The 11 Spring Skin Care Trends You're About To See Everywhere

Including a new generation of clay masks.

Originally Published: 
11 of the biggest spring 2021 skin care trends experts predict will be everywhere.
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Spring is a great time for a fresh start (à la spring cleaning-everything). It's a lot like January's New Year, but with warm, non-dreary weather. One way to prep for the upcoming season? Start incorporating spring 2021 skin care trends into your beauty routine.

Top dermatologists and facialists spoke with Bustle about the beauty trends they expect to see everywhere next season, and one thing's for sure: Get ready to level up your skin care game. Think everything from minimalism to cold therapy and nurturing — rather than stripping — ingredients to flood the shelves and your social media feeds.

The overall theme is what Dr. Stacy Chimento, M.D., board-certified dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, calls "skin-sustainable" beauty. "2021 will continue the path of beauty routines as a means for self-care, which means striving for a beautiful look and feel without overwhelming the skin," she tells Bustle. Instead of bombarding your complexion with layers upon layers of strong products, she sees a focus on less irritation — and an emphasis on more gentle ingredients and streamlined routines.

Here, experts share the top 11 spring 2021 skin care trends to watch as the season turns.

We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.



The double whammy of winter air and excessive hand washing leaves skin worse for the wear. Enter: Slugging. "Slugging comes out of the K-Beauty world and essentially involves coating your face with Vaseline to help restore your skin's lipid barrier," says Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology. Simply apply a pea-sized amount of the gel (a little goes a long way) as the last step in your skin care regimen before bed. Mudgil says once a week is best for slugging, though notes you can up the frequency if your skin feels really dry.

One thing to note? Mudgil recommends skipping the treatment if you're prone to breakouts since petrolatum jelly is occlusive (aka it can clog pores). "This is great for anyone with dry skin," he says.


Blue Light Skin Care

Blue light beams out of your computer, phone, and TV screens, and it's not so great for your skin. "The concern is that, similarly to UV rays emitted from the sun, blue light can also cause DNA damage and ignite the development of hyperpigmentation," says Chimento. Bearing in mind the increased screen time everyone's been getting during quarantine, beauty brands have been busy concocting products specifically meant to protect your complexion from these rays.

According to Chimento, many ingredients you'd find in mineral sunscreen, like zinc oxide, aid in blue light protection. "Vitamins and antioxidants are also used in these products to help neutralize any free radicals that may appear from the blue light exposure," she says. Klur's Symmetry Fluid, for example, contains antioxidants green tea, vitamin C, and red algae (another potent antioxidant) to shield skin from external stressors (like blue light rays), and you can apply it each day or night depending on your preference.


Minimalist Routines

Watch for smarter, pared-down skin care regimens — aka "skinimalism," says Dr. Jessie Cheung, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. "[This trend] is all about simplifying your skin care routine to make it more streamlined, affordable, and sustainable," she tells Bustle. "It's about nourishing your skin with fewer, but powerful, ingredients, and not covering up your natural glow."

To whittle down your routine, she recommends taking a quality over quantity approach and trying multitasking products that "protect, repair, and restore." Try a serum or moisturizer that tackles multiple concerns, like Tatcha's The Dewy Serum, which hydrates with hyaluronic acid and squalane as it gently increases cell turnover with lactic acid for a smoother, brighter glow (meant to be used daily, and morning and night if your skin's extra dry).


Maskne Treatments

Unfortunately, maskne isn't going anywhere come springtime (womp womp). Meaning: Facial treatments formulated specifically to quash those pesky breakouts will continue to rise. "We're seeing a lot of new products coming out in this category, and there's been a lot of innovation in the space," says Michelle Connelly, head buyer for beauty retailer Credo Beauty. "These are going beyond the traditional acne treatments that contain salicylic acid, and are using more interesting, natural ingredients." Think milk thistle seed oil (as found in Wabi-Sabi Botanicals' Blemish Smoothing Serum), sulfur and azelaic acid (found in the INNBEAUTY Project Pimple Paste), or zinc oxide (à la Rosen Skincare's Break-Out spot treatment).


Clay Masks 2.0

You no longer have to use moisture-sucking clay masks to detoxify your pores, because there's a new generation of clay-based treatments with more restorative ingredients to balance them out. "This is the year of the clay mask 2.0," says Connelly. "There have been tons of products coming out in this category. They're not just about drying out your face, but are packed with nourishing ingredients that help your breakouts." She credits face mask-induced breakouts (aka maskne) as the reason behind the surge, since clay works to unclog pores and aids in treating acne. Look for formulas that also contain hydrating ingredients, like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera. Kinship's Mint Mud, for example, has both kaolin and bentonite clays, along with glycerin and aloe leaf juice, to expunge dirt from your pores while leaving skin soft and smooth — not dry and caked with clay. For best results, try it once or twice a week.


