Plastic Surgeons, Derms, and Facialists Predict the Biggest 2021 Skincare Trends


(Image credit: @haileybieber)

We'll just say this: Our only expectation for 2021 is to not have any expectations for 2021. If we've learned anything in the past year, it's that the world can, seemingly, flip completely upside down practically overnight. In late 2019 (welp), we definitely thought we felt confident publishing our annual skincare trend prediction story, but who could have known that in a matter of months our skincare and beauty proclivities would be telling a very, very different tale. Masks! Going ham on hand sanitizer! At-home everything! (To our credit, however, many of our 2020 predictions actually remained relevant despite the onslaught of a worldwide pandemic none of us saw coming.)

Although we remain hopeful and optimistic that 2021 will be a better year full of healing, light, and progress, we're still prepared for a continuation of 2020's "new normal," if you will. Masks and stringent sanitation will still be a thing, stress (sorry!) will still be a thing, and in-office treatments and aesthetic beauty appointments will largely not be a thing. So where do all of 2020's learnings and 2021's open road ahead leave us in regard to skincare trends? I reached out to some of the best skin experts in the business, from dermatologists and facialists to world-renowned plastic surgeons, for their top 2021 skincare trend predictions. Craving the inside scoop? Keep scrolling!

Trend #1: At-Home Devices

"I think at-home devices will continue to trend upward as people are staying home more," says Shani Darden, celebrity facialist and founder of her namesake skincare line. "Utilizing effective at-home devices along with the right products for your skin can really transform your complexion and counteract premature aging, which minimizes the need for costly, invasive treatments later on."

According to Darden, devices specifically featuring vibration therapy and LED light therapy are gaining increasing popularity due to anti-aging benefits that don’t require lengthy recovery periods. If you're looking for Darden's specific recommendations, she touts Déesse's renowned LED mask and her own brand-new Facial Sculpting Wand as a few of her favorites. 

"This wand is a vibration therapy device that uses acoustic soundwaves to target wrinkles below the skin’s surface along with boosting circulation for smoother, firmer, more glowing skin. I’ve been using vibration therapy in all of my facials for many years and have seen the amazing benefits it provides. It’s easy to use at home and is also a great, relaxing treatment to work out any tension in your face—something many of us are dealing with right now!"

Shop the trend:

Trend #2: Eye-Centric Skincare Treatments

"With compulsory mask wearing, we are seeing a huge interest in procedures and products specifically for the eye area," shares renowned plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, MD, MPH, FACS. "Now, in most settings, our face is sufficiently obscured by our masks so that our eyes bear the burden of expression, communication, and connection."

As the founder of her own science-backed skincare line, Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty, Devgan tells us sales for the brand's lash and brow serum, Platinum Long Lash, have skyrocketed in addition to its fan-favorite Peptide Eye Cream—a nutrient-packed formulation that helps to revitalize the delicate periorbital tissue. (She's also working on a lash-enhancing mascara designed to dovetail with Platinum Long Lash, and we're counting down the days until we can get our hands on it.)

Shop the trend:

Trend #3: Targeted In-Office Treatments Instigated by Zoom and Mask Wearing

"The top in-office beauty treatments we're seeing right now specifically target the forehead, brow, and eye area since we spend so much time with masks on," says Beverly Hills–based plastic surgeon Anita Patel, MD, FACS. To get into specifics, she lists the brow thread lift (or ponytail thread lift), the nonsurgical brow or eyelid lift using radio frequency skin tightening, Botox and Dysport to manage forehead wrinkles and crow's-feet, and Latisse to grow lashes, especially since nobody can get (or, at least, should be getting) their lash extensions right now. 

Additionally, the amount of quality time the world is spending on Zoom and video calls is also having an interesting influence on surging in-office beauty trends. According to Patel, there's been a spike in treatments that specifically focus on the chin and jawline. 

"When you stare at yourself on Zoom all day, you can become aware of angles, shadows, and perhaps even skin irregularities that you might not be used to seeing every day," she explains. "People are becoming more fixated on their neck, chin, jawline, and the texture of their skin. This is where chin and jawline contouring with filler comes in. You see the result immediately, and it can even have a slimming and/or elongating effect. For skin texture, we have been busiest with lasers since you can recover without having to worry about seeing anyone."

To support in-office results at home, Patel recommends trending skincare staples like exfoliators, nourishing anti-aging masks, gentle peels, LED, and microcurrent devices designed for home use. (You can shop some of our faves just below!)

