This Is What Makeup Will Look Like In The Future

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
When it comes to innovation in the beauty industry, makeup seems to be the area most people think has the least room to grow. People have been using it since Ancient Egypt, and plenty of the beauty brands we use today have been around since the early 20th century. Innovation? you may scoff. How many different ways can you make a lipstick?
In truth, makeup is constantly evolving. New formulations and applicators are rolling down the pipeline all the time. If you think what's out today is interesting, though, just you wait. We chatted with some industry heavy-hitters to find out what your cosmetics are going to look like in the future. These aren't your typical "red lips are in" trend forecasts: These pros speak to revamped formulas, greater shade variety, and more.
Click through to peer into our crystal ball. Then, read up on what's next for your skin and hair. It's looking like a gorgeous future.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
More Foundation Options
Today's makeup industry is often criticized for being limited in its base offerings. Customers complain that deeper skin tones (and, in some cases, very light ones) are rarely represented on drugstore shelves. According to Erin McCarthy, who heads up product development at Ardency Inn, many women are already trying their best to game the system. “Mixing different products together to achieve the best possible result is no longer just a professional makeup-artist trick,” she says. “It is becoming part of the consumer’s makeup routine.” She points to her brand’s Custom Coverage Concentrate as a step in the right direction. The product allows consumers to add a custom tint to any moisturizer.

Sarah Vickery, MD, a principal scientist for research and development at P&G Beauty, says things are about to change. “There are two ways you can address this issue,” she says. “You can either map out all of the skin tones out there, or you can create on-the-spot custom formulas.” Through her research with CoverGirl’s TruBlend line, she gained an understanding of the three aspects of skin tone: lightness (pale to deep), chrome (how translucent it is), and hue.

Researchers will continue to make advancements in base makeup, according to Vickery and McCarthy. Through further insight into skin tones, product developers will be able to concoct foundations in a wider range of shades. Vickery says this will lead to enhanced shopping experiences. “We can certainly see [a time] when women will just be able to go up to a device, get their photo taken, and that device matches them to the product they should use,” she says. (Sephora and Pantone have recently piloted this in select stores.) Yes, in the future, your foundations will be custom-blended on the spot. So, your perfect shade of base makeup isn’t that far away. “Ten years? Maybe. In our lifetime? Definitely,” she says.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
On-The-Go Products
Anyone who has packed a makeup bag can attest that products are heavy. Like, super heavy. There’s an interesting reason for this. “In developing my own line, and designing the packaging, we came to realize that most makeup-packaging engineers are men,” says Troy Surratt, a makeup-artist-turned-entrepreneur. “Their hands tend to be larger in scale, and they don’t tend to worry about functionality.” Surratt also blames the throwback mentality of makeup displays. “Women used to spread out their products across a vanity, and now most women get ready at their sink,” he says.

Surratt believes that smaller, more streamlined products will start to trickle into the market. He is at the forefront of these innovations — he designed his palettes to be the size of iPhones, so that they can fit comfortably into your hand.

Smaller packaging doesn’t mean your makeup will become less intense or less pigmented, though. Quite the opposite, says Dick Page, artistic director of Shiseido. “I think intense pigmentation is an interesting area,” he says. “If you can start with an intense color, then you can achieve a smaller product with more payoff. My dream is to have this high-intensity pigment idea, but something with portability.”
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Lightweight, But Heavy-Hitting Makeup
Page is also interested in the idea of makeup that is lightweight, but still high-impact. “Water is an interesting new delivery system for makeup,” he says. “Mostly, it’s the comfort factor. It’s very lightweight.” The issue with water-based products is their stability, which is something Page admits needs work. “Products that call themselves ‘smudge-proof’ and ‘budge-proof’ go hand-in-hand with a certain amount of weight,” he explains.

Brands will also continue to develop makeup's long-wear capabilities. “Companies are looking for stability without heavy products,” Page explains. “Technology is looking toward performance and lightweight formulas. They’ll be sheer, but buildable products that make the skin feel as if it can breathe." (For an early take on this concept, check out our review of By Terry's Tea to Tan bronzer.)
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Next-Generation Mattes
We’ve been waging war against ultra-matte textures in base makeup for years now. Words like “thick” and “cakey” have scared us away. According to Surratt, that’s because we haven’t been introduced to the evolution of matte.

“We’ve been sort of interested in humectant-looking skin,” he says. “That’s because the matte of yesteryear was more of a ‘cotton-velvet.’” That means it was thick, one-dimensional, and dead-looking. Surratt says that when mattes make their triumphant return (which could be as soon as next fall), they will be silkier. “[They] will still be velvety, but much more modern,” he says. “The matte lipsticks that are huge right now are a good indicator of this.” Surratt says these textures will start showing up in our complexion makeup and eyeshadows next.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Subversive Neutrals
“I always, always see us moving back in the direction of color,” Page says. That doesn’t mean we’re going to toss aside our much-loved neutrals for fluorescent blues and neon greens. Not at all, in fact. Neutrals are just going in a different direction.

“We’re pushing beige into a more yellow tone and seeing what happens," says Page. "We’ll take a hazelnut to a deep gray-brown. We’re asking questions: 'What can you do with gray?' 'What can you do with mauve?'” Not so neutral now, eh? Cue several more decades of fascination with Naked palettes.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Makeup 2.0
You can probably guess that the no-makeup makeup look isn’t going anywhere. You’d be correct — to a point. Vickery says there will always be women who are looking for more "obvious" makeup. What’s different is that technology is finally going to catch up with them.

“As things like plastic surgery...become more commonplace, our beauty ideals [will] shift a little bit,” she explains. “You will see technologies that will exaggerate feminine features.” Think Lip Venom — the temporary plumper that's been a mainstay for ages — translated for the rest of the face. Maybe, your shadows or liners will be able to make your eyes look believably larger — instead of just made up to look that way. Contouring creams may actually carve out or plump your cheekbones, or change the shape of your face.

“I’m not sure 'extreme' is the right word, but it’s definitely more unapologetic,” Vickery says. As this becomes more and more normal, you may see women walking around with a "YOLO" attitude about it. “You’ll be able to walk through life looking photoshopped, because you have taken time and put in your own skill [into your makeup],” Vickery says. “Technologies will allow for that exaggeration."
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Customized Applicators
Want volume and separation in your lashes? Done. Are typical contouring brushes a little too fluffy for your cheekbones? No problem. Vickery says totally customizable applicators are the future. CoverGirl was the first to take a good look at mascara brushes — which had remained pretty much unchanged for about 40 years — and change the game. “Now, because we can do rapid prototyping, and because we can do testing with actual prototypes, we can completely change what an applicator looks like,” she says.

This will likely start with mascara wands — as evidenced by CoverGirl's dual-ended Bombshell mascara, which was inspired by the practice of "cocktailing" lash wands for the ultimate effect — but Vickery sees it spreading to other applicators. “You might have the same formula — or different formulas — and have different applicators for different people. This can be dependent on the lashes you have or the type of look you want,” she says. “This is definitely possible in the next few years."
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