Skin care trends vary from year to year, but the ultimate goal of each of them is to, well, make your complexion as healthy and glowing as possible. In 2020, the industry dealt with plenty of maskne woes, sustainable packaging innovations, and lots of CBD-packed formulas. As for what lies ahead? The general theme of 2021’s skin care trends is all about a smarter routine.
Top dermatologists and facialists spoke with Bustle about the skin care trends they’re seeing as big in the new year, and — luckily for beauty enthusiasts — 2021 will be filled with advancements in product formulas, technology, and treatments specifically for irritation from face masks (because that’s sadly still here). For the latter concern, New York City-based facialist Shani Hillian predicts a boom in technology focused on correction.
“As an esthetician, I’ve been treating clients who have developed acne within the last few months as ‘maskne’ is a very real thing,” she tells Bustle. Enter a slew of at-home beauty devices catered to combatting this all-too-common woe — plus trends like refillable packaging, products that do it all, and more. Expect your complexion to be at the top of its game come 2021. Behold, the nine skin care trends that will be major in the new year.
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Thanks to COVID-19, going to your dermatologist wasn’t an option for a large chunk of 2020. That means there was little access to professional treatments, like Botox, peels, and other high-tech facials — which is exactly why the skin care industry rushed to come up with alternatives to keep complexions fresh and healthy. Hillian sees professional-grade at-home treatments, especially chemical peels, taking over in 2021.
“These aren’t medical grade, and they’ll be gentler on the skin but effective with a great routine,” she tells Bustle. “I think you’ll see more self-neutralizing peel pads for home use.” As a refresher, chemical peels are a fast-track exfoliation method that sloughs off dead skin cell buildup and removes excess oil. “Excess oil can clog pores and hair follicles, which cause blemishes,” says Hillian. “[Chemical peels] also promote cell turnover, which rids skin of any stubborn hyperpigmentation.”
Everyone’s skin is different, and what works for one person might not work on another. Beauty brands are realizing this and coming up with ways to make products more customized to individual needs. “In 2021, I expect to see a growth in personalization in skin care products,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, tells Bustle. “With the growing popularity of services like 23AndMe, we all are better understanding our unique, individual backgrounds, and new brands are delivering to consumers specialized formulas to suit the individual’s skin.”
It’s a trend that both Hillian and New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD see as well. “There will be more bespoke skin care products, targeting you and your specific concerns and keeping in mind your skin type and lifestyle,” Nazarian tells Bustle, adding that skin responds better to a personalized approach. According to Hillian, her facial practice is rooted in personalizing every treatment for her clients’ varying needs. “This will get bigger in 2021,” she says. You can get personalized skin care from brands like Atolla, Untamed Humans, Clinique iD, SkinCeuticals, Skinsei, and more. These generally work by having you fill out a questionnaire through their website that asks about your skin type, the climate you live in, and skin goals (and other factors that impact your complexion), then customizing a formula based on your answers.
Non-Invasive Anti-Aging Treatments
Along the lines of the at-home chemical peel trend, industry experts are predicting non-invasive treatments that promote healthy complexions to be on the rise in 2021. This means LED light therapy, the use of active ingredients (like retinol), and vibration therapy tools. “The best part about these treatments is that they can be done at home,” says celebrity facialist Shani Darden, who tells Bustle that this is her top skin care trend prediction. “This year especially, as people aren’t able to leave their homes for other treatments, there is a focus on what can be done at home to achieve the desired results.”
Compared to using liquid fillers or Botox to address fine lines, Darden says certain non-invasive options can “really transform the skin” and minimize the need for more costly, invasive treatments down the road. “Keeping a consistent anti-aging skin care routine and device routine can really help to counteract premature aging,” she tells Bustle. Try a vibrating facial wand like Darden’s Facial Sculpting Wand or the Nurse Jaime Eyeonix Eye Massaging Beauty Tool, or an LED light device, like Neutrogena’s Red & Blue Light Therapy Mask.
To say that everyone’s busy is an understatement — which is why skin care products have become more multitasking, allowing people to build hyper-efficient beauty regimens. Both Nazarian and Hillian believe the end of the 10-step K-beauty routine
is here and that multifunctional products will take its place.
