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The year is 2000 and you're taking your time choosing between a cherry-flavoured rollerball lip gloss and Lancôme's Juicy Tubes. Not lurid like shimmer eyeshadow or doll-esque like baby pink blush, a quick swipe of gloss is subtle enough to qualify as no-makeup makeup but the impact is there — and it makes you feel like an adult.
If the scenario sounds familiar, it's probably because we all had a pretty similar beauty experience growing up. Thinking back to the late '90s and early '00s, heavily slicked lips were de rigueur among celebrities such as Aaliyah, Paris Hilton and Victoria Beckham and it wasn't long before the trend took hold of us mere mortals. With the introduction of Rimmel Sweet Jelly, Bourjois Effet 3D and the unforgettable Lip Smacker collection, lip gloss was the first foray into proper makeup for so many, as a beauty look that was easy — not to mention affordable — to achieve.
Years later, with the rise of the Kardashian-Jenners and makeup on Instagram, the wet look fell out of favour. Sticky gloss was suddenly usurped by wearable – and arguably more flattering – velvety, matte textures thanks to brands like MAC, Kylie Cosmetics and NYX. But all trends come full circle. In recent years, we've seen the rise (and fall) of retro beauty looks such as brown lip liner, matte skin and perfectly shaped brows. And if TikTok is anything to go by, lip gloss is once again vying for a spot in our makeup arsenals.
On the video-sharing app alone, the #lipgloss hashtag boasts an enormous 3.9 billion views and counting, while Lookfantastic reports that sales of lip gloss have increased by 36% compared to last year. Our obsession with nostalgia is no doubt behind the resurgence. According to NPD Group, lip gloss now accounts for 23% of total lip makeup sales, with '90s-inspired nude, brown and red shades driving the gains. Social media in particular is nostalgic for the '90s and '00s beauty experience. Take the Bratz makeup trend (inspired by the Bratz fashion dolls, first produced in 2001) which has flooded Instagram and TikTok of late. Gen Z makeup lovers and millennial beauty enthusiasts are reimagining the dolls' patent lips using modern makeup products like MAC's Lipglass and Fenty Beauty's Lip Luminizer. Makeup Revolution launched a limited edition, Bratz-inspired collection of glosses in nostalgic nude shades (which fans are currently campaigning to be made a permanent fixture in the high street range), while beauty brands like INC.redible have reinvented the iconic rollerball gloss.
TikTok is one of the biggest driving forces behind our newfound love of gloss, says makeup artist and beauty expert Joy Adenuga. "The app has a fairly young demographic and one of the first makeup items we tend to wear when we are younger is lip gloss," she explains. "It's a failsafe makeup item that enhances your natural beauty and isn't as dramatic a change as, say, a bold coloured lipstick." Thanks to the pandemic, living in face masks has become the norm and this has seen us collectively embrace makeup minimalism. Just like skin, 2021's lip gloss trends are stripped back. Think clear, nude and ever so slightly tinted rather than opaque shades in heavy patent finishes.
"Gloss wearers are certainly opting for nude and natural shades such as pink, brown and caramel," Joy explains. "This is because our approach to makeup is a lot more pared down and natural due to the pandemic and the limitations imposed by lockdowns." As health becomes a priority for many, this is translating into makeup, adds Olivia Houghton, senior creative researcher at strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory. "Consumers want to appear 'healthy' and they are favouring looks which are more luminous and glowy," she says. "We've seen this with glowy bronzers and in the case of lip products, which are juicy and plump."
NPD Group account manager Emma Fishwick reveals we're increasingly on the lookout for makeup products with skincare advantages to help alleviate dryness and friction caused by wearing face masks, and gloss fits the bill. "Lip gloss often has moisturising and hydrating benefits," she says, which has contributed to its popularity. Formulas have come a long way from the sticky, gloopy textures we were once used to. Gloss is now an extension of skincare thanks to buzzy ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which plumps out lines and hydrates skin deeply, as well as moisturising glycerin, shea butter and vitamin E, which banish flaky skin.
Jill Turnbull, founder of Jill Turnbull Beauty, agrees. "I think many people are moving towards a more minimalist beauty routine with fewer products. Clear lip gloss in particular has been a big trend because it’s so versatile," she says. During the pandemic, the brand sold out of its Glow Stix gloss and highlighter. "I believe it’s because it is a multipurpose product," says Jill. "You can use it on your lips, eyes, face and so much more."
On the other hand, now that masks are largely optional, Joy attributes our infatuation with gloss to the pure enjoyment of wearing more makeup again. "Wearing lots of gloss is almost like an act of celebration, especially as we haven’t been able to wear it properly for over 18 months now," she says. Her favourite? "Fenty Beauty's Gloss Bomb is literally the bomb." The product is TikTok famous for its lip-enhancing effect using mirror-like pigments.
It's impossible to scroll through TikTok or Instagram without coming across at least one lip plumping video. Recently, Too Faced Lip Injection Power Plumping Lip Gloss, and Barry M That's Swell XXXL Extreme Lip Plumper, went viral for making lips appear double the size in moments. While filler remains popular, more of us are looking for natural alternatives to give our lips a boost — and gloss works perfectly. "Lip gloss creates that coveted plump aesthetic, which signals youth and vitality," says Jill. "With lip gloss, lips can appear fuller instantly because of the way the light reflects off the formula." Among beauty editors, BITE Beauty Yaysayer Plumping Lip Gloss, is a popular choice for maximising lips without the dreaded tingle or burn.
3 Modern Lip Gloss Trends To Try Now
In the age of social media, lip gloss is more aesthetically pleasing than other lipstick looks, says The Future Laboratory's Olivia. "As video becomes the dominant content preference on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, products such as lip gloss (or those that offer shimmer, shine, glitter or holographic finishes) are generally more successful," she reveals, adding that they look good in motion. You only have to search the hashtag #lipglossASMR to see why. Yes, that's 29.6 million views. It's fair to say that lip gloss has taken on a new identity for 2021 and it's all about making the texture work for your individual beauty style. Read ahead to discover the perfect lip gloss trend for you — whether you prefer something understated or impactful.
Stained Glass Lips
"Wearing see-through colour under a layer of glassy shine is a great way of pulling off a high-gloss trend without it feeling too over-the-top disco," Terry says. "Think pushed-in colour stains with a balmed, juicy finish." You can also dress your lids and cheeks. "Glossy features don’t have to look drippy," adds Terry. "It's more about them looking plumped and highly moisturised." Try MAC Glow Play Lip Balm, which is a tinted balm-meets-stain with a glossy sheen that's easy to reapply on the go.
Clear gloss is a big lip trend for late summer and into autumn, and will enhance your natural lip colour. Think Rimmel Oh My Gloss! Lip Plump Clear which boasts a subtle shimmer to make lips appear plumper. e.l.f Mint Melt Plumping Gloss Clea, is a firm favourite on TikTok, too. Jill recommends turning your favourite matte lipstick into a gloss by adding a slick of something clear over the top, while TikTokers are lining their lips with lip pencil and applying clear gloss in the middle for a '90s feel with a modern twist.
Lip Gloss Layering
Finally, lip layering. The trend consists of lining your lips with a nude pencil, applying matte lipstick in the centre and blanketing lips with a clear or nude gloss to enhance their shape further. Try a non-budge lip pencil like Victoria Beckham Beauty Lip Definer, and a matte lipstick that stays put, such as Huda Beauty Liquid Matte. Your chosen gloss is the last step, making lips look twice as full in an instant.