All change: contouring’s out; self-expression is in – or is it?

All change: contouring’s out; self-expression is in – or is it?

It cannot have escaped your attention that we’re cresting a new wave of beauty right now. Indeed, we hereby declare the era of contouring dead. Going forward, beauty will be about enhancing and celebrating our individual characteristics and living in the moment as opposed to striving for social media perfection.

Indeed, the backlash has been steadily building over the course of the last year or so. Alicia Keys started it, stepping out on the red carpet with a completely bare face and Gisele followed up with a make-up free Vogue cover early this year. Babor released an unretouched campaign and CVS followed suit with its ‘no airbrush’ watermark and subsequent Beauty in Real Life campaign. At the same time, the biggest beauty brands have been competing to appoint ‘inclusive’ ambassadors so, for example, we’ve seen albino spokespeople and models with vitiligo front campaigns for the likes of wet n wild Beauty and CoverGirl.  

So far, so very laudable. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. For there’s a line yet to be crossed by all these inclusive brands – and L’Oréal drew it firmly in the sand when it retracted an invitation to beauty blogger Kadeeja Khan because she suffers from acne.  Indeed, unaltered imagery is a noble aspiration but surely I wasn’t the only one to be disappointed when it turned out that CVS’ much vaunted campaign starred a load of picture-perfect 20-somethings whose ‘imperfections’ turned out to be a couple of stray hairs. Let’s face it, some of us have a few more ‘warts and all’ to hang out than others.

And if we’re all going to embrace our inner glow rather than smooth over imperfections with cover up, we’re gonna need a little help. Step forward skin care.  No wonder, after a few years of lackluster performance compared to make-up, skin care is enjoying a renaissance – with NPD calculating that the category outshone make-up in growth terms last year in the US, increasing 9 percent versus 6 percent for color cosmetics and 4 percent for fragrance.

“Change was the theme of the beauty industry in 2017, from the shifts in trends and category performance, to the wave of mergers and acquisitions which show no signs of abating in the near future,” explains Larissa Jensen, Executive Director and Beauty Industry Analyst at The NPD Group.

Indeed, the launches at this year’s In-Cosmetics Global only served to confirm the trend. Sebum control was a constant theme as consumers increasingly ditch the powder compact in favour of oil control at source. Cure, not correction is our 2018 mantra.

But there’s no reason for the make-up mavens out there to panic. Several have already spotted an opportunity and shelves are already groaning with fresh, lightweight foundations to help recreate the ‘no make-up’ look with, er, make-up. Armani has relaunched its Face Fabric Foundation, YSL has bought out Touche Eclat All-In-One-Glow and stablemate Lancôme’s contribution is Skin Feels Good.

For those of us that can remember beauty BK (Before Kardashians), this will all sound very familiar. So far, so girl-next-door. As long as you live next door to Rachel Green from Friends, or Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek, that is. In other words, in this new era of individuality, anything goes, as long as it’s beautiful.  I think I preferred the striped face of Queen Kim herself. At least it’s honest in its artifice.