and increasing severity of police brutality and school shootings. It’s no wonder we retreated to our bathrooms and opted for a 10-step Korean skin care routine.

According to Refinery 29, Google searches for the word “self-care” reached a five-year high after the 2016 election. Since then, the self care market has exploded, with skin care being an especially lucrative industry. As beauty and wellness collide, we’ve become increasingly invested in the state of our skin, as well as how our lifestyle (like diet and environment) impact our natural beauty.

As the decade ends, consumers are discussing brand intentions and the commercialization of self care. However, there’s still no doubt that this “movement” has had a huge impact in the last 10 years.

Going Au Natural

Bare beauty has circulated through multiple decades, including the 1910s and 1970s. Still, natural beauty made a comeback in the 2010s with huge credit to feminism’s rebirth. Women asserted a new claim over their natural size, shape and appearance; and as a result, we saw new retouching campaigns from companies like Aerie, Dove and most recently, CVS.

Models no longer represented a single standard of beauty, but sported freckles, gap teeth and other “imperfections.” Out of this new mindset came cult-brand Glossier in 2010. With barely-there products and a new, fresh aesthetic, beauty junkies flocked to the brand. Then, other companies followed suit with the launch of CC creams, tinted moisturizers, lip tints and other products. Beauty in the 2010s became more about complimenting our appearance, not covering it.

Rise of the Conscious Consumer

The final trend of the 2010s is a huge change from our past consumer behaviors. Before this decade, consumers were content to sit back and stay separate from brand decisions. A sufficient product arrived at their door, and there was no reason to question how it was made or who had made it. However, throughout the last 10 years, consumers have become eager to make informed decisions about their products –– from ingredients to company ethics. This desire has been fueled by a growing wellness movement, as we call out companies that sacrifice consumer health to make money.

Another huge factor was the 2018 Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal that made us more aware of corporate data abuse. Although Mark Zuckerberg promised to protect our social accounts from here on out, we couldn’t unsee what was behind the brand curtain. As a result, consumers in the beauty community made some demands in exchange for our business. We wanted products sans-parabens and began questioning the practices of cosmetic mica mining. Now, as we enter the 2020s, consumers are no longer afraid to make their voices heard; and brands know they better listen.

With another election on the horizon and more beauty launches than ever before, we can’t wait to see what trends are waiting for us in the 2020s.

Sign up for your weekly dose of beauty and brains.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


We’re a tease, but we always deliver.

Sign up for your weekly dose of beauty and brains.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.