“Look for products that target multiple issues that can help you streamline your skin care routine,” Nazarian tells Bustle. “Products are becoming smarter, and you’ll be able to do more with less.” Hillian points to examples like cleansers that exfoliate and remove dirt and oil at once — like Pacifica’s Glow Baby Brightening Face Wash — and serum-oil hybrids that treat and protect at the same time, like Versed’s new Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
Don’t expect maskne treatments to disappear. “Sadly, there’s still going to be a need for products targeting the biggest skin nemesis of the year — the mask,” Nazarian tells Bustle, pointing to woes like irritation and acne as common reactions to face coverings. “Look for products that calm, rebalance, and decrease bacterial load caused by re-breathing under these tight masks.”
Dr. Zeichner agrees: “Products that protect our skin from the mask and repair damage from it will continue to come to the forefront in 2021,” he says.
In 2021, expect fewer harsh skin care products — like extra-strong acid exfoliants and facial scrubs — in favor of more nurturing formulas. “The days of skin barrier disruption are done,” Nazarian says. “More and more evidence suggests that gentle therapy for skin will actually improve multiple skin conditions better than anything that’s too harsh. You’ll be seeing less scrubs, brushes, and ‘tough love’ skin care, and more skin-friendly, pH-balanced options.” Look for probiotic-packed skin care, which uses good bacteria to balance your complexion’s natural microflora and reduce inflammation; formulas filled with protective ceramides, which are fats that support your skin’s protective outer layer; and moisturizing humectants (like hyaluronic acid, which helps keep skin hydrated).
Beauty devices that people can use at home have gotten much more advanced. “As much as we all love the feel of creams, serums, and lotions, more dramatic effects can be appreciated with the use of certain devices, including lasers and light treatments,” Nazarian tells Bustle. Some advanced options available on the shelves “help you achieve your skin goals with less effort.” Even better? “They’ve also become smarter and better at multitasking, so you can tighten while working on your glow, and you can shrink pores while you decrease redness,” she says.
Dr. Nazarian points to devices that use microcurrent (the use of electrical stimulation to tighten and even skin) or microneedling, which uses tiny needles to stimulate collagen production in your skin, as prime examples you can buy for at-home use.
Sustainability has been top of mind in the beauty industry for a few years now, but packaging innovations are getting better than ever and continuing to improve. According to Hillian, refillable beauty packaging is going to be particularly huge in 2021. “Pharrell and Rihanna’s lines contain products you can refill and recycle, and that’s a game-changer,” she says. “Refill and reuse ensures you are getting the most out of your products, saving the earth, and ridding our planet of unnecessary plastic.” Other brands like Noble Panacea, Dermalogica, Bathing Culture, and many others are also turning to this practice, so expect to see an influx of these items on beauty shelves.
Perhaps one of the most universally-applicable skin care trends of 2021 is a boom of self-acceptance. “If 2020 was the year of filters, I expect 2021 to be the year of being unfiltered,” Zeichner tells Bustle. “Showing your true skin, flaws and all, has been a growing trend that continues to gain traction.” He says acne is the biggest example of this, noting that “real people get pimples,” and more people are embracing that than ever, which explains the popularity of cute pimple patches — à la Starface’s Hydro-Stars — that don’t hide breakouts. Rather, they make pimples something to have fun with.
It’s a trend that Hillian dubs the rise of “embracing imperfect beauty,” pointing to social media as evidence. “There’s been an influx of folks on social media showing their natural skin, their battle with acne and flaunting it — which I love,” she tells Bustle. Her prediction? “You’ll see more transparency with people’s struggle with skin ailments, and embracing and loving themselves.” Sounds like a trend everyone can get behind.
Dover, J.; McDaniel, D..; Nelson, D.; Wortzman, M. (2020) In vitro and in vivo evaluation of a moisture treatment cream containing three critical elements of natural skin moisturization, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jocd.13359
Papakonstantinou, E.; Roth, M.; Karakiulakis, G. (2012) Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/
Saniee, F.; Reza, H. (2012) Consider of Micro-Current’s effect to variation of Facial Wrinkle trend, Randomized Clinical Trial Study, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230642269_Consider_of_Micro-Current’s_effect_to_variation_of_Facial_Wrinkle_trend_Randomized_Clinical_Trial_Study
Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Zeichner Dermatology
Rachel Nazarian, MD, board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology
Shani Hillian, holistic esthetician and licensed cosmetologist
Shani Darden, celebrity facialist and founder of Shani Darden Skin Care