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The 15 Biggest Beauty Trends of 2015

Contouring and strobing and baking, oh my!

This was quite a year for beauty. Sure, we cycled through a lot of hair, makeup and body-centric trends in 2014, but this is by far the most extensive end-of-year list that I've compiled in my time as a beauty editor. I'm calling it the Snapchat-ification of trends — new techniques pop up and then disappear quicker than you can say, "Flash tat." And, for the most part, the most popular crazes spawned from social media as opposed to on the runway or the red carpet. 

So, quick — take a peek at the top 15 beauty trends from the past year below before they leave us for good.


Everybody wanted their faces to look like a chiseled statue's this year. This is the absolute antithesis of no-makeup makeup, and the credit/blame for this trend falls clearly on the shoulders of Kim Kardashian. Ever since she went public with her elaborate contouring technique a few years ago, the trend has been building to what is arguably its apex. This year, Sephora did a month-long animation for consumers to learn the trend; pretty much every single beauty company on the planet released some sort of contour kit (except Bobbi Brown); the NPD Group attributed a substantial increase in facial product sales to its popularity; and beauty vloggers racked up millions of page views for contouring tutorials. 


The look from the S/S 2015 Issey Miyake show, with strobing aplenty. Photos: Imaxtree

The look from the S/S 2015 Issey Miyake show, with strobing aplenty. Photos: Imaxtree

As I've already pointed out, this is a new name for an old technique: highlighting. It can achieve some of the same objectives as contouring, by drawing light to certain parts of your face. It's also a lot easier to execute, because it generally involves just swiping a bit of highlighter onto your cheekbones and Cupid's bow and calling it a day. Radiance without effort? This one can stick around for a little while if it wants.


Originally credited to the drag queen community, baking is a technique that involves using a copious amount of powder to essentially spackle your face into perfection. After applying foundation and concealer, you apply a thick layer of powder, let it sit on your face for several minutes, and then use a wet makeup sponge to layer on even more powder. Does it feel like you have cement hardening on your face? Good, then you've done it correctly! Use a powder brush to clean off excess powder and blend. Voila, you're now a mannequin.

100 Years of "X Beauty Trend" in One Minute

Cut Video single handedly created a viral sensation all year with its mesmerizing videos showing models wearing beauty trends through the decades, all in the very Internet-friendly timeframe of one minute. The original, featuring beauty trends in the U.S., has racked up more than 26 million views to date. It has been followed up by similar videos for looks that originated in Iran, Korea, India, Italy and Ethiopia, among other places.

Very Specific Rainbow Hair

The unicorn hair trend made my list last year, and it's still going strong, but with a new wrinkle. Thanks to experimental colorists like Aura Friedman and the viral nature of Instagram, coloring trends like "oil slick hair," "opal hair," "galaxy hair" and "sunset hair" appeared. The maintenance of these elaborate color combinations is not for the faint of heart, nor does the trend lend itself to DIY experimentation. Who misses ombré?

Lip Plumping/Overlining

Thank Kylie Jenner for this one: The 18-year-old set off a shit storm when she suddenly appeared to have inflated lips (yes, she later admitted to fillers), but has since capitalized off all of the press by launching a sold-out-in-30-seconds lip kit. None of it has been without controversy, however. Black women called her out for appropriating a physical feature that they are often born with (and historically ridiculed for), teens took the ridiculous/dangerous "Kylie lip challenge," lip overlining tutorials proliferated and there was much hand-wringing over the societal implications of a teenager getting lip injections.

K-Beauty Goes Mainstream

Peach & Lily's K-beauty shop-in-shop in Macy's. Photo: Peach & Lily

Peach & Lily's K-beauty shop-in-shop in Macy's. Photo: Peach & Lily

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Last year Korean beauty and the now-mythical 10+-step regimen came onto the scene, but in 2015 it stopped being niche and hit the mainstream full force. Macy's opened a Peach & Lily shop-in-shop, two separate Korean beauty books were published, every print magazine finally wrote about the phenomenon, Glow Recipe scored $425,000 in funding on "Shark Tank" and products became easily accessible here in the U.S. Here's to the continued success of the industry, of which I've been an unabashed supporter. 

New Names for Highlights

Much like the brazen unicorn hair color techniques, more subtle hair color trends became very narrowly focused as well, to the point of being practically imperceptible. Babylights, a technique meant to make blondes look more like their 18-month-old selves, and the more recent "chocolate chip cookie" hair for brunettes, are two examples that, to my untrained eye, look a lot like plain old highlights. 

Everything Eyebrows

Everything is still all about eyebrows, though we seem to be moving away from wanting to be Cara Delevingne clones. While the masses seem to have (thankfully) retired the phrase "on fleek," brows are still very much a thing. Tapered, colored, bedazzled — it's all been done this year. And to meet the demand, cosmetic companies have released dozens of brow products — both drugstore and more upscale options — in the past year. 

Half-Up Topknots

Jamie Chung and Constance Jablonski were fans of the style this year. Photos: John Lamparski & Dimitrios Kamouris/Getty Images

Jamie Chung and Constance Jablonski were fans of the style this year. Photos: John Lamparski & Dimitrios Kamouris/Getty Images

"It" girls and off-duty models alike co-opted this girlie version of the man-bun. The most beautiful part? It's ideal for lazy people and requires almost no skill to execute on your own. We need more trends like this.   

Celebrating the Hair Mother Nature Gave You

Maria Borges at the 2015 Victoria's Secret fashion show. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Maria Borges at the 2015 Victoria's Secret fashion show. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Fashion and mainstream culture alike have finally clued in to the fact that not all women have the same hair. While there's still a long way to go, hair was the most individualized that it's ever been on runways this year, and the Victoria's Secret fashion show made news when model Maria Borges walked the runway with natural hair — a first for the lingerie brand that has historically valued long, tousled waves. This trend is the anti-trend, and here's to more of it in 2016. 


Glitter, that perennial favorite of 6-year-olds and Miley Cyrus, found its way into some people's hair – and beards and armpits. Holiday adornment to the extreme?  I shudder to think about what removal looks and feels like. 

Ombré/Lip Contouring

Ombré lips have been a trend in Asia for a while, but this year the trend hit the beauty vlogging circuit in a new incarnation, as lip contouring. You can give lips dimension using this shading technique, which, like full face contouring, requires a lot of products and precision. The end result is pretty mesmerizing, though, if rather detrimental to doing things like eating and drinking. 

Big, Fat Fake Lashes

Forget about a few tastefully placed individually lashes — in 2015, it was all about having the equivalent of a small garden on each of your eyelids. Huda Kattan, whose statement-making Huda Beauty lashes just hit the U.S. market, counts Kim Kardashian as a fan and is one of the most visible lash proponents on Instagram. 


Why use only one skin product when you can use three at once? As skin care gets more specific, it makes sense to use products only where you need them. The beauty fiends of the Internet took this to its logical conclusion by applying multiple face mask products to only certain parts of their faces.  What a great way to justify buying more than one mask, amirite?