Micro-Trends Culture: Mapped

It is safe to say that TikTok has taken the world by storm in many ways since it was thrust into the limelight as the perfect way to ease lockdown boredom during the global pandemic – most notably with its ability to promote trends and ‘micro-trends’. From ‘skin slugging’ (applying large amounts of heavy moisturiser to your face) and heatless curls, to ‘jalapeno rose’ and ‘the penny challenge’ (don’t ask), micro-trends are viral crazes that rise to popularity faster than the typical trend, and often fall out of fashion just as quickly. 

Micro-trends tend to gain momentum via social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, as different influencers and public figures hop on the trending bandwagons to boost their engagements and appeal to as many online audiences as possible, through strategically placed hashtags. 

But with so many to choose from, which micro-trends have made the most drastic impact? And why?

Our trend experts here at Wethrift have crunched the numbers on micro-trends that focus on beauty, fashion, and online interiors, to see which come out on top. 

We’ve also broken down the fads that were more influential in America than they were in the UK – and looked at the reasons why. Finally, we’ve revealed the trends set to be taking our TikTok ‘For You Pages’ by storms throughout summer 2023 – so we can all get a headstart.

Revealing the Most Influential Online Beauty Trends

Revealing the Most Influential Online Beauty Trends

Beauty trends seem to shift on an almost daily basis, with what is seen as ‘desirable’ or ‘aesthetically pleasing’ changing dramatically – before many have even had a chance to try it for themselves. 

For example, picture the scene: it is 2016, and the Anastasia Beverly Hills ‘Modern Renaissance’ palette is at the top of your wish list. You have just watched a YouTube video on how to achieve the perfect smokey eye. Your eyebrows are totally filled in, complete with concealer beneath to make them pop. You are bang-on-trend. 

Fast-forward seven years and the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic is blowing up your TikTok timeline, featuring slicked-back hair, a touch of lip balm, and a ‘barely there’ feel. 

Beauty trends are changing rapidly with the power of social media. Now our data has revealed that ‘siren eyes’ are the number one beauty trend online at the moment, after analysing Google Search Volume, TikTok views and Instagram hashtags. This allowed us to give each trend a score out of 40, with siren eyes receiving 28.6/40

The siren eyes trend refers to elongating the eye with liner, creating a ‘cat eye’ aesthetic. The makeup can often be seen merging with the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic, by adding a pop of sultry drama to any look. 

In second place was ‘skin cycling’, which involves allowing your skin to breathe without any products on it for a few days, in between your usual skincare routine. Skin cycling racked up an impressive 1200% search volume increase, as well as 3.5 billion TikTok views and 17,128 Instagram hashtags

Overall, skin cycling achieved a respectable 28.5/40, which could, once again, link back to the extremely popular notion of being fresh-faced and natural-looking, rather than wearing heavy makeup. The pandemic almost certainly had an influence on the ‘less is more’ aesthetic, as a recent article highlighted that over lockdown, people stopped bothering with rigorous makeup routines. 

In third place was ‘glazed donut nails’, receiving a boost of 2500% in search volume. Muted and subtle, this trend refers to a minimalistic manicure that adds a sheer, pearlescent touch to the nails. Model Hailey Bieber had a huge part to play in encouraging the craze, as she debuted her own glazed manicure on her Instagram story – showcasing the power celebrities have over the popularity of a beauty trend. The nail craze has received 229 million TikTok views, and a whopping 39,709 Instagram hashtags

With so many factors driving the success of these micro-trends – influencers, social media, even friends and family – it can be easy to feel like you’re getting left behind. However, it is important to remember that no matter what is currently seen as ‘trendy’, your personal preference and individual sense of style will always be more important. 

The Most Influential Online Fashion Trends Revealed

The Most Influential Online Fashion Trends Revealed

Next up, we delved into the online fashion trends that are causing a stir right now – and it will come as no surprise that the number one craze at the moment is the ‘Y2K’ movement. The trend received a 57% increase in search volume, as well as 4.4 billion TikTok views and 5,001,179 Instagram hashtags – allowing it to score 34.6/40 for overall popularity. 

