The Personal Grooming Regimen Evolution: Then vs. Now

The trend landscape is ever changing, especially in the beauty world. It can be difficult to decipher what innovations are actually getting somewhere and which ones are just white noise or marketing fluff. This week, we’re analyzing all things grooming and digging into what trends have stuck and which ones haven’t.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of painful memories to sift through (remember when people were destroying their lips for the Kylie Lip Challenge?). Let’s start by taking it way back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Beauty Trends: 1900s–1920s

It’s incredible to think that a little over a hundred years ago, makeup wasn’t a widely discussed subject.

It may appear that makeup was commonplace during the 1910s and 20s (Think flappers and vintage glamour shots), but it actually wasn't.

Most impressions we carry today about makeup at the beginning of the 20th century were put in our heads from the movies. While classic films may depict just about everyone on a New York street in a warm blush with a striking red lip, this doesn't line up with reality.

In fact, extensive makeup was generally practiced by a select portion of high society women– it was far from a universal standard.

Although the idea of widely accessible beauty in homes all across the nation was becoming increasingly mainstream and accepted, the brands hadn't quite caught up yet. 

Generally speaking, makeup was made at home, and was very simple. Think lip and cheek color. Newspaper ads for face powders, creams, and eye makeup began surfacing in the first decade of the 1900s. 

The concept of gentle facial soaps also hit the market, claiming to be more delicate for the complexion than more all-purpose soaps.

Products were marketed in a seemingly mystical way, claiming to provide surefire solutions to beauty issues. Some hair products were said to make grey hair "vanish". This contrasts today's standard of disclosing scientific data and trials to back up product claims.

Some claims were far more general, such as the Bette Davis-centered hair advertisement for Lustre-Creme Shampoo which boasted to provide “the most beautiful hair in the world”. Product descriptors were such as “enchant”, “glorious difference”, and “under the spell”. Vagueness reigned supreme.

20s style trickle into modern day by way of bright red lips, the classic bob cut, and smokey eyes. 

1900s–1920s beauty trend landscape at a glance: 

  • Shifting Norms played a huge role in the commercialization of beauty solutions in homes across the nation
  • Homemade Cosmetics were commonplace, as many beauty routines were crafted with on-hand materials
  • Product Vagueness was a standard when brands spoke about the functions of their products 

Beauty Trends: 1930s–1950s

There’s a more sinister side to beauty– dangerous ingredients. While some ingredients may pass initial tests to get the OK for product release, some are found to be harmful long after the ingredient is popularized. 

Beginning in the 1930s, parabens became a popular ingredient used to increase the shelf life of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. They were later found to be linked to skin irritation and a host of other more serious issues. Considering what science has dredged up about parabens today, they should probably be avoided. 

Another grooming product ingredient we now avoid is anything containing formaldehyde-releasing additives (yes, the thing they use to preserve dead animals for high school biology classes). Now, these additives are understood to be cancer-causing.


Today, we’ve seen a push for vegan, organic, and all-natural hair products. Ingredient transparency has reached a high importance to buyers. We want to know what’s in what we’re using. After all, we’re putting it on our face and hair– two of the first things anyone sees. This cultural response can, in part, be attributed to damaging ingredients being snuck in products of the past. Consumers are now educated, alert, and want to be protected

The 50s didn’t see many major developments in personal grooming styles. Simplicity reigned supreme as more conservative standards of beauty swept up the country. Extravagance was traded in for a more subtle, plain look.

The major innovation to become commonplace was uber-long lashes (which was popularized by Hollywood at the time). What does this tell us? Sometimes the beauty world slows down for a while before it gears up for its next big thing.

1930s–1950s beauty trend landscape at a glance:

  • Dangerous Ingredients entered the market, although their not-so-hot effects weren’t known at the time
  • An Era of Simplicity sweeps throughout the 50s as more energetic styles are put on hold
  • Hollywood Influence as well as other forms of pop culture continue to shape trends

Beauty Trends: 1960s–1970s

Rebounding from the previous decade, this 20-year time frame embraced a carefree expressionism unmatched in any previous era. The 70s brought on a new wave of fun-looking hair care ads, mirroring the funky energy of the disco movement. 

