The '90s are making a comeback—and these 8 beauty trends prove it
Embrace these blasts from the past with a new edge feel.
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Many of your favorite 1990s singers, actresses, and pop stars performed on stage and walked red carpets making bold statements with their hair and makeup (we saw you, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the members of Destiny’s Child). From over-tweezed eyebrows—which should never come back in style—to butterfly hair clips, glittery eyeshadow, and bold lips, the ‘90s were a defining time for the beauty industry as we know it. Exhibit A: If you love the look of a bold brown or deep nude lipstick paired with little face makeup, you can thank supermodel Naomi Campbell for that.
Everything old is new again, as many of our favorite makeup looks today are renditions of these three-decades-old trends. While these beauty fads and many more have morphed and evolved with the times, we’ve compiled a few of the most iconic '90s makeup looks that are making a comeback—and how you can make it work for 2021.
1. Overlined lips for a full-bodied pout
One of the most iconic makeup looks among celebrities of the 1990s was dark brown lip liner paired with a nude lip gloss or lipstick. It’s no secret that lining the perimeter of the lips with a color darker than your lips' natural shade makes them appear bigger and fuller, especially when sculpting around the cupid’s bow (the V-shape at the center of the upper lip). This lip look has been adopted on runways, TV shows, and by some of the most popular entertainers and social media influencers of today, like Kim Kardashian and Meg Thee Stallion.
You can achieve this look with the Sephora Collection Retractable Rouge Gel Lip Liner, which boasts a creamy gel formula that makes the pigment glide right on. For a subtler statement, choose from a pink that's only a shade or two darker than your natural lip color, or go bolder with a dark brown.
2. Brown lipstick for the ultimate neutral look
Brown and burgundy lipsticks took the beauty world by storm decades back. Supermodels like Naomi Campbell graced runways wearing her signature look—a neutral makeup look and bold brown lipstick. Achieving this look is a snap with Mented Cosmetics', as the brand specializes in nude lipsticks that complement all skin tones. Available in both semi-matte and matte formulas, there's a range of chocolate browns and rich burgundy colors to choose from for your perfect hue.
3. Thick black eyeliner for a touch of grunge
Black eyeliner has been a staple of makeup since ancient Egypt, and it's the key to dramatic winged eyeliner, smokey eyes, blacked-out lower lash lines—and the ‘90s grunge, eyeliner-rimmed eyes. The look consists of ultra-dark eyeliner applied to the rim of the lower lids—the heavier, the gothier. To tone it down for today, apply black eyeliner just to the lash lines (as close to the lashes as possible) to create a bold eye look that gives the illusion you’re wearing more makeup than you are.
The Sephora Collection pencil eyeliner makes recreating this look easy. The product comes in two black eyeliner options—a solid black or one with silver glitter in it for an extra flare. The rich pigment claims to go on smooth and last for up to 12 hours without fading or running.
4. Frosted eyeshadows and lipsticks for a monochromatic moment
Frosted eyes also stepped on the scene at this time, though the look harkens back to the disco days of the 1970s. They consisted of iridescent or chrome eyeshadows or loose crystal-like eyeshadow pigments that you tap all over the lids. In the '90s, people matched their lips to their eyes to create a monochromatic look by finding a complementary lip shade or layering the frosted eyeshadow on top of a nude lipstick or gloss.
Morphe has a great selection of frosted and chrome eyeshadow palettes that offer a wide range of colors that’ll match any outfit. The 35S Sweet Oasis Artistry palette claims to bring rich pigment, and each frosted glitter shade has a matching matte shade that you can use all over the lid as a base to help the color stand out more beneath the glitter. Don't forget to apply a frosted shade onto your lips for a matchy-matchy look.
5. Spidery lashes for an eye-catching look
Spider lashes (i.e., mascara overload) were all the rage in the last decade of the last century, with glamazons packing on layers of mascara to intentionally clump and elongate their lashes. Singers like Madonna graced stages and red carpets rocking this tarantula-lash look. These days, there are numerous mascara’s that lift, fluff, and spread the lashes for the ultra-lengthened look with just one or two coats. You can even skip mascara and opt for glue-on or magnetic lashes to achieve the look.
After testing the best mascaras, we crowned the Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara the winner because it gives length, volume, and curl with a clump-free application. For false lash lovers, Lola’s Lashes Rose Quartz Magnetic Eyelashes and Eyeliner Kit is a quick and easy way to achieve dramatic lashes by applying one swipe of the magnetic eyeliner and popping the fringed magnetic strips on top.
- Get Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara for $24
- Get Lola’s Lashes Rose Quartz Magnetic Eyelashes and Eyeliner Kit for $50
6. Glittery eye makeup for youthful pop
Glitter was a staple in the late ’90s as many teens, tweens, and pop stars sparkled from head to toe with the shimmery stuff. Taking the “twinkle in your eye” statement to another level, glitter eyeshadows were a frequent accessory to belly shirts, mom jeans, and tiny sunglasses.
Of course, glitter has never gone out of style, which means you can find light-flecked palettes lining the shelves almost anywhere. Not sure where to start? The Sephora Collection offers dozens of single glitter, shimmer, and metallic eyeshadows ranging from silvers to golds to hot pinks. Choose your favorite color and tap it all over the lid for a dramatic but fun gleam on the eyes.
7. Playful baby hairs for framing the face
Swoops, swirls, and spirals—perfectly sculpted baby hairs are not only an art craft but a super-cute trend we can thank the '90s for. Baby hair, a.k.a. “edges,” are the shorter hairs on the perimeter of your forehead—not to be mistaken for sideburns. Singer Chili from the mega-girl group TLC always had her baby hair neatly swirled around the perimeter of her face, making for a cute accent to an updo that played into her makeup look. Today, many influencers and TikTok creators share posts and tutorials for shaping their baby hairs as the finishing touch for styles like buns, ponytails, and halo braids.
To achieve this look, it’s important to have a good edge-control product that will slick the hair down and lock it in place, as well as a small enough hair brush to create the perfect swoop. Style Factor Edge Booster's consistency goes on like a gel but dries to keep the hair in place like a holding spray. Camryn's BFF Gentle Edges Brush comes in cute colors with bristles that are soft and flexible to help create those swirls.
- Get the Style Factor Edge Booster Extra on Amazon starting at $9.99
- Camryn's BFF Gentle Edges Brush on Amazon for $1.69
8. A French manicure for sophisticated nail art
French tips were the quintessential nail style of the ’90s. If you're not familiar with the classic, it consists of a pink or nude base all over the nail and a white crescent tip on the end. It's a simple design that gives off a sophisticated vibe by enhancing the natural look of the nails. The french-tip manicure is alive and well in the world of nail artistry today, with some opting for the classic version and others jazzing it up with bright colors or designs (like animal print or polka dots) in lieu of the white crescent tip. This is one nail style that will keep evolving as time goes on.
If you want to skip the salon, Kiss Nails allows you to get in on this trend at home with its french-tip nail kits that come in a variety of lengths and finishes. Each set includes a nail file, cuticle pusher, alcohol pad, nails, and nail glue to prep the skin and nails before you press each artificial nail on.
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