The Absolute Best Makeup Trends Of 2021

Kim Kardashian West knows a thing or two about beauty. But even reality stars-turned-moguls have looks that don't always stand the test of time.

"Mario [Dedivanovic, my makeup artist] and I used to do really heavy baking," she shared on her former KKW Beauty website (via Cosmopolitan). "Back in 2009 or 2010, having a super light undereye was the thing to do, and I absolutely loved it at the time. But looking back, sometimes I looked a little crazy — especially with the camera flashes."

The good news for Kim, and the rest of us who aren't getting snapped by the paparazzi, is that while trends are always going to be a thing, the hottest makeup fads as we head into the second decade of the 21st century have been all about individualizing and optimizing your own unique attributes. From embracing fresh and glowy skin to adding touches of glitz and glam (literally), 2021's most popular makeup looks were fun, colorful, and selfie-ready. Here are the absolute best makeup trends of 2021.

The late '90s/early 2000s made a big comeback

Baguette bags, velour, and Bennifer weren't the only things that experienced a real resurgence in 2021. Makeup looks from the late 1990s and early 2000s — everything from full, natural eyebrows to chocolate-brown lip shades — were back in a big way. Celebrity makeup artist Keita Moore told Marie Claire that creating the perfect throwback face is all about taking "beauty looks worn by Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell and ... bringing them to 2021 trends."

To try the trend, Moore recommends adding in specific elements that keep your overall look in line with another 2021 fave: no-makeup-makeup. For lips, "deeper nudes with a slight gloss" are the way to go, while "matte brown shadows and full volume mascara" will give your eyes that extra touch of Y2K. Want to really embrace the early aughts? Pair these makeup tips with a trucker hat and rimless sunglasses.

The no-makeup look was all about fresh, glowing skin

One of the biggest trends in makeup in 2021 didn't involve much actual makeup at all. The "no-makeup-makeup" movement puts the emphasis on fresh, glowy skin, with highlighters and neutral shades being used to play up your natural good looks. According to Cosmopolitan, "This year, the trends moved even further away from sharp contour and thick, cakey makeup to light layers and seamlessly blended complexion products."

Even the founder of KKW Beauty and lover of all things contour, Kim Kardashian West, got in on the barely-there action. For her shapewear and loungewear brand, Skims, Kardashian West shared promo shots of herself showing off nude lips and eyes with just-enough touches of bronzer and highlighter on her cheeks. Ash K. Holm, the makeup artist behind Kardashian West's simple and timeless look, said on Instagram, "We have been loving this effortless vibe lately."

Lip stains and lipsticks in rich, deep shades were everywhere in 2021

With face masks becoming standard due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, a lot of makeup artistry turned to dramatic eye looks. But with increasing vaccination rates and loosening lockdown restrictions, lip trends were back in 2021. One of the biggest was bold, long-lasting lip stains in rich, deep colors, like the berry shade on actor Laura Harrier (via Instagram). "Blackish" star Tracee Ellis Ross also rocked the trend on Instagram. Always ahead of the fashion curve and showing she's a real trendsetter, Ellis Ross told the LA Times in 2015, "I like full-on, old-school, completely opaque matte lipstick."

Daniel Martin, a celebrity makeup artist (who notably worked with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, on her wedding day in May 2018), is totally on board with the more-is-more lip color fad. "After almost two years in masks, think of this as lipstick liberation!" Martin told Elle. "Any color and any texture that gives the lips center stage is on trend."

Eyeliner was artistically employed in one of 2021's hottest trends

With face masks still on the agenda due to coronavirus concerns, and Zoom meetings not showing any signs of slowing down or going away, beauty influencers turned to eyeliner in 2021 — and not just in the traditional way. With the classic makeup staple available in every color imaginable, dramatic and artistic eyeliner-heavy looks were a big trend. "We've all been forced to really use our eyes to show off our personality and emotions — even the way we communicate! — and it has been fun [to] experiment with colorful liners," Hector Espinal, Fenty Beauty's global makeup artist, told Harper's Bazaar.

Makeup artist and influencer Rafiqah Akhdar often shares her incredibly detailed and colorful eyeliner looks, like this red and black graphic winged style she posted on Instagram. Doubling down on her en-vogue status, she paired the bold liners with another big 2021 trend: sparkly adhesives (in Akhdar's case: rhinestones).