Skin Barrier-Supportive Ingredients

Gentle skin care is an overall beauty theme of 2021, and it's all about supporting your skin barrier — aka the outer layer of your complexion that keeps your natural microbiome healthy, balanced, and protected. "People are still talking about achieving a glow, but it's the kind that comes from nourishing ingredients versus stripping the skin with harsh acids and tons of exfoliation," says Connelly. "People are looking to give their skin extra moisture and care."

It's a trend Glow Recipe founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang describe as skin immunity: "We'll now start to see a more proactive and soothing-based approach, which is vital to keep your skin barrier strong so it protects you from environmental aggressors," they tell Bustle. Their prediction? Ceramides in particular will become a "headliner for their ability to fortify and replenish the skin." Seiso JBeauty's Pure Ceramide Concentrate uses ceramides as its star ingredient, along with squalane for hydration and omega and antioxidant-rich meadowfoam seed oil, all of which replenish your skin's barrier and soothe inflammation. Ceramides are like a nutritional supplement: Feed your complexion with them daily (a.m. and p.m.) for ultimate health.


Cold Therapy

Dunking your skin into freezing water — known as an ice facial — isn't a new beauty hack, but spring is bringing a new iteration of the trend. "I see skin icing progressing into professional treatments as skin care clinics open," says Candace Marino, a Los Angeles-based facialist. "Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation in the skin, and you leave with a lifted, glowing, and hydrated complexion." Snag an ice roller and use as often as needed to soothe skin (it's typically rolled over the face for a few minutes in the morning, à la jade rollers) to reap those cryotherapy-like benefits from home.



According to Chang and Lee, niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) is becoming one of the year's buzziest beauty ingredients. "It's a time-tested powerhouse ingredient that does it all," says Chang. "It helps to treat hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and texture, it helps to refine pores, it helps to smooth skin, hydrate skin, and also it's great for inflamed skin, which we're all experiencing now especially with COVID and wearing masks." So it's basically the Swiss Army knife of skin care ingredients — and despite doing so much, it's easily tolerated.

You can find niacinamide in a range of products, like these Glow Recipe Dew Drops, which you can dab on in the a.m. before moisturizing for long-lasting hydration, as a primer before makeup, or as the last step of your skin care routine for some subtle radiance. Since the ingredient is so soothing, it plays well with other ingredients... so it'll fit right in with the rest of your beauty routine.


The Rise Of Poly-Hydroxy Acids

Another must-know beauty ingredient? Poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs), a skin brightener that both Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Dr. Whitney Bowe, MD — two New York City-based dermatologists — believe will become increasingly popular in the exfoliant category. “People have started to realize that manual exfoliation, like with face scrubs, are actually damaging to the skin barrier,” Bowe tells Bustle. “They’re also becoming more savvy when reaching for chemical exfoliants. But we’re seeing so much more sensitive skin, especially with mask wearing, so poly-hydroxy acids are a very gentle option.”

Her take? If you want to take your exfoliation game to the next level without irritating your skin, reach for a PHA-based product to incorporate several days a week (in either a toner, mask, or cleanser).


New Generation Of Hand Treatments

Zeichner is also seeing a rise in better-for-your-skin hand products. That’s because, thanks to COVID, everyone’s been constantly washing and sanitizing their hands — which is wreaking havoc on your skin. “This is really damaging to the skin microbiome and the skin barrier,” says Bowe, who says it’s important to moisturize your hands immediately after washing to restore hydration. She also notes hand creams can contain fragrances, which can make your skin drier over time.

Enter: a rise of gentle formulations that soothe and repair your hands. Bowe says to look for soothing ingredients that restore your barrier — that includes ceramides, shea butter, glycerin, and fatty acids.


Skin-ification Of Body Care

Lee, Chang, and Bowe also believe the body care movement isn’t slowing down — aka the rise in people taking care of the skin below their neck just as much as they take care of that on their face. “Ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids for gentle exfoliation and hyaluronic acid to soothe and moisturize are just as welcomed and appreciated on all areas of our body just as they are on our faces,” says Lee.

Brands have been taking note. Bowe tells Bustle she’s seen more beauty companies that had traditionally made products for the face now entering the body care category (like Drunk Elephant and True Botanicals), which means it’s time to carve out space in your shelfie for these skin-nourishing essentials.

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