Welcome to the post-pandemic future

As we take (gentle) steps towards the future, leading trend forecaster Lucie Greene offers us a peek into the new worlds of beauty, wellness and health
Photography: Drest, Elever, Filip Baotic/Unsplash, Getty Images, Imaxtree, Ines Alpha (@ines.alpha), Peloton, Shutterstock

While lockdown has dramatically changed the way we live, we’ve been inventive in coming up with new ways to find our feel-good. So what does the post-pandemic future hold for us? Spoiler alert: there’s loads to look forward to.

The new world of beauty

This year, the digital space became our new reality: our pub, nightclub and office. It looks set to remain the norm, as many companies instigate long-term, work-from-home (WFH) policies for staff. Which is probably why virtual make-up is gathering steam. Ines Alpha (whose clients include Dior, Selfridges and Nike) is just one of a rising number of ‘augmented-reality artists’. Not only did she create the first ever augmented-reality make-up filter for Dior in December, she’s also working on what she calls ‘3D make-up’ for Instagram: shareable, animated filters that are beauty-meets-fantasy (think turquoise sea-creature-esque looks and robot-like face masks). The more creative, the better!

Beauty and fashion gaming is on the rise, too. With Drest, an app from a UK-based startup aimed at style-conscious women, players dress avatars in designer fashion from top brands such as Gucci, Burberry and Stella McCartney. They can then buy the actual clothes on e-commerce platform Farfetch. And it recently added digital make-up looks to the styling options.

Meanwhile, beauty tech is becoming ever more inventive. London-based design studio Seymour Powell has created Elever, an intelligent hand-held mirror that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help us do our make-up. The idea is that you download a photo of someone whose look you want to create, then 3D ‘print’ it on to your face with a cosmetic spray that replicates all the shades and contouring. In the future, the company says, Elever will allow users to scan any image of their favourite celeb make-up look and instantly recreate it.

L’Oréal’s new Perso prototype offers another glimpse into the future. Unveiled earlier this year, the device uses photo recognition and AI to scan and analyse a user’s skin, which gives you a bespoke make-up or skincare product on the spot! It’s the latest from L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, which has already launched wearable sensors (sold in Apple stores) that tell users when to apply SPF by reading the sun’s rays. It points to a future where make-up and skincare are highly personalised – and hurrah for that!

post-covid, new world, new normal

The new world of wellness

Cocooning – a term coined by legendary trend forecaster Faith Popcorn in the 1980s – has made a comeback, as we’ve turned our homes into sanctuaries to shield us from illness/bad news. But it also marks a subtle shift in how we think about wellness. Where we once focused on things such as Instagram-worthy yoga poses and picture-perfect plates of healthy food, we’re now all about comfort, self-preservation and wellness for ourselves.

It’s a trend set to continue, which makes sense if more of us will be WFH. For starters, meet the new sibling to athleisure – ‘sloungewear’ (sleep + loungewear, geddit?). Off Hours, a brand recently created by New York-based designer Rebecca Zhou, describes itself as ‘inactive wear’ and is aimed at people who want to relax, not run marathons. (Its signature piece, the ‘homecoat’, is a snuggly duvet-meets-bathrobe.) Other hip new labels are following suit, including Dutch designer Danielle Cathari, New York-based No Plans and California brand Lunya.

You may have read about the rise in sales of sex toys during lockdown, but other self-care products, such as room fresheners, are booming too, as we seek to add Zen to our homes. And this cocooning approach will soon include interiors. Health guru Deepak Chopra, and major property companies, such as US-based Related, have been investing in ‘wellness’ developments that use non-toxic materials, smart technology and state-of-the-art air filtration systems, as well as tailored lighting schemes (to help you sleep better, for example). Expect more of this post-Covid-19, as we continue to focus on making our homes tranquil havens.

There’s also a wave of innovative, sophisticated devices heading our way to help our wellbeing and mental health. With an overload of screen time continuing to be an issue for the foreseeable future, startups such as Umay are developing thermal therapy. These are heated face masks that help users unwind from a day of screen time with warm, gentle pulses. Meanwhile, US virtual-reality company Neon has been developing a VR experience app called BreatheVR, which takes users through an animated wild-flower field, encouraging them to breathe deeply to help soothe worries.

The new world of health

The pandemic saw a plethora of new devices and tools to help us stay well at home – and many are here to stay. Video doctors’ appointments – once a novelty – are actually a really convenient way to deal with less urgent complaints. As the UK saw a big surge in the use of ‘telemedicine’ platforms during the health crisis, expect phone and/or Zoom GP consultations to become the norm for everyday health issues.

Social media platforms have also become portals through which we can all access A-list ‘fitspertise’. These include Joe Wicks and his morning workout classes, which turned him into a national treasure, and LA-based choreographer Ryan Heffington, who hosts live, interactive dance parties to a global following on Instagram Live (Kate Hudson, Pink and Reese Witherspoon are fans). It has also given rise to the return of fitness TV as a genre (ITV even dusted off the beloved ‘Mr Motivator’), so expect an explosion of fitness shows on Netflix.

But let’s not forget cool, new gadgets, coming soon to your home, including the Lululemon-backed Mirror. This fitness device uses clever holographic tutors to coach you through yoga routines, kettlebell workouts, meditation and more. It has a staggering 10,000 classes, and measures your activity and actions as you move.

Missing the motivational shouting of your 20-something spin teacher? As gyms were among the last places to reopen, Peloton, the ultra-luxurious spin-bike brand, saw a surge in popularity: its membership package means you can take virtual spin classes live on a connected screen, from anywhere. Of course, at just under £2k, these sleek devices aren’t purse-friendly, but their USP is the flexibility and limitless options they offer. Not to mention the luxury of crossing the finishing line, red-faced, in the privacy of your own home! As concerns about hygiene linger, hopefully prices will drop, so they can become more of a fixture on our gifting wish lists.

The future is, literally, fantastic…

More from the future…

Victory Gardens: aka the vegetable, fruit and herb gardens common during World War II as a way to supplement rations – are seeing a revival, as more of us embrace sustainability and closed-loop living.

Gap-year comeback: the switch to online learning is prompting a surge in ‘pandemic’ gap years. And as WFH also becomes more prevalent in the wake of the pandemic, it’s likely that nomadic work/life scenarios will also become more popular.

Eyeshadow index: with face coverings mandatory in many places throughout the UK (visit gov.uk for details), there have been reports of a surge in eye make-up and fake lashes sales. Our peepers will need to stand out if they’re our most visible feature!

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