2016 Makeup Vs. 2021 Makeup Makes Me Wonder WTF We Were All On 5 Years Ago

Trends emerge, fade, and return with a vengeance faster than most people can keep track of. But when they do, one thing’s for sure: Everyone’s got an opinion. In Elite Daily’s Style series, IMHO, we’ll serve you the details, along with some not-so-humble opinions, on the viral trends lighting up the internet. Come to learn WTF everyone’s talking about, stay for a hot take you’ll eat right up.

The year was 2016, and my makeup routine was carefully planned, clocking in at about two hours. I’d start with my eye makeup, packing dark browns and warm reds into my crease, cutting it carefully with concealer. I’d smoke out my waterline and pack so much loose glitter pigment onto my eyelid, I’d give a disco ball a run for its money. After blending a full-coverage, matte foundation into my skin for 30 minutes, I’d contour my face three times and over-line my lips with a Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kit. And I’d go to whatever my next outing was: the grocery store. My face didn’t look like my face. I was thrilled. I can’t even compare my 2016 makeup to my 2021 makeup. They exist in different galaxies.

You might think, "What’s the difference? Makeup is makeup. You’re still putting stuff all over your face." But the stark differences between 2016 makeup and 2021 makeup are supremely evident in a recent TikTok makeup trend. Users do half their makeup in the maximalist 2016 style and the other half in the softer 2021 style, which features a more natural, dewy, radiant complexion; fluffy brows; lighter neutral and pastel eyeshadow; rosy cheeks. Neither side is bad makeup; the comments on each of these posts support that. But my God, what possessed us beauty lovers as a collective to spend so much time carving out a crease and a brand-new cheekbone like we’re Michelangelo creating a Kardashian-in-waiting? To perform this ritual every single day, whether we were going to a party or to the post office? Who gave us the energy?

Well, it was likely a number of things: personal preference (they’re called makeup artists for a reason), the zeitgeist (maximalism flourished as a beauty trend in 2016), hell, even the Kardashians themselves. The famous family’s over-the-top brand of beauty infiltrated life beyond our TV and phone screens when Kylie Jenner launched Kylie Cosmetics in 2014, with Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty following just a few years later. Beauty YouTubers became celebrities in their own right, and gaining followers meant playing it up for the camera and showing audiences just how heavily they could wield their makeup’s powers if they wanted to. And while body positivity and body neutrality movements were well-documented in 2016, they hadn’t yet flourished in the way they have in recent years.

Of course, you could think, "WTF?!" about most trends that’ve exploded and eventually fizzled out. In a few years, we’ll all probably dry-heave at the thought of a tie-dye sweatsuit. It’s easy for me to look at my 2016 makeup and ask, "LOL, what?" because I completely changed my face and I’m five years and a whole global pandemic older. Now, I like to look more like myself and less like a Kardashian-in-waiting. I don’t say that as a diss — at my 2016 self, a Kardashian, or otherwise. When I look back at my 2016 makeup — a five-year-old memory that truly feels like a lifetime ago — I laugh and think, "What the hell was she on?" It’s like looking back at a fuzzy picture of my 20th birthday party and wondering why TF I’m sitting in a trashcan with a stranger’s clothes on and holding a goldfish in a plastic bag. You just had to be there, I guess.

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