The ’90s brought us many great things: text messaging, Tamagotchis, and Drew Barrymore. Okay, Drew Barrymore had been around a bit before then, but the ’90s were when she really came into her own for her beauty looks, along with J.Lo, Brandy, and Cameron Diaz.
This special class of starlets brought us ‘90s makeup trends such as brown lipstick, blue eye shadow, and supersexy tightliner — and we’re thrilled to see their style trending again in 2023, on TikTok, where trends are born — er, reborn. Of course, not every ’90s look has stood the test of time. Permanent thin eyebrows were, in retrospect, not a great idea. But many of our favorite trends from the decade can be updated to make them a little more doable and modern. Thin eyebrows can be faked with concealer, for example, and blue eye shadow can be subtle, and matte foundation doesn’t have to feel caked on to look flawless.
To find ways to make our favorite ’90s trends work today, we ask the experts what they expect to have a second life in 2023 and beyond — and how they recommend pulling off these looks.
Meet the experts
Frosted Eye Shadows
If the ’90s had a color palette, it was iridescent lilacs and frosted silver. (You remember the explosion of icy lavender in Claire’s and Limited Too, don’t you?) “I love seeing frosted hues making a return,” says makeup artist Sara Wren, who notes that frosted makeup in 2023 is a little more curated and less about covering every surface. “I like it paired with dewy skin and clear gloss,” she says. “This makes bright, reflective pinks, lilacs, and blues seem more fun and effortless than harsh or stark against the rest of the makeup.”
Milk Makeup Color Chalk Multi-Use Powder Pigment
Wren recommends using this powdery multi-stick as a light, allover color wash on your lids. Lilac Taupe is the perfect ’90s cool-girl shade. (You can also swipe it on your hair if you want to amp up the frosted look more.)
If a red lip is a Ferrari, then a brown lip is an Aston Martin — dependable yet sexy enough for a Bond girl. (In fact, we saw ’90s Bond girl Denise Richards wear a sultry brown lip back in the day.) Of course, “brown” is a very broad descriptor. “Your best bet is to go into the store to try on different lipsticks in the brown-tone category,” says makeup artist Nikki DeRoest. “Some have more red in them, some have more rose, and some are straight brown.” After you find a shade that plays nicely with your skin tone, DeRoest recommends lining the lips with a matching pencil. Place the lipstick at the center of your lips and blur it outward.
Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color
$32.00, Ulta Beauty
For a true ’90s brown lip, try this creamy lipstick in Cocoa for lighter skin tones and Dark Chocolate for deeper tones.
Sultry Black Tightliner
Millennials will vividly remember nearly jabbing themselves in the eye in the pursuit of a clean sliver of black tightliner. The super close line defines the eyes, and the longer you wear it, the more it settles into the roots of your lashes, creating a smudgy, Britney-Spears-circa-Blackout effect. “That’s the beauty of ’90s makeup,” says makeup artist Katie Mellinger. “It isn’t supposed to be perfect.”
Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner
Mellinger recommends lining the top and bottom water lines with Chanel Stylo Yeux in Noir Intense and blending it out a bit with a smudge brush, if you don’t want to wait for it to melt into the lashes.
Dark lip liner with lighter-tone lipstick was born out of necessity. In the ’80s, makeup brands weren’t making lip liners that looked neutral on melanin-rich skin tones, so Black and Latina women turned to darker brow and eye pencils to define their pouts.
By the time the ’90s rolled around, the look was a certifiable trend, spotted on Naomi Campbell and Mary J. Blige, among many others. To bring the look into 2023, makeup artist Nick Lujan recommends starting with a liner two or three shades deeper than your natural lip color and blending your lines toward the center of the mouth. “Then use a lighter shade of lipstick or lip gloss to add more dimension to the center of the lips,” he says.
Nyx Professional Makeup Suede Matte Lip Liner
Nyx’s neutral lip liners range from beige to dark brown and glide beautifully with minimal tug.
MAC Matte Lipstick
$22.00, Ulta Beauty
MAC lipsticks were inescapable in the ’90s, so it seems fitting that you’d pick your perfect ’90s neutral from their enviable range of neutrals.
Allover Body Glitter
Our Caboodles were packed with body glitter options: gels, roll-on sticks, and loose shimmer we dabbed on with giant powder puffs (sometimes the powder was flavored, which, in retrospect, is just ugh). Mellinger credits HBO’s Euphoria with the resurgence of this trend, but honestly, a little glitter has never not been fun.
ColourPop Glitterally Obsessed Glitter Gel
Try a glitter balm like Colourpop’s Glittery Obsessed Glitter Gel for concentrated shine along the collarbone. We consulted our Magic 8 Ball from Spencer’s, and we think Colourpop’s Moon Prism Power and Ur a Firework are the colors you need.
Fenty Beauty Diamond Bomb All-Over Diamond Veil
$42.00, Ulta Beauty
If you prefer a subtle shimmer, this pressed compact will give you just a touch of shine on the shoulders and decolletage. Says Mellinger, “You can also mix a bit of loose glitter with a lotion or body oil to make your own color combo.”
Lacquered Lip Gloss