Is It Time to Retire the Term ‘Beauty Trends’?

On this, the first day of September, most of us have chosen to set fire to everything we wore and used during the summer, watching as the ghosts of coconut-scented and watermelon-themed anything are banished into the abyss.

Ultimately, fall beauty trends are finally upon us. Until you realize that the concept of beauty trends has died.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen less stress on uniformity and more of an emphasis on individual tastes. And while autumn usually brings a tidal wave of neutral tones (#groundbreaking), it’s not like Spring 2017 was exactly demure or stereotypical: models who walked in Balmain and Altuzarra wore smokey, smudgy eyes while at Erdem we saw models wearing lipstick as blush to up the dramatic ante.

But the thing is, you probably didn’t even really care about what everybody else was wearing, anyway. Because while beauty trends are forsaking dos and don’ts to embrace aesthetic experimentation, we’re seeing individuality—a “you do you” approach to hair and makeup—eclipse the concept of must-haves or era-defining looks. But at what point does individuality become a trend in and of itself? Have we reached enlightenment, or are we playing further into the hands of marketing geniuses?

The thing is, to position self-expression as the ultimate brand of reclamation is strong in both a personal and commercial sense of the word. I mean, Glossier has built an empire on its “clean” approach to beauty, while brands like Kiehl’s—who treat skincare as a science—have legitimized the notion that caring about your face is imperative to good health. All of which is great and good and inoffensive. But if we don’t check in with ourselves to question why we’ve pledged allegiance to particular brands or why we’ve suddenly liberated ourselves from “having” to adopt a trend (in lieu of embracing collections and lines that celebrate individuality—which is kind of a trend), we’re still following the same beauty model that’s been in place for over a century.

Because the positioning of self-expression and individuality as buzzwords has cemented them as trends in general. And while we’ve found power in adapting beauty to suit our individual tastes, brands are also benefitting from our empowerment: no longer relying on what’s in and what’s out, they can adapt their collections to accommodate a wider spectrum of tastes, ensuring they’ll find customers who’ll find something they like. (AKA: the pressure’s off.) Which isn’t a bad thing, it just means it might be time to change the way we talk about beauty and trends in general.

It’s time we stop saying “trends” altogether. To hinge one’s aesthetic on being “trendy” connotes a lack of creativity, while to condemn someone’s style for not being trendy enough negates our ethos that individuality trumps all. Especially since beauty is so inherently personal: to dictate norms that tend to favour particular skin and hair types, skin tones, and socio-economic realities (like, yes, there are some beauty “trends” you might not be allowed to wear to work, depending on your employer) is outdated and even ignorant. Because while individuality may be co-opted by brands and companies looking to make a buck off our self-realizations, it’s still ours to do with it what we like. And that’s not a trend. That’s a new reality.