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2016 vs 2021: TikTok decides which make-up era was better

TextAlex Peters

Remember cut creases and carving out your cheekbones?

2016 – five years ago in calendar time, 37,958 years ago in emotional time when you take into account all the events we have lived through since then. For anyone struggling to think that far back, let me set the scene. Beyoncé has just released Lemonade and we are all singing about hot sauce in our bags. Suicide Squad is playing in cinemas and Halloween is like Night Of A Thousand Harley Quinns. Some un-chill political things are happening. 

People on TikTok seem to be feeling nostalgic for these if not simpler, then at least pre-pandemic times and are turning back the clock to compare the make-up they were doing in 2016 to the make-up they do now. Mostly set to Nicki Minaj’s “Chun Swae”, the TikTokkers divide up their face into two halves – one side for 2016 (or 2017 in some versions) and one side for 2021. While there are, of course, variations in how people did their make-up during these years, many of the same trends emerge from the videos. 

On the whole, 2021 make-up compared to 2016 is more natural, involving a lighter touch particularly when it comes to foundation and eyebrows. In 2016, the Instagram aesthetic was in full swing and foundation was matte and full coverage, in comparison to today’s look, which is more sheer and dewy. Similarly the thick layer of concealer applied under the eyes and baked in 2016 has been replaced by concealer only in targeted areas to hide blemishes.


here’s how i did my makeup in 2016 vs 2021 ib @lenkalul

♬ Chun Swaee ITSBARBIEBETCH - Ava 🥀

Contour, which had recently been discovered by the public, was being fully embraced in 2016 (remember the phrase “carve out your cheekbones”?). Today a light dusting of bronzer is the preference while highlighter is more golden and light touch, or has largely dropped out of favour altogether. 2021 looks have seen the effects of both the more natural VSCO girl aesthetic influence and the influence of e-girls in the form of faux freckles and, as Abby Roberts puts it, “hella blush”. 

When it comes to the eyes, 2016’s thick, arched IG eyebrows have been replaced by more natural, brushed up brows and the dramatic, precise cut creases have been dropped in favour of post-Euphoria looks which are looser, more playful, and often involve rhinestones. Lashes have toned down the drama, with many swapping a full set for half a lash, while lips are now glossy instead of the matte neutrals that dominated the era thanks to products like Kylie Jenner’s lip kits. 

See our roundup of some of the best TikToks below and if you want to continue further down memory lane, revisit 2019’s trend of noughties make-overs. Cue the frosty blue eyeshadow, butterfly clips, and skinny brows.


the difference between the lashes though 💀 ib @lenkalul @klaudiasyd ##makeup

♬ Chun Swaee ITSBARBIEBETCH - Ava 🥀

how i did my makeup in: 2016 vs 2021 🌼vid ib: @klaudiasyd <3 ##makeup ##2016 ##makeupvideos ##fyp ##OurHouse2021

♬ Chun Swaee ITSBARBIEBETCH - Ava 🥀

2016 vs 2021 Makeup! Which year do you prefer?👀 ib: @klaudiasyd & @lenkalul ##fyp ##makeup ##2016vs2021

♬ Chun Swaee ITSBARBIEBETCH - Ava 🥀
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