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I'll say it: 2021 was one of the best years for beauty. The return of in-person functions like award shows and fashion weeks brought a renewed desire to experiment with beauty looks. Over the past 12 months, our favorite celebrities and influencers repeatedly blessed our timelines with some of the best makeup and hair moments yet.
There were countless hair transformations: Billie Eilish debuted bleached hair in March, Gigi Hadid traded in her bronde shade for a striking copper hue at the Met Gala, and Kehlani wore their take on "skunk hair" on several red carpets. On the makeup front, bold elements like Andra Day's ombré red lip at the Golden Globes and Kerry Washington's blue smoky eye at the SAG Awards captured our attention. As we round out 2021, there continue to be loads of beauty inspiration to digest. Case in point: Venus Williams throwback beaded braids at the King Richard premiere.
There are tons of looks to fawn over, but we've managed to narrow down our favorites. Ahead, take a look at the best beauty moments of 2021.
At the Inauguration, the attending celebrities delivered plenty of beauty inspiration. But, of course, no one had us buzzing like former First Lady Michelle Obama. Her bouncy silk press set the Internet ablaze. People loved her glossy side-parted blowout and caramel highlights so much that the word “laid” began trending on Twitter. "I started [by] creating curls with a one-inch barrel iron," Obama's stylist Yene Damtew told us. "Yes, you can achieve bigger curls with a smaller barrel! Next, we did a curl set to lock in the curls. Then I used a round brush to create body and 'soften' the curls. I finished it off with a feather comb for some volume and then hairspray so it would hold. This is definitely a look anyone can achieve at home with a little practice and patience."
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X's free-spirited, fun-loving nature shines through in all of his beauty looks. His hair choices captured our attention several times this year as they ran the gamut from faux locs to braids. However, it's his Prince-inspired look at the MTV Video Music Awards that takes the cake for us this year. He hit the red carpet with a wet and wavy mullet reminiscent of the iconic singer's Purple Rain era.
Makeup artist Grace Pae balanced the statement hair with a "no-makeup makeup" look, using all Glossier products. She prepped his skin with Super Bounce ($28) and Priming Moisturizer ($22) and added a layer of Future Dew ($24) on his face and body for a little extra glow. She then buffed on the Perfecting Skin Tint ($26) and Stretch Concealer ($18), adding Solar Paint ($20) for warmth. She finished the look with Wowder ($22). Brow Flick ($18) and Boy Brow ($16), giving him a fluffy natural brow. Balm Dotcom ($12) completed the look.
The always elegant Lupita Nyong'o is known to adorn stunning sculptural hairstyles. For this year's Met Gala, the actress worked with hairstylist Vernon François to create a look inspired by Lorna Simpson's artwork. "Doing this technique with afro hair texture has always been an ambition of mine, and seeing it a reality here tonight is something else," the celebrity hairstylist said on Instagram. "Brooklyn-born conceptual artist [Lorna Simpson] inspired the look. Her take on hair textures is powerful, and I wanted to imitate the effortless wave and movement that she conveys in her work."
The stylist sprayed her hair pieces with Redken’s Quick Dry 18 Instant Finishing Spray ($11) and Triple Pure 32 High Hold Hairspray ($24) to help smooth and add hold before setting the whole look in place with the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer ($400), making use of its Diffuser attachment.
For her makeup, Nick Barose used a full face of Lancôme. "I wanted the look to be super glamorous and classic, but also tie-in the blue denim color, which is so iconically American," said Barose of the red carpet look. The Lancôme Hypnôse 5-Color Eyeshadow Palette ($50), in a shade aptly named Drama Denim (coming soon), completed the look.
2021 was a monumental year for Andra Day as she starred in her first film, The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Her performance as the jazz icon earned her a Golden Globe award, and of course, she celebrated the occasion with glowing glam. Makeup artist Porsche Cooper decked the singer and actress out with an ombré red lip and illuminating highlighter. Her upswept curls (styled by Tony Medina) allowed her makeup and edgy-yet-sophisticated Chanel Fine Jewelry ear cuff to take center stage.
