How Kim Kardashian Became The Beauty Icon She Is Today

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.
Today, Kim Kardashian is one of America's top beauty influencers. In fact, some could argue she's the most influential figure in the beauty industry. To wit: If tomorrow she decided to wear eyeshadow on her knees — and we're not saying she hasn't already, anything is possible in 2016 — it would make national news.
The truth is, Kim K. has had quite the beauty journey. There were flat-ironed extensions and matchy-matchy makeup. Highly manicured brows and colorful eyeshadows. And of course, the contoured, strobed, and artfully painted-on looks that have influenced an entire Insta-nation.
Ahead, witness her awe-inspiring transformation from a trend-conscious Hollywood hopeful to a refined social media magnate. Did you really expect anything less from a woman who singlehandedly turned "glam" into a verb? We didn't think so.
1 of 32
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images.
Once upon a time (circa the Entourage premiere in 2006), the in-demand red-carpet beauty look consisted of flat-ironed hair and major length, achieved through extensions. Back then, brows were an afterthought.
2 of 32
Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images.
When making a club appearance in Las Vegas in 2006, Kim was seen with her natural hairline (which she later lasered, and later regretted) and a contour-free face. But even in her partying-with-Paris days, the reality star called on two classics: a smoky eye and nude lips.
3 of 32
Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images.
In 2007, Kim attended the premiere for her own reality show and showed a burgeoning knack for Old Hollywood glamour — a look she would refine and perfect in the years to come.
4 of 32
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images.
If only we had invested in concealer stock back in the day! Here, Kim gives us a taste of the “strobing” trend to come with major undereye highlighter — not to mention, lashes for days.
5 of 32
Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images.
Take it all in, people. This is one of the first — and last — pictures of Kim wearing colorful eyeshadow. (On top of that, it's bright, shimmery, green eyeshadow.)
6 of 32
Photo: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images.
Kim's hair is known for its “S” waves. Here, she sports a precursor to that signature tumbling-curl look.
7 of 32
Photo: David Aguilera/Getty Images.
Dark-blond highlights, a center-part, and ultra-glossy lips — Kim's straight-out-of-the-2000s look is giving us maje flashbacks.
8 of 32
Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images.
Before landing on her signature beauty look, the reality star used 2009 as the ultimate year of experimentation. In a rare move, she ditched the super-long tresses and went for a faux bob, drawing from classic Hollywood bombshell Marilyn Monroe.
9 of 32
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.
Spotted: seriously sculpted cheeks and falsies for days. In December 2009, Kim seems to have landed on her signature look. She would later pass the contouring crown — not to mention the Sugar Factory contract — to younger sister Kylie.
10 of 32
Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images.
Around this time, "Kardashian waves" became a popular menu item at blowdry bars.
11 of 32
Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images.
During this period, Kim had a straight-hair, center-parted moment, which put her strong eye look and dramatic brows front-and-center.
12 of 32
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.
Kardashian beauty commandment #7: Why wear one set of falsies when you could stack on a dozen? In this 2010 look, Kim beams under layers of false lashes and sports petal-pink glossy lips.
13 of 32
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.
More is more when pairing slicked-back hair, crimson lips, and expert contouring in 2011.
14 of 32
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images.
In 2011, caramel highlights and loads of volume take Kim’s hair to Grammy-worthy proportions.
15 of 32
Photo: JJ/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
For a Kardashian, airport dressing is a sleek affair. Glossy lips, defined brows, and an easy-but-chic topknot seal her travel look in 2012.
16 of 32
Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.
Kim replaced the lip gloss and glam waves with nude lips and ultra-sleek hair in 2012 — coincidentally (or maybe not?), the year she started dating now-husband Kanye.
17 of 32
Photo: Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images.
Kim may have gotten a lot of attention for her floral Givenchy Met Gala gown in 2013, but we have our eyes on her clean beauty look, which includes rarely worn, but totally gorgeous, berry lips.
18 of 32
Photo: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images.
Something about being in Paris tends to inspire Kim to go blond. (The top-notch colorists, perhaps?) Here, she experiments with a buttery shade; two years later, she'd emerge from the city of love with platinum locks.
19 of 32
Photo: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images.
By 2014, Kim’s hair was back to black. And so was her eyeliner.
20 of 32
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.
By layering powders and light-catching concealers (and posting every step of the way to Instagram), Kim has brought the long-lost art of contouring to our feeds — and to Sephora makeup displays.
21 of 32
Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Images.
Allow us to introduce you to Kim Kardashian's version of "no-makeup makeup." Sure, she may have ultra-long falsies, super-defined brows, and tightlined eyes, but flesh-toned shades and simple hairstyling allow her dress and choker to shine.
22 of 32
Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images.
Bronzer on the nose, cheeks, jawline, and forehead (and cleavage, and neck, and legs...) officially cements Kim as the queen of contour.
23 of 32
Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images.
The outfit is pretty stunning. But the beauty junkies in us love (LOVE!) Kim with a textured lob and minimal-ish makeup.
24 of 32
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.
Ah, the famous platinum moment. During 2015 fall/winter Paris Fashion Week, Kim made headlines (and memes) with a shock of blond locks.
25 of 32
Photo: Raymond Hall/Getty Images.
Kim is known for sheer dressing — and in 2015, her makeup started to follow suit. A lighter layer of foundation and a hint of pink gloss make the look fresh and clean.
26 of 32
Photo: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images.
Since going platinum in 2015, Kim has given us a few did-she-or-didn’t-she hair-color moments. But forget about the color for a minute and take note of the pigtail braids — they’re the latest page in the family's ever-evolving beauty book. (And one that's being passed on to the next generation as well.)
27 of 32
Photo: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock.
Recently, Kim (fake) chopped her brown strands into an asymmetrical lob. It's a sleek, sexy look that pairs perfectly with flushed cheeks and glossy lips.
28 of 32
Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage.
At the Balenciaga fashion show during Paris Fashion Week 2016, Kim K. made the decision to skip makeup entirely. Naturally, Kardashian is just as flawless. Granted, that kind of perfection doesn't come cheap — her morning routine is estimated to cost about $1,230.
29 of 32
Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images.
Arriving at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in August, Kim goes casual — almost as if she just jumped out of the ocean. Read: Her waves were still (strategically) wet.
30 of 32
Photo: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images.
For a Harper's Bazaar event in New York City, Kim goes for a sleek pony and minimal makeup — all the better to let her dress take center stage.
31 of 32
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
Kim debuted another fling with platinum last month, then she took to her app to explain exactly how her new 'do has changed her beauty routine.
32 of 32
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!