Vibrant eyeshadow looks were front and center in 2021

In a September 2021 Instagram post, singer Rita Ora went wild — on her eyes. The "Anywhere" singer played up her eye shadow with vibrant, varying shades of blue and slayed one of 2021's most popular makeup trends. The bright, multicolored look is a playful way to stand out in the sea of other more neutral fads.

"There's been a big focus on being more minimalist and just enhancing natural colors and features — so think beautiful neutrals and earth tones ranging from chocolate browns to sage greens," Hector Espinal, global makeup artist for Fenty Beauty, told Harper's Bazaar, "but there are also those who are really turning to bright, bold colors as a moment of self-care and fun."

Demi Lovato embraced the trend in August of 2021 with shades of gold and black outlining their eyes. Also modeling a rainbow-striped dress and metallic shoes and accessories, they shared their look on Instagram with the caption, "Made some magic."

Full lashes had a moment in 2021

Just as natural eyebrows broke through as a major trend, full lashes were also the way to go in 2021. It was all about going for that feathery, lush look above the eyes, like in Khloe Kardashian's Instagram closeup with her niece Penelope Disick from July 2021. "Full lashes are definitely in full force for the season," celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa told Coveteur. "This season, it's all about getting creative and playing with bold blacks and a little color as well!"

According to Allure, falsies have been especially having a real moment, with fans like Beyoncé, Normani, and Kim Kardashian West. For the easiest application, makeup artist Rokael Lizama told the magazine that it's important to look downward toward a mirror when you apply them. This "will keep you from getting glue all over your lids and give you access to the most comfortable lash placement."

2021 saw lip gloss come back in a big way

Lip stains and lipsticks in rich, deep colors were all the rage in 2021. Add a swipe of lip gloss on top, and you'll be doubling up with two of the hottest makeup trends of the year. The high shine of a good gloss elevates your lip game beyond just a strong pop of color. Priscilla Ono, a makeup artist who's worked with Megan Thee Stallion, shared a photo on Instagram in June 2021 of the rap star reveling in the high-shine, high-gloss look. As Ono captioned it, "Eyeliner will cut you, but the lips will soothe you."

If you're trying out multiple 2021 trends, think of lip gloss as a universal add-on. "Personally, a glossy lip is one of my favorite looks because it can be worn from daytime to evening — classic and timeless," celebrity makeup artist Erika La' Pearl told Coveteur. "It also works well with the neutral colors, bronzers, and blushes that were so popular this summer."

For the eyes, sequins and glitter, glitter, glitter were very in

In keeping with 2021's focus on glamming up the eye area, one of the most fun trends was adding in dramatic flourishes around your eyes via adhesive sequins as well as artfully deployed glitter and other stick-ons. Model Lily Aldridge is a fan of the glitter look, as celeb makeup artist Hung Vanngo shared on Instagram in November 2021, as is Lady Gaga. "Ozark" actor Julia Garner and model Imaan Hammam, both clients of celeb makeup artist extraordinaire Pat McGrath, have gone the sparkly adhesive route.

As festive and fun as sequins and glitter glam can be, the American Academy of Ophthalmology shared a safety reminder: "Flakes can fall into the eye, get into the tear film, and irritate your eyes," the organization stated on its website. "Glitter eye makeup is a common cause of corneal irritation or infection, especially for people who wear contact lenses." So keep an eye on all that glitz if you're trying out this trend, but remember that age-old advice: When in doubt, just add glitter.

Blush and bronzer added to our 2021 glow

To take any colorful or naturally luminous look to the next level, you have to get cheeky — with blush or bronzer, that is. Celebrity makeup artist Janice Kinjo showed how to achieve the perfect flush on actor and writer Mindy Kaling. Emphasizing the cheeks adds warmth and glow and works particularly well with the minimal, "no-makeup" trend. On Kaling, Kinjo used a cream blush that gave the effect of a highlighting bronzer.

Designer and beauty mogul Victoria Beckham shared her blush philosophy with E! News: "Blush is what pulls my whole look together and brings my complexion to life. What shade I choose depends on the look I'm going for."

Whether you're going for a late '90s vibe, geometrically applying neon eyeliner, or layering as many vivid makeup trends as you can, keep in mind Rare Beauty founder Selena Gomez's age-old beauty wisdom, which she shared with Refinery29: "In my everyday life, it's really important for me to use products that I like."