Doja Cat is never one to shy away from experimenting with her hair and makeup. She hit the Grammy's red carpet wearing a shaggy jet black mullet styled by Jared Henderson. The "Say So" singer opted for an intense smoky eye, keeping in line with the look's grungy, rockstar aesthetic. To create her bold eye makeup, Ernesto Casillas applied Shiseido's Kajal InkArtist ($25) in 09 Nippon Noir all over the eyelids as a base. Then, Casillas further smoked out Doja Cat's eyes with a black eyeshadow and circled towards her temples.
Leave it to Megan Fox to bring back micro bangs. Hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons achieved the Bettie Page-inspired style using Living Proof products and a fun clip-in bang. Celebrity makeup artist Ash K Holm created her radiant makeup look. She created the look by prepping Fox's skin with BYBI skincare products and finished with BUXOM Cosmetics and KISS lashes for her makeup.
Billie Eilish has sported ice blue and ash gray hair in the past. But, it was the musician's neon green and black hair that became part of her signature look. In March, Eilish said goodbye to her vibrantly colored coif and went blonde. She first debuted her platinum locks in March, showcasing a shaggy cut with curtain bangs.
Anya Taylor Joy
On the Emmy's red carpet, Anya Taylor Joy channeled old Hollywood glam with a perfectly sculpted updo by Gregory Russell. Georgie Eisdell completed The Queen's Gambit star's retro look with a bright red lip.
When we became acquainted with Sha'Carri Richardson at the Olympic trials, we were quickly enamored by her fiery orange hair and jewel-encrusted pink manicure. Her glam appearance reminded us of how FloJo used to hit the track in style in the '80s.
"Skunk hair" is one of the biggest hair color trends to come out of 2021. Kehlani first showcased their take on the look during New York Fashion Week and has been sporting it ever since. The singer worked with their longtime hairstylist Kahh Spence and colorist Madison Roulan to achieve the playful dual-tone style.
Gigi Hadid has been experimenting with her hair color all year. At this year's Met Gala, she graced the red carpet with a fiery red ponytail styled by Esther Langham. Makeup artist Erin Parsons dusted the model's eyes with powder blue eyeshadow to contrast her warm-toned hair.
Tracee Ellis Ross
Tracee Ellis Ross hit the Pyer Moss Fall 2021 Couture show with an eye-catching sculptural 'do created by Chuck Amos. Makeup artist Grace Ahn kept the actress's complexion light and fresh, and focused her attention on her eyes. She created an intriguing eye look using Danessa Myricks' Twin Flames Liquid Shadow ($26) in Lover.
This season, Precious Lee set fashion week on fire, walking in the Christian Siriano, Moschino, Michael Kors, and Prabal Gurung show. On and off the runway, the model serves up unforgettable beauty moments. In July, she teamed up with hairstylist Nikki Nelms to create this chic beehive updo, complete with gold hair accessories. Makeup artist Raisa Flowers enhanced the look with intense double-winged eyeliner.
Megan Thee Stallion
Whether she's on the red carpet or the stage, we can always count on Megan Thee Stallion to show up with an incredible hair look. At the Grammy's, the rapper's hair presented a fresh take on a '90s prom updo. The rapper teamed up with her go-to hairstylist Kellon Deryck for the awards show, who worked alongside Dyson to execute the style. "When doing Megan’s hair, we like to make sure it stays healthy and moisturized (using the products of her choice), so we avoid using too much high heat and chemicals by using the Dyson Supersonic Professional Edition Dryer ($449)," he says. "We use hair units for many of her performances to allow for creativity while giving her natural hair a chance to continue thriving."
Priscilla Ono and Gladis Patzan conceptualized her neutral makeup look, which boasts warm-toned eyeshadow and a glossy brown lip.