An important change– detail. Products highlighted specific hair issues to target and began to explain how the product actually worked. Hair sprays, texturizers, and relaxers were all in full-force.

Products also began to talk about delivering multiple benefits at once. Instead of falling into the vagueness of previous eras, they’d list out exactly the intended effects– free of snake oil sounding phrases. 

Some hot beauty solutions were fuller hair, reducing split ends, smoothing texture, and increasing shine. Most of these were specific and measurable. This demanded higher expectations from the industry now that products had more communicable results they claimed to help achieve.

1960s–1970s beauty trend landscape at a glance:

  • Lighthearted Atmospheres were more common than serious advertisements from the decades prior
  • Product Specificity ensured that the customer knew what exactly the grooming product was solving, erasing the vagueness of the past
  • Multiple Benefits wrapped up into a single product gained popularity

Beauty Trends: 1980s–1990s

When combing through hair trends of the last two decades of the 1900s, the 80s and 90s were the biggest culprits for out-there hair trends. Most of these deserve to stay in the past, but there are a few worth revisiting and revising. 

First up, the Jennifer Aniston “Friends” hairstyle, which has been in style ever since. It’s a great example of how pop culture influences personal grooming style for decades to come.

Next, the infamous perm. Super popular throughout the 80s, perms (short for permanent) were salon-created chemical curls which don’t wash out. Perm curls were hardly delicate or well-crafted. They’re tight-spiraled, messy, and energetic– a perfect encapsulation of 80s style.

Don’t think exclusively long hair is synonymous with glamour– short hair deserves the spotlight too. And thus, The Pixie. Popularized by Winona Ryder, she pushed the limits of short hair and turned it into a highly coveted cut.  Another 90s look which surged in popularity was zig-zag parting (We dove into this and other parting styles in our blog “5 Quarantine Looks to Try at Home”).

Hopping over to men's grooming– the mullet. A close second to the perm, mullets were notorious for aging poorly. Dubbed the “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle, mullets are virtually universally rejected whenever they rear their heads in pop culture today. Speaking of controversial men’s hairstyles, the man bun has also been up for debate for ages. 

1980s–1990s beauty trend landscape at a glance:

  • Hit or Miss hairstyles (that might haunt some of us to this day)
  • Outside the Box styles led to lots of innovation and styling diversity
  • Pop Culture continued to shape the trend landscape


Beauty Trends: Today

Fast forward to present day. We’re entering a new decade and anticipating a new wave of distinctive trends. Predicting these things can be tricky (especially less than a year into the 2020s), but with the help of trend forecasting experts and some deep analysis, we’ve put together a list of trends to look out for.

  • Skinification of Hair | We expect to see the lines between skincare and haircare to blend even further.

Our Evidence: Natural products which have both skin and hair benefits have been stealing the spotlight. For example, using raw aloe vera gel as both a face and hair mask. Another example is the use of vitamin-rich carrier oils across multiple body zones.

  • Luxury Styling Tools | Better tools deliver better results.

Our Evidence: Counter-worthy design has been a product buzzword for the past few years. Beautifully-crafted appliances are being showcased instead of hidden in a cabinet or closet. The idea of investing in a lifetime-use product carries a strong sentiment with millennials. In addition to reducing waste, having one luxury-grade product forever increases ease of use. Whether it be the AER dryer or a professional face exfoliator, premium products will be dominating the market for decades to come.

  • Personalized Beauty | You-centric personal grooming is coming, and it’s coming fast.

Our Evidence: First stop, Instagram ads. Not only are the Instagram ads heavily personalized themselves, but they also are generally selling personalized products or services. Skin serums, conditioners, and daily vitamins are a few examples of personalized products which allow the purchaser to receive bundles tailor-made to fit their needs. Most of these products sell on a subscription basis. Salons are also making large strides toward personalization with hair color kiosks.

There you have it– a hundred year beauty overview and trend forecast for the 2020s. Here’s some good news: you can pioneer the new wave of both personalized beauty and luxury styling tools. 

AER’s cordless design meets and exceeds the demands of today's luxury beauty market. In addition to providing unprecedented styling flexibility and mobility, it sets the bar for the next decade of haircare. We’re pretty excited about being beauty frontrunners– we’d love for you to join us.

Preorder the cordless AER dryer today on Indiegogo.