It's safe to say that 2016 won't go down as the greatest year in American — or world — history.
Five planets were in retrograde simultaneously, the long, messy election happened, and a lot of bizarre (and sometimes problematic) shit went down in the beauty world. But, the end of any year begs for reflection, so we ask you to save room for one more look back. It's time to walk through the worst beauty moments of 2016. Yes, we'll also be listing the best moments, but we're saving the good stuff for last. This time around, we remember the hard-learned lessons, the insanely weird things that flooded the beauty zeitgeist, and everything in-between. And, wow, was the ground fertile. Click ahead for all the odd, cringe-worthy, and just plain gross beauty moments that helped define 2016. (Wearing 100 layers of makeup while reading is optional, but not recommended.)
#1: 100 Layers Of Makeup
In "internet challenges no one asked for" news, we bring you the odd, gross, and wildly viral 100 layers phenomenon. For some reason, beauty lovers and vloggers decided that 2016 was the year when they would compete to see who could pile 100 layers of products onto their faces or nails with the most fervor. The grosser, the more insane, the more click-y, the better. Whether it was nail polish, lipstick, fake lashes —
or a combination
— the limits were endless, and each was
stranger than the last. Try to look away, we dare you...
#2: Super Lice
Is your skin crawling yet? How about your scalp? You wouldn't be alone: Schools in at least 25 states reported "super lice" this year — a strain of the pesky scalp dwellers that doesn't respond to common OTC treatments. We know, we know: Lord have mercy on the children! "What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids," researcher Kyong Yoon said in a study, which was presented at the American Chemical Society. Pyrethroids are the active ingredient commonly found in lice treatments. So, who's up for presenting at career day?
#3: The Year Fast-Food Brands Entered The Beauty Industry
Beauty is a rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar industry, so we suppose it was only a matter of time before fast-food companies arrived at the party. How a few of these brands made their debut, however, was not expected. Read: KFC launched a fried chicken-scented sunscreen (this is
we tried it
Burger King unveiled a spa
. What's next? Pink and purple Taco Bell-branded lipsticks? Wait, that's not a bad idea...
#4: Advice Videos No One Bothered To Fact-Check
This year saw a flood of viral videos offering questionable advice — and we're not
talking about trends or styles. In fact, we were shocked at how many YouTube and Instagram videos went viral spewing skin advice that doctors and aestheticians would agree cause more harm than good — or, at the minimum, are not effective. We love a good beauty DIY, but please, we beg of you, be careful. That means when you hear someone on your phone screen tell you to rub
on your lips or press lime juice under your arms — no matter how many views the video has — take a second to really think about what you're doing. Please? Great, let's move on.
#5: Pimple-Popping Videos Reach An All-Time High
We learned something big this year: You're either deeply fascinated, or deeply disturbed, by extraction videos. The act is wildly polarizing, and we're not here to judge you based on which side you align with, but it is important that we call out something even we didn't see coming: The former group is no longer hiding in the shadows. Case in point: Nearly 23
people have watched this
. (That's more people
currently in college in the United States
, to put it in perspective.)
#6: The Makeup-Industry Showdown Of 2016
It exploded over Twitter, impacted inventory in stores, and left us all with our jaws on the floor. The epic social media war between industry heavyweights (and ex-BFFs) Kat Von D & Jeffree Star was one for the ages — and far too heavy to unpack here. Fret not, you'll find all the nitty-gritty details for your viewing pleasure
#7: University Of Washington's Offensive Misstep
A powerful, positive, beautiful message of inclusivity swept the beauty industry this year, with
taking place to
welcome a more diverse
representation of beauty. Then, shit like this happened: A Eurocentric infographic breaking down what cheerleaders
look like if they plan to attend the University of Washington's team tryouts. The internet exploded at the blatant objectification of these talented female athletes and students were outraged as well.