Shop the trend:

Trend #4: Skincare Products That Protect Against Blue-Light Damage

We dove into the blue-light skincare trend late last year, and according to Patel, the surge in blue light–protecting skincare formulations will only become more and more prominent in 2021. 

"In light of COVID and since returning to 'normal' life might not be as near as we initially hoped or expected, our screen time is higher than it ever has been!" Patel explains. "Released from all of our electronic devices like our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and TVs, we really can't escape blue light in modern-day society, and it can result in premature aging or skin damage."

Shop the trend:

Trend #5: Ultra-Hydrating Products Catered to Sensitive Skin

"Also top on the list of new trends for 2021 is clean skincare that re-add hydration to sensitive skin," Patel shares. "With all the harsh sanitizers and soaps used in 2020 to combat bacteria and COVID, the skincare industry will move toward products that provide efficiency with ingredients that are less irritating on the microbiome. I believe there will be an influx in face sprays and masks to alleviate the symptoms of constant mask wearing."

Shop the trend:

Trend #6: Maskne Treatments

"Twenty-twenty was a big year for maskne, but with mask wearing being a staple in our everyday lives still, treatments are going to become even more popular in 2021," notes cosmetic dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD. He predicts there will be an increase in skincare products specifically formulated to prevent acne flare-ups in addition to more in-office treatments to help fade and remove the scarring leftover.

"One in-office procedure to treat acne (and maskne) scars is using microdroplets of silicone where tiny doses of silicone are injected at the site of scarring to lift the depressed scar and permanently improve it. There are also several laser treatments that can treat acne scarring, which have also gained popularity, such as the Fraxel 1550 and Cool Peel CO2." 

(If you're not comfortable visiting a dermatologist right now or if it's not in your budget bandwidth, our editorial team is obsessed with the products below to help effectively fade dark spots and acne scarring from home.)

Shop the trend:

Trend #7: At-Home Chemical Peels

"We saw this trend becoming more and more popular in 2020, as people were unable to receive in-office chemical peels, and it will definitely continue into 2021," predicts Sobel. "You feel like you are getting a professional facial from the comfort of your own home. At-home chemical peels are more accessible, and they're also significantly less expensive than your options in office."

Sobel particularly recommends his very own formula, an innovative, dermatologist-developed treatment that gives your skin all of the benefits of an in-office peel sans expense, hassle, or downtime. "The intensive formula instantly breaks down and sloughs away the glue-like substance that causes dead skin cells to stick together on the top layers of the skin, making it appear sallow, lackluster, and dull," Sobel tells us. "In minutes, the skin is transformed, revealing a smoother, brighter, younger-looking complexion. Over time, the appearance of fine lines and pores is minimized, and stubborn skin conditions like melasma, sunspots, and acne are addressed. Plus, the skin is rebalanced for better absorption of other skincare products."

Shop the trend:

Trend #8: Retinol, Retinol, Retinol!

"Retinol has often been touted as the number one skincare ingredient and will continue to stay that way in 2021 because of its wide-ranging benefits," Sobel predicts. Using a high-quality retinol a few times a week can boost collagen production and cell turnover, help treat acne, vacuum clogged pores, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, and more. 

"It is ideal to start using retinol in your mid to late 20s to get the most out of its preventative perks," explains Sobel. 

Shop the trend:

Trend #9: The Resurgence of Old, Tried-and-True Skincare Staples

In other words, "experiential" or "fluffy" skincare that's more about presentation and aesthetic is on the rocks. "Doing skincare just for the experience is dwindling," Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, tells us. "People want skincare that works, and there is a resurgence of old yet tried-and-true products from brands like Vaseline and CeraVe because they are simple, effective, and affordable, and they don't contain any actives, which can lead to irritation and skin reactions."

Shop the trend:

Trend #10: Hair and Scalp Health

Scalp health and hair-growth products have always held a major spot in the skincare industry, but with stress at an all-time high and salon appointments at an all-time low, Purvisha Patel tells us it's a 2021 trend that shows no sign of stopping. 

"At-home hair health and growth solutions are huge right now. There are lots of underlying issues that can cause hair loss (including stress), so I always recommend seeing a dermatologist, if possible, to undergo testing and professional guidance if you're noticing more strand fallout than usual." As far as products, everything from nutrition-packed hair serums, supplements, and strategic light-therapy devices can potentially lend a helping hand when it comes to rejuvenating stressed-out strands and scalp. Shop our favorites below!

Shop the trend:

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.