Since she stepped onto the music scene in the early aughts, Ciara has been a constant source of hair inspiration. This year alone, she's cycled through countless styles and colors. One of our favorite hair looks to come out of 2021 was her asymmetrical blonde bob at the BET Awards. The singer's sexy, edgy hair look plays perfectly with her smoky eye.
Zendaya's red carpet looks are always on point. Exhibit A: Her glam for the Italian premiere of Dune. Makeup artist Raoul Alejandre focused the attention on her eyes with a terracotta smokey eye and spikey lash. Her longtime hairstylist Antoinette complemented the makeup with cascading wet-look waves.
Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson is the definition of a hair chameleon, and at every event, she turns heads with a new style. For the Emmys, Tym Wallace took her sleek bun to the next level using Smooth Attitude ($14), Tough Cookie ($10), and Slick ($9) from Henson’s haircare line, TPH by Taraji. For skin prep, makeup artist Saisha Beecham toned her facial muscles using the NuFace. Then, she created a glowy look with a glossy, nude lip. Nail artist Temeka Jackson completed the look with a jewel-encrusted stiletto mani.
Venus Williams wanted to honor the beaded looks she wore as a child and her African roots for the King Richard premiere. The tennis player worked with hairstylist Nikki Nelms to bring the braided style to life. "Wearing braids and beads unbeknownst to us at the time as children was an opportunity to share our beautiful and rich heritage with the world," Williams shared on Instagram. "It gave other African American women and children pride to wear their natural hair even before the natural hair movement sprouted decades later."
Kerry Washington's look at the SAG Awards gave us mermaid meets old Hollywood glamour. Makeup artist Carola Gonzalez perfectly matched Washington's deep blue eyeshadow to her beaded gown and finished the look with Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara ($10).
Normani's golden glam played off the yellow hues of her Valentino ballgown at the Met Gala. Makeup artist Rokael used all Haus Laboratories products to create the singer's look. Yusef styled her slicked-back bun using Dark and Lovely, K18 Hair, Dyson, and The Y by Yusef styling tools.
Many of our favorite celebrities sported playful ponytails this year, including Gabrielle Union. Her longtime hairstylist and co-founder Larry Sims used a mix of Flawless by Gabrielle Union products to achieve the style. Sims prepped her hair with Flawless by Gabrielle Union Shine Enhancing Heat Protection Spray ($9), Detangling Leave-In Conditioner ($10), and Smoothing Blow Dry Cream ($10). He achieved a frizz-free blowout using the ghd Helios Professional Hair Dryer ($249). Pulling her hair into a ponytail, he smoothed it out using ghd Natural Bristle Brush ($40) in size 2 and Repairing Edge Control ($7). To get that perfect hair flip, he used the ghd Curve 1" Classic Curl Iron ($199).
Makeup artist Fiona Stiles prepped Union's skin with the Dermaflash Luxe ($199). She added a soft glow with the Armani beauty Silk Hydrating Primer ($44) and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64). To add an extra hint of radiance, Stiles dabbed a bit of Armani Fluid Sheer Glow Enhancer ($38) on the high points of the face.
To create her metallic lids, she mixed Armani Eye Tint Liquid Eyeshadows ($30) and added a subtle wing with the Armani Smooth Silk Eye Pencil ($29). She finished off the look with a few coats of Eyes to Kill Mascara and blended Armani Lip Power ($38) in #100 and #106 for a nude pout.
Dua Lipa knows how to have fun with her beauty looks as proven by her makeup and hair at the iHeartRadio Music Festival. The singer's bejeweled cat-eye (created by Samantha Lau) and voluminous hair (styled by Chris Appleton) created the best over-the-top glam moment.
Kim Kardashian West
Bronde has been a trending hair color for over a decade now, but it has proved to be increasingly popular over the past few months. At the start of the year, Kim Kardashian West debuted her blonde-brunette hair done by stylist Chris Appleton. "I took Kim's color a lighter bronde over Christmas," he said on Instagram. "[The] secret to keeping it cool is adding the darker base at the root."
