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December 30, 2019

The 2009 vs. 2019 Glow-up: A Look Back at a Decade in Skincare

From caked-on to cushion compacts, high pH to hyaluronic acid, what a difference a decade in skincare makes.


As the end of the decade comes to a close, you’ll find an endless parade of “2009 vs. 2019” selfies as you scroll through Facebook and Instagram. More so than any other decade — especially since social media has become a thing — I’m seeing a huge amount of insane glow-ups, and they’re not just the result of clever filters. No, people are out here absolutely glowing, no digital enhancements necessary.




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Why is that? You and I already know — it’s thanks to the global skincare movement. Popularized by K-beauty and initially seen as a passing fad to some, the in-depth, multi-step skincare routine has proven itself to be much more than just some marketing B.S. It’s now the new norm. Reflecting back on 2009-me, sure I was younger and thinner and a lot less stressed, but it has to be said, 2019-me has skin that is #blessed.



We’ve gone through a tremendous shift in how we care for our skin, and by “we” I don’t just mean us hardcore skin enthusiasts. Skincare is everywhere! Who amongst us doesn’t have at least some kind of routine? Riding the train home from work the other day, I overheard a group of university students discussing their “10 steps.” What struck me about this group was their mixed genders, races, and styles. It’s like the unifying glue to their friendship in that moment was bonding over the benefits of various acids, lotions, and potions. Trust me, it took all I had not to jump in and join like an uninvited weirdo, but decorum won out that day. But I did sit and listen for nearly an hour as the conversation went on, and they never once ran out of steam: Skin experiences were shared, invitations to inspect pores up close were made, and favorite brands were declared.


decade in skincare
istock/Holubenko Nataliia


It made me think about the state of skincare 10 years ago. Think about where most of us were. I was just getting the seeds of K-beauty planted in my brain, and little tendrils were starting to grow. They hadn’t quite taken root, but it was starting. Horrifyingly, my skincare then consisted of SpectraGel, homemade face scrub with sugar, whatever sh—tty lotion was on sale, and benzoyl peroxide or Clean & Clear for whatever awful cystic acne was going to crop up on my chin that month (thanks entirely to said pathetic skincare, if you can even call it that). What followed was a journey that most of us started on together about six-ish years ago, and what blossomed from that was nothing short of amazing.


Over the past decade, we’ve all learned so many new concepts that are now just common knowledge. Imagine going back and asking 2009-you what the pH of your cleanser was — what would you have said? You’d probably have given one of these:


decade in skincare


I can’t even imagine the look we’d give back then if asked what acids we’re currently on. Or even just being told that in a few years time, we’d be using two cleansers, one right after the other. What an alien concept to our little 2009 version, and now look at us: double cleansing like champs with the cleanest yet completely unstripped and juicy skin possible. We’ve quickly learned, through trial and error, what works best for us and just how great our skin can actually look.


In 2009, it was all about heavy-duty foundations and concealers; now we don’t even really need them. Heavy foundations are a thing of the past and have fallen out of favor — we how have light BB creams, CC creams, or even nothing at all. Skin is at the forefront, makeup is just for fun. Now it’s all about antioxidants, chemical exfoliants, water retaining molecules, layers of light hydration, and an unbelievably plump and dewy luster. Now, no one’s perfect, we all still have various imperfections, but you can’t say we aren’t currently the best that we can be, skincare-wise. And it’s not just us, the dedicated few; it’s now part of a global movement, and I don’t see that changing ever again. Once improvements and collective knowledge such as this make the leap to mainstream, there’s no going back.



decade in skincare



What I think is most beautiful about not just the popularization of the multi-step routine but the sheer normality of it, is how this act of skin health is now at the forefront. We’re taking care of our skin the way it deserves, we’re on the lookout for abnormalities and things like skin cancer and actively working hard to prevent them. Skincare is no longer seen as some narcissistic self-indulgence; we’re seeing it as we should have all along, as self-care.


As we move into this new decade, take care of you, keep taking care of your skin, and may we never fall victim to the dark days of pH 12 cleansers again. Long live skincare, long live self-care.


So what do you think about the last decade in skincare? What does your 2009 vs. 2019 skincare glow-up look like?



Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."