Y2K fashion refers to the clothes worn in the 2000s – think low-rise jeans, asymmetric dresses, tie-up tops, and much more. Another trend that has gained momentum through TikTok, but has also more recently been embraced by high street clothing giants such as SHEIN, Ragged Priest and Urban Outfitters

Despite its popularity, the Y2K comeback has caused some controversy – mainly due to its association with low-rise jeans and toxic body standards. Many TikTokkers took to the platform to voice their concerns about the possible return of this negative ideology, as it is mainly younger, more impressionable people hopping onto the trend. This suggests that despite micro-trends amassing rapid popularity, there is almost no time to look into their damaging, or in some cases dangerous, aspects. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the resurgence of baggy jeans, which landed in second place with an overall score of 32.2/40. The trend has received a 113% rise in Google Search Volume, along with an impressive 1.2 billion TikTok views and 319,303 Instagram hashtags. Despite baggy jeans being a separate micro-trend, they also overlap with Y2K fashion, as they were very popular during the era. 

In third place was ‘lace’, with an overall popularity score of 32/40. Achieving 4.4 million  TikTok views and 12,977,246 Instagram hashtags, this micro-trend encourages flowing skirts, sheer tops and a delicate, romantic aesthetic. Once again, lace is another element that was popular in the late 90s to the 2000s, highlighting how larger, more all-encompassing trends can break down into individual micro-trends.

Revealing the Most Influential Online Interior Trends

Revealing the Most Influential Online Interior Trends

After dissecting the trends that can be worn, we turned our attention to interior micro-trends. TikTok and other social media platforms like Pinterest are full of home inspiration pages, each one dedicated to a different aesthetic – from cottagecore, to dark academia, to cluttercore. 

Reigning supreme in first place is cottagecore, receiving 154,000 global Google searches and 28.8/40 overall. As well as this, cottagecore achieved 8.6 billion TikTok views and 4,576,693 Instagram hashtags. Cottagecore allows people to celebrate a rural look that wouldn’t seem out of place in the countryside, usually involving floral prints, lace, ruffles and frills. 

During the multiple lockdowns throughout the pandemic, it was no secret that people started to embrace a simpler way of life. People were reading outdoors, going on walks, baking banana bread, and generally enjoying a taste of how things could be without the pressure to always be out or engaging in a social activity with others. Cottagecore encompasses this mindset, promoting slow living and romanticising every moment of the day. 

In second place, with 28/40 overall, was something very different – surrealism, racking up 194,000 when it came to Google search volume figures. As well as this, surrealist interiors snagged 815 million TikTok views and 8,933,835 Instagram hashtags

In the same way that individuals began to embrace cottagecore during lockdown, the same could be said about surrealist interiors. With many continuing to work from home following the pandemic, lots of individuals are paying far more attention to their homes than they did before – transforming them into true sanctuaries of escapism. After all, what allows you to escape everyday life more than surrealism? 

In third place was limewash paint (23.3/40), which refers to applying a mineral prep coat to your wall, before using soft brush strokes to create a cloud-like aesthetic. Going hand-in-hand with the minimalistic interior trends circulating TikTok, the paint style offers depth and dimension, without having to compromise your simplistic preferences. 

It is a very traditional style of painting that dates back to the Romans, which was done using mud and water – almost offering a concrete-like finish. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian gaining traction for their grey, extremely minimalistic interiors – as well as her concrete home collection launched back in 2022 – it is no surprise that people are opting for this trend.

Which trends were the most popular in the UK vs the US?

Which trends were the most popular in the UK vs the US?

After further data analysis, the team were able to determine that our micro-trend preferences are quite similar to those of our overseas counterparts. We took to Pinterest to work out the most popular crazes in the UK right now, and taking the top spot was the ‘butterfly haircut’ with 26.9/40. This haircut refers to feathery layers that add dimension and volume to the hair – a style very popular in the early 2000s. 