UW student Jazmine Perez, director of programming for student government, said it best, as she told
The Seattle Times
by email: “I can’t believe this is real. One of the first things that comes to mind is objectification and idealization of Western beauty, which are values I would like to believe the University doesn’t want to perpetuate. As a student of color who looks nothing like the student in the poster, this feels very exclusive.”
The full story here
#8: Products That Allegedly Make Our Hair Fall Out
Last year, it was the beginning of the
(which came to a head in 2016); this year saw even more controversy surrounding accusations that common hair products were causing major hair loss in consumers. Take for example,
. (We know, we know:
Photo: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan/ Getty Images.
#9 : The Dreadlocks At Marc Jacobs
This September, Marc Jacobs sent (mostly) white models down his runway wearing colorful wool dreadlocks made by a white woman in Florida and inspired by director Lana Wachowski, who is also white.
We know what you're thinking: Jacobs' camp is aware that's cultural appropriation and offensive on more than a few levels, right? That was the reaction within the beauty and fashion communities, and a series of social media rants by Jacobs defending, then apologizing for, the decision, as well as an onslaught of articles flooding the internet. Our senior editor Alix Tunell
put it best
: "I believe that telling an artist to play it safe, to not go there, to censor themselves, is a scary road to go down. But more than that, I believe in credit where credit is due — something this look was seriously lacking."
#10: That Time People Contoured With Stupid Shit
We'll make this flash-in-the-zeitgeist-pan brief. In 2016, vloggers and beauty obsessives alike decided that freehand drawing their contour was simply not precise enough. Enter a parade of the stupidest shit one would ever use as a makeup guide:
, and even a
) have been brought in to help you improve upon the Kardashian-popularized technique. Say it with us:
There was an upside:
The hilarious parody videos
. Think: plungers, Swiffer Sweepers, and more.
#11: The Problem With This Magazine Calling Natural Hair "Nappy" Elle
France published a headline that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. The title of the piece, "Nappy Hair: à vous les beaux cheveux afro naturels!" translates to: "Nappy Hair: your beautiful natural Afro hair!" Writer Taylor Bryant puts it best: "The story itself aims to
celebrate and embrace natural hair
. And that's fine and dandy — except for the misinformed use of the word 'nappy.'" She continues: "Historically, the term has been used to refer to people with natural hair — and not in a positive manner. But, similar to the other offensive n-word, there have been efforts by the Black community to take back and reclaim the term. In that same vein, when you hear someone
of the community use it, they're met with serious side-eye. Which is exactly what happened to
France this week."
#13: $10,000 For Acne Cream
In what is undeniably a sign of the times — and our broken healthcare system — textbook price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry continued well into 2016. This time it was by Chicago-based Novum Pharma. The company increased the price of Aloquin, an Rx skin cream, by about 3,900% — from $240 to nearly $10,000. At time of publishing, the company has not stated why the increase happened or if it will be permanent. The best many news outlets could hypothesize? "The company said it would invest the revenues generated by raising prices in schemes that ensured more patients could access the medicine," the
reports. And that oxymoron, friends, could be the most confusing part.
#15: The Infuriating Reason People With Dark Skin Are At A Greater Risk For Skin Cancer
Bryant puts it best: "Perhaps the most common skin-care myth in the Black community is that, because we have more melanin than those with lighter skin, we're somehow impervious to the sun's harmful rays. Guess what? This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, a recent study shows that Black people might be at higher risk for skin cancer — not for lack of SPF application, but because doctors aren't properly trained to spot the signs on darker skin."
Yeah, that's what we thought, too.
#16: Celebs Still Don't Understand Cultural Appropriation — Or Just Don't Care
Maybe they don't get it, or maybe they simply don't care, but 2016 saw a steady influx of Bantu knots, dreadlocks, cornrows, and more, all worn by celebrities outside the cultural groups in which the styles are deeply rooted — and never identified correctly. All we can say is this: We'll hope for better in 2017...
