A huge part of my job is dedicated to deciphering which beauty trends are truly worth the hype and decoding exactly what it is about them that means they're going to have widespread appeal. Sure, there are certain looks that won't be for everyone—2021 has already seen the return of the mullet, glitter eye shadow and cow-print nails—but even these more niche beauty moments will be worth the buzz due to the way that they can act as a window into the nation's psyche at any given time. After all, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that a difficult 18 months might have left some of us seeking a return to simpler times—and '80s power haircuts and childhood nail polish can undoubtedly provide nostalgic relief.
However, while I tend to look to facialists, hairstylists and makeup artists for hot takes on what beauty looks we can expect to trend each season, the predictions that they make are often based on wider industry trends and seasonal moments like fashion week but ignore the fact that the UK isn't a homogenous population. In fact, while the differences from town to town can be subtly nuanced, city to city, there can be vast contrasts in the types of beauty trends that you'll spot on the local streets.
This is why I decided to call on five content creators and influencers from across the UK to give me their honest takes on the regional beauty trends that are taking off right now. Covering Brighton, London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh, I spanned the nation to uncover what makeup, hair and skincare trends the locals are embracing. And while there are some similarities, it's interesting to see that some cities are all about the bold eye shadow looks while others are shunning makeup altogether and embracing natural skin looks.
Ahead, keep scrolling for the biggest regional beauty trends right now.
"I definitely think people are having more fun with their looks in Brighton after so long of not bothering during lockdown," says digital content creator Charlotte Rollin. "It was a novelty to not have to wash your hair or bother with makeup for a while, but I think everyone is secretly glad for the opportunity to feel like themselves again and make some more effort. Similarly to my wardrobe, I feel like going a bit extra is my approach to beauty for now. I’m having fun with how I look and love having a reason to get a bit glam. I even wore false eyelashes for the first time last month, which was quite the experience!"
"I feel like Brighton locals are great with their hair and are really embracing the '90s trend," says Rollin. "Slicked-back, spiky buns, claw clips and rocking a ponytail with two bits of face-framing hair are key looks right now. E-girl hair (that's chunky highlights in pastel hues, FYI) had a real moment in lockdown, but I'm still seeing a lot of people with different coloured tendrils and blonde money-piece highlights, which are super cool. If I weren't blonde all over already, I would absolutely be embracing this!"
"Makeup-wise, soap brows are still very much a thing and graphic/coloured liner too," explains Rollin. "I think people are having a lot of fun with their eye makeup but staying more with their base." And it's not just in the British seaside town that Rollin has spotted this gravitation towards bolder eye looks. "I'm a big Harry Styles fan, and seeing what his U.S fans are wearing to his tour has been so fun and a big source of inspiration," says Rollin. "They're still having to wear masks indoors at his gigs, so a lot of people have been going really extra with their eye makeup, which is super fun and a big trend to come out of the pandemic. I need a neon liner ASAP."
"Of course, it depends on the individual, but I've noticed that some people (myself included) are more pared-back and simpler with makeup than ever before," ponders Lesley Buckle, beauty content creator and Londoner. "We've spent so much time away with less makeup on I feel like a lot of us have got used to wearing very little or none at all. I think as a lot of people are still wearing masks, we're definitely seeing the return of the matte liquid lip, more powder and super-hold settings sprays. And I do also think that's why eyes are having more of a moment—so that beauty looks can be just as bold and expressive but without the mask taking away the finished result."
"The looks I've been noticing most in London right now are people really playing with their eyeliner and brows," says Buckle. "For brows, I've seen lots of people trying out a faux-bleached look or a super-groomed yet feathery brow that we've seen a lot of over the last couple of years."
"As for hair, those bold '70s styles really seem to be making a comeback in London," reveals Buckle. "Think Farrah Fawcett–inspired blowouts and shaggy hairstyles like the wolf cut. I'd definitely like to try both of these!"
"Manchester is a creative hub, and that creativity has always fed through into the way people in the city style and express themselves," says beauty editor and personal shopper Grace Day. "But I totally think people have relished the opportunity to be able to express themselves through beauty again. I've always loved street style for hair-and-makeup inspiration as well as fashion, and while I follow a lot of relevant Instagram and Pinterest accounts, nothing beats getting it firsthand," says Day. "Getting a coffee or taking a stroll through neighbourhoods like the Northern Quarter or Ancoats always throws up loads of inspiring looks and styles for me."
"Nail art has also had a big boom in Manchester this year, and not the chic, minimal type. I'm talking bold, funky, and extremely eclectic, basically made for the 'gram," explains Day. "Whatever your wildest nail art dreams are, the artists at Doll Parts in Afflecks Palace can make them happen. Last time I went, I got a really cool neon ombré effect, which co-owner Millie created using loose eye shadow pigment. It was incredible, and I love that the fun ambience and eclectic playlists make the space feel really social and creative."
"There's a really nostalgic energy in Manchester this year, which totally makes sense given the city's involvement within the '90s Britpop movement and rave scenes of the Y2K era," says Day. "I've spotted a lot of baby buns, skinny fringes, pastel eye shadow, glossy lips, grungy eyeliner, and even tooth gems—especially in the Northern Quarter, which is full of vintage clothes shops and dive bars, so the aesthetic fits right in."
"I get my beauty inspiration from old movies, '80s and '90s throwbacks and Pinterest, but mostly from Instagram," explains Belfast-based content creator Tanice Elizabeth. "Now that we're emerging from lockdown, I do think that people's approach to hair and makeup has changed in the city. I'd say that my approach to both hair and makeup has changed slightly too. I enjoy getting dressed up to go out now, but I think we all appreciate being able to chill a little more too."
"In terms of beauty looks, I feel like there aren't so many 'trends' in Belfast right now, as things are so faced-paced recently. But if anything, I have noticed that people have been channelling no-makeup makeup," explains Elizabeth. "With my skin and hair over lockdown, I gave them a lot more attention than before (probably due to the fact that I was at home much), but even now, I still enjoy a skincare-only day or a no-makeup look."
"Carrying on from the natural beauty looks, it's all about showing more skin and using less contour in Belfast," says Elizabeth. "Flushed cheeks are definitely having a moment too, and I am here for it."
"What I really love about Edinburgh is how effortless people's styles tend to be. Of course, this is generally speaking, but unlike Glasgow and my hometown of Aberdeen—where glamour is always on the agenda—Edinburgh takes a less-is-more approach," explains Maxine Eggenberger, freelance style editor and Who What Wear contributor. "People certainly aren't afraid to spend money on taking care of themselves now that lockdown restrictions have eased. I used to be able to get a nail appointment with only a few days of notice, but now, I feel like I need at least two weeks before I can see my technician! I think instead of having a more flexible beauty regime, people are keeping to stricter schedules to ensure they can get their beauty fix."
"I have a friend who works in aesthetics, and she's seen a surge of new clientele since reopening her clinic," explains Eggenberger. "Skin is a big deal here—fresh, dewy, and beautifully blended. All of the people I've met since relocating here seem to have perfected the art of no-makeup makeup."
"Hair-wise, I don't know what it is in Edinburgh—perhaps it's the influence of the artsy scene that dominates the city—but I see more people with blunt or cool micro-fringes here than anywhere else," says Eggenberger. "I am also seeing more people with root shadowing and balayage for a more lived-in look when it comes to hair colouring."