The Most Influential Beauty Trends, Decade by Decade

Updated 04/28/19

As the political and cultural climate changes, as well as technological advancements and societal norms, so follow beauty trends. Post-election, when women felt the glass ceiling looming and (unconsciously or otherwise) searched for an active way to rebel, buzz cuts cropped up on the heads of more female celebrities than we can count on one hand. Similarly, it's no surprise as high-tech, HD camera lenses continue to advance, facial injections are on the rise. It's all connected.

To better understand where these beauty movements come from, I reached out to top experts in various fields—skincare, makeup, and hair—to find out what eras they found most influential. Below, each one describes the trends that shaped history.

Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra Smoky Cat Eye
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51 BCE: The Smoky Cat Eye

"Let's start with Cleopatra—she was the OG beauty icon," says Sir John, L'Oréal Paris celebrity makeup artist. "During her time, it was the birth of the smoky eye and the cat eye, which are two styles that are still extremely popular today. Think Kohl liners and smudge sticks."

Cooc Chanel Glow
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1920s: The Sun-Kissed Glow

"History has it that Coco Chanel got sunburned on a cruise, and when she arrived back home to France, the tan she developed became trendy," says dermatologist and skin expert William Kwan, MD. While it's not the healthiest of trends, it's still popular to this day.

Brigitte Bardot
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1960s: The Bombshell Fringe

"Brigitte Bardot's iconic fringe from the '60s has remained timeless throughout the years," explains Justine Marjan, Tresemmé global stylist. "The eyebrow-grazing bang is a sexy way to frame the face, giving off an air of effortlessness."

Cher
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1970s: The Era of Sleek, Healthy Hair

"Cher's sleek, long locks brought a new focus on healthy hair in the '70s," explains Marjan. "Her hair was so different from the voluminous strands of decades past—women were even using ironing boards to get perfectly straight hair. It inspired the modern-day flat iron."

Retin A tube
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1980s: The Skincare Revolution

"Retin-A was approved for acne in 1971," notes Kwan. "It was found to be helpful for acne and received approval for this condition. Since then, we've found the category of retinoids to be helpful for stimulating collagen, helping fine lines and wrinkles, and aiding in the appearance of stretch marks and scars. Dermatologists use Retin-A products every day for patients. Then, collagen was approved in 1981. Today's facial fillers, which are predominantly hyaluronic acid-based, were developed after many years of using injectable bovine collagen."

Drew Barrymore brown lip
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1990s: The Matte Brown Lip

"The era brought about trends like over-lined, matte lips and brown, neutral, and gray tones," says Sir John.

botox procedure
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2000s: The Cosmetic Use of Botox

"Botox was approved for medical use many years before its cosmetic indications, but once it was FDA-approved for cosmetic use in 2002, the popularity of the product skyrocketed," notes Kwan. "It's so common that people use it as a noun and a verb. Nothing works better for dynamic creases of the upper face."

blonde beachy waves
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2010s: The Undone Beach Wave

While the mainstream fascination with California increased (think The O.C.Laguna Beach, and The Hills), popular barrel curls were nixed in favor of a more undone look. "Beachy waves give an effortless, tousled look to any style and are ideal for [modern women] because they don't have to be perfect to look good," say Aaron Grenia, Chase Kusero, Leo Izquierdo, and Franck Izquierdo, the co-founders of IGK Hair Care.

solange natural hair
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2018: The Natural Texture

While women of color have been wearing their natural curls for centuries, Vernon François, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Vernon François Collection, notes a shift. "Wearing curly hair loose and free—just letting it be—has shaped the last 10 years," he suggests. "Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Uzo Aduba, Alicia Keys, Shakira, and Solange all own this so well. They're unapologetic for the volume. It's a must-wear style for women with big, curly hair."

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