As the UK shows no sign of letting go of its fixation with the 90s and early 2000s culture, this is unsurprising. In the US, the butterfly haircut was also number one on the list, receiving a score of 27.6/40. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez have debuted their versions of the hairstyle, but the main supporter of the trend, since day one, is arguably Pamela Anderson – who showed she remains loyal to the 90s haircut during her 2023 Netflix documentary Pamela, a love story

In the UK, ‘micro bangs’ were in second place with 24.1/40. As the name suggests, this hairstyle involves a very short fringe, which was popularised in the early 1950s. Hollywood actress Zoë Kravitz took the world by storm when she revealed her baby bangs in 2022, and the trend has shown no sign of slowing down, with TikTokkers everywhere hopping on the bandwagon. 

Over lockdown, it was revealed that a multitude of Brits were saving money by cutting their own hair – and with baby bangs being relatively easy to create at home, it isn’t shocking to see so many people attempting the style. 90s grunge makeup received 22.5/40 for popularity in the UK, while ‘cold makeup’ racked up 21.3/40 in the US. 
‘Cold girl’ makeup involves creating the illusion of being chilly with excessive blush, which couldn’t be further away from the thick eyeliner and dark lips required to achieve 90s grunge. Despite this, cold makeup achieved 20.7/40 – coming 9th – when it came to UK micro-trends, along with glazed donut nails, maxi skirts, and Y2K also appearing on both lists. This highlights that there are lots of trend crossovers between the UK and the US.

A 2023 Summer Trend Forecast

A 2023 Summer Trend Forecast

Finally, we asked our experts to weigh in on the trends that are going to be huge for summer 2023. Nick Drewe, trend expert at WeThrift, offered insight into the matter:

“After scouring the internet for micro-trends, we were able to reveal that the craze set to be a force to be reckoned with is ‘notox’, which had a 7600% increase in search volume. Notox refers to products that can offer the illusion of botox, without the invasive needle treatment. 

“Usually used as an umbrella term, the trend includes silicone patches that coat your skin with hyaluronic acid, as well as creams, lotions and even electric masks that are said to minimise the look of wrinkles. This trend fits perfectly with the ‘clean’ girl, minimal makeup movement that is all over social media, as people move towards more natural skincare remedies. 

“This trend also comes just in time for summer, where many people like to let their skin breathe without any heavy foundation to get sticky in the heat. As lots of people will be attending music festivals or jetting off abroad, having the option of notox will allow them to feel confident and glowy, without their pore being clogged. Notox would also make it easier to re-apply sunscreen, as having it on under foundation means it can only be applied to the face once a day.

“Next up was graphic eyeliner, which received a 6800% boost in search volume. Graphic eyeliner is a great way to add an edgy infusion to your aesthetic, without looking over the top. Celebrities such as Doja Cat and Gigi Hadid have been all over Instagram sporting dewy skin and dramatic eyes during recent events, so it is no wonder that people are excited to replicate the aesthetic. As well as this, graphic eyeliner is a great way to make yourself stand out at raves and festivals throughout the summer, as it can easily be paired with lighter makeup or even bare skin. 

“With a jump of 1600% in search volume, ‘Barbiecore’ is another trend causing a global stir. Focusing on bright pinks, glittery fabrics and doll-like accessories, the upcoming Greta Gerwig ‘Barbie’ movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has inspired millions to embrace their more whimsical side – and we do not expect this to stop once the movie has been released. 

Budget beauty (6000% increase) and modest fashion (3500% increase) are another two micro-trends gaining rapid popularity – which is unsurprising, as bills continue to skyrocket and people across the world are having to make cutbacks where they can. Not spending extortionate amounts of money on makeup would also leave more disposable funds available to spend on a much-needed holiday or summer trips with friends or family. 

“When it comes to modest fashion, American model Sophia Richie has caused quite the divide on social media – with many pointing out that her ‘modest’ wardrobe is, ironically, worth millions of dollars. Despite this, we expect to see this subtle style of dressing continue throughout 2023, with figure-hugging midi dresses and understated accessories a must. Midi dresses are always hugely popular as the warmer months begin to creep in, as they are light, airy and flowy, but can also be dressed up for more formal events.”
Methodology: Taking a seedlist of the most popular online trends across the beauty, fashion, and interior sectors, the team at Wethrift analysed Google search data Google Trends data, TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest data to determine which are the most impactful.