In 1992, Allure asked 1,000 people to participate in the very first beauty survey. The answers from back then are probably what you'd expect: We learned that most folks spent between 45 and 57 minutes on their beauty routines every single day. Blush, mascara, and lipstick were the most-used products of all. Trendy figures such as supermodel Christie Brinkley provided much of the world's beauty inspiration.
Now, in 2021, things couldn't be more different. This year, our Readers' Choice Survey (which garnered more than 1,300 responses) found that readers' habits have made a 180 across the board. After the passage of nearly three decades and especially the coronavirus pandemic, it's no wonder. Here are some of the most interesting things we discovered.
When polled, 40 percent of readers confirmed that they still buy their products in-store from their favorite beauty retailers (with face masks and other safety precautions in place, of course). Nevertheless, a whopping 60 percent said they now purchase all of their beauty supplies online, exclusively.
We can't really blame them, given how much the landscape of in-store shopping has changed due to the pandemic. In 2020, Sephora and Ulta Beauty, among other retailers, rolled out new hygienic standards that severely limit customer access to in-store testing.
On top of that, it has become easier than ever to shop online for beauty products. Augmented reality technology has skyrocketed in the past year. Essie, Anastasia Beverly Hills, L'Orèal Paris, and more have launched AR-fueled apps that allow users to try on products virtually before making a purchase online. With all that ease at your fingertips, why not shop online?
Now that it's necessary for folks to wear face coverings when out in public, plenty of people polled told us that they wear significantly less makeup than before. Is anyone all that surprised? To quote one reader response: "I used to do a full face every single day. Now, what's the point?"
A few people noted, however, that they're much more willing to wear dramatic eye makeup now. Lipstick has been replaced with lip balms or tints by an overwhelming majority of those who responded to the survey. And foundation seems to have taken a back seat to maskne prevention, which has prompted some readers to invest in spot acne treatments and up the ante on their skin-care routines.
Maybe due in part to all that mask-wearing, an overwhelming number of people informed us that the health and appearance of their skin are super, super important to them right now. When asked about their biggest beauty-related concerns, wrinkles and fine lines (57 percent) and undereye circles (38 percent) topped the list. Thinning hair (29 percent) came in just behind those two concerns, but almost every issue that followed was skin-related.
Throughout the past year, as access to salons diminished due to the pandemic, we all collectively realized just how much we had been taking our regular haircuts for granted. In 2020, without stylists on hand, many had to invest in a quality pair of shears and learn how to cut their own hair to ward off split ends and over-grown bangs.
But no matter how good at it a person gets, it's just not the same as a professional cut — and our survey proves that. Eighteen percent of Allure readers polled said they miss haircuts more than any other beauty treatment (massages came in a close second at 16 percent).
Among all these drastic and sudden changes in beauty culture, there is one thing that remains consistent (and maybe always will): People who participate in beauty do so mostly for themselves and the positive feeling it gives them, at least as far as Allure readers are concerned.
When we asked people in 1992, 86 percent of women and 76 percent of men told us beauty was important to them because of how confident it made them feel. A slightly smaller percentage said beauty was important to them simply because they enjoyed it.
When we asked readers the same question in 2021, we received a flood of similar sentiments. Eighty percent of Allure readers polled said confidence was their reason for loving beauty and 77 percent said self-care. "It's my me-time," one reader said via our survey. "It's meditative to do it at the beginning of a day and at the end of a day."
Another wrote that beauty makes her feel connected to her mother. Others said it's their favorite form of creative expression — it "makes life less boring," as another reader put it.
We couldn't agree more. No matter what beauty looks like in another 10 or 20 years, at least we know that we'll continue to do it — probably even more than now — for our own enjoyment, reflection, and expression.
We also use Allure's annual reader survey to answer your most-asked questions about hair, skin, and makeup in our You Asked, We Answered series, which you can find here. And you can see all of 2021's Readers' Choice Award winners — including clean beauty, breakthrough products, splurges, and steals — right here.
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