Daring liner looks were all over red carpets this year. Lana Condor arrived at the MTV Movie Awards with striking winged eyeliner. The To All the Boys star paired the bold liner with a glossy nude lip and glowing skin. Celebrity hairstylist Kat Thompson drew inspiration from Condor’s dramatic Giorgio Armani gown, creating a sleek, half-up half-down style. "We wanted her hair to emulate the chicness of her dress while still looking fierce," she said in a press release.
Thompson first prepped her hair with the Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Hydro Boost Shampoo ($9) and Conditioner ($9). She spritzed Condor’s damp hair with the OGX Frizz-Free + Keratin Smoothing Oil Miracle Gloss Smoothing Spray ($9) before blow-drying it straight and then pulled the front half of her hair up and secured it tightly with an elastic. To set the look and smooth flyaways, she finished with a generous amount of the OGX Smoothing + Shea Sleek Humidity Blocking Hairspray ($9).
Laverne Cox's buttery blonde hair was pulled back into a high bun by hairstylist Dee TrannyBear-Marino, allowing two curled tendrils to frame Cox's face. Makeup artist Deja Smith drew inspiration from Cox's dress to create a shimmering reddish-pink eyeshadow on her lids, adding matte black on the outer corners for lift and drama.
Blinged-out hair dominated 2021. Alicia Keys arrived at the Met Gala with teeny pearls all over her center-parted ponytail. Nai'vasha adorned her chic chignon with Swarovski crystals. Makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown added the perfect pop of color to the look with a bright red lip.
H.E.R's cat eye makeup at the Oscars was a total masterpiece (we wanted to recreate it immediately). Makeup artist Marissa Vossen crafted a blue, indigo, and purple gradient winged liner framed by a lush row of lashes alongside a retro-glam cascade of curls by hairstylist Nina Monique.
'70s beauty trends took center stage this year. Hairstylist Gregory Russell said he wanted to give the Emily in Paris star "a voluminous curly texture à la Marisa Berenson." Russell achieved the look with the help of Conair products like the Double Ceramic Cushion Hairbrush ($10). The '70's also influenced Collins' makeup; artist Fiona Stiles used Lancôme Color Design ($22) in Midnight Stone and Siren’s Emerald to create a jewel-toned eye.
For her Met Gala beauty look, Yara Shahidi took it back to the '20s by pulling inspiration from world-renowned performer Josephine Baker. Her hair was blown out into fluffy curls coupled with a beautifully braided headpiece (created by Fesa Nu) inspired by those the legendary entertainer once wore. Celebrity makeup artist Emily Cheng got her skin ready for makeup using the Pause Well-Aging Fascia Stimulating Tool ($115). Then, she proceeded to use an array of products from Dior Beauty. Shahidi's fluttery '20s-inspired lashes were achieved using the KISS Lash Drip Lashes in You Dew You ($5).
Issa Rae’s braided bun at the Emmy's was everything. Though it appeared to be a sleek and simple bun from the front, Felicia Leatherwood created a geometric updo to match the elegance of the Insecure star’s shimmery look. For a pop of color on her eyes, Joanna Simkin combined e.l.f.’s Bite-Sized Eyeshadows ($3) in Rosewater and Açai You, then enhanced Issa’s lashes using e.l.f.’s Big Mood Mascara ($7). Using Studio 54 as a reference point, Simkin topped off the look with e.l.f.’s Seriously Satin Gloss ($3) in Mauve Lady.
Amanda Gorman is a prolific poet with an affinity for beauty (just take a scroll through her Instagram to see). As one of the co-chairs o this year's Met Gala, Gorman showed up to the event in a standout look inspired by the Statue of Liberty. LaRae Burress styled her lengthy braid, which was enhanced with beautiful jewels. Makeup artist Joanna Simkin tied the look together with a sweeping of gems across her face.