#17: Study Finds That Women Who Groom More, Earn More
In news that makes us roll our eyes, a
shows that women who focus their attention on their grooming habits (read: makeup, hair, wardrobe, etc.) — as opposed to, you know, their actual jobs — get paid more in the workplace.
Sociologists Jaclyn Wong of the University of Chicago and Andrew Penner of the University of California at Irvine gathered data from past studies to figure out how attractiveness and income are related. The research reveals that "attractive" men and women earned more (about 20%, to be exact) than those deemed to have "average attractiveness." While those findings
aren't exactly groundbreaking
, Wong and Penner dove deeper into what "attractive" actually means in this context. And what they found might surprise you — but you'll have to click over to read the
#18: The Upsetting Reason Some Black Girls Are Choosing Their Hair Over Their Health
Bryant reports: "The
natural hair movement
is in full force. Relaxers and flat irons are being replaced with curling creams and deep conditioners. More than ever, Black women are tossing the strict European beauty standards of smooth hair and embracing their coils instead. But, despite the shift, according to
a new study
, Black teens still prefer straight hair. While this particular finding isn't too surprising, what we find most worrisome is that their hairstyle choice could be negatively affecting their health."
What did they find?
The study concluded that hair maintenance could indeed affect girls' participation in physical activity. The full details,
#20: Continued Discussion Of Female Athletes' Hair
Let's hone in on one of the best examples: Despite the fact that
Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to earn an individual, all-around Olympic title and her team
won gold in Rio
, her hair continued to be a hot topic.
Bryant explains: "In London in 2012, Douglas' hair was a huge topic of conversation, despite her history-making performance. Back then, words like 'unkempt' and 'disheveled' were used, but this year the focus seems to be on
. The worst part about the criticism might be the fact that a majority of the comments are coming from the Black community — the same people who know, firsthand, just how
complicated and touchy
the subject of hair can be for women."
The moral of the story: Let's focus on female athletes' kick-ass abilities, not appearance.
#22: Your Computer's Rays Might Be Aging Your Skin
In terrifying skin news of the year, the dermatology community is starting to better understand the impact of rays emitted by your phone, computer, and television. Turns out, they may not be as harmless as we all once thought. While data is spotty, the concept that IR and HEV light could be aging your skin in the same way UV light does is a disturbing fact for anyone who works in front of a computer all day. And just think, people once thought cigarettes were harmless, too.
#24: A Lot Of People Misunderstood The Message Behind "Becky With The Good Hair"
In the media, online, and everywhere else — almost everyone got the message behind Beyoncé's "Becky with the Good Hair" wrong — and responded with highly inappropriate headlines and memes. While many were busy wondering who Becky is and what her "good hair" looked like, members of the Black community understood the true and painful meaning of the term. Bryant reports in depth,
#25: The FDA Is Getting Sued Over This Scary Hair-Straightening Ingredient
It's easy to assume that if something is being offered in a reputable salon, it's safe, right? That concept has been called into question a lot this year, from
brow- and lash-tinting
to hair-straightening services.
This year, two consumer-watchdog groups sued the FDA for failing to investigate and regulate keratin services, which are known to contain formaldehyde — a carcinogen and allergen — and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals. The full story,
#26: Beauty-Parlor Strokes
Getting your hair washed at the salon is among life's greatest pleasures — but could it be dangerous? The story of a
arguing as much has gone viral, after she filed a lawsuit through attorneys saying a rough shampoo job led to a stroke two weeks later,
reports. The full story,
#27: Beauty Ads Still Have A Long Way To Go
There's no question that there is a
lack of diversity in the beauty industry
, and a new study conducted by
design firm Canva
gives us some visual evidence of just how bad it truly is.
The organization took a series of averages of 10 faces frequently featured in beauty campaigns, mushing their appearances together to create composites for several brands. The results: a slew of almost identical portraits that display similar hair colors, skin tones, and even facial structures.
Because these ads don't make the effort to represent a large chunk of American consumers, it makes us realize how far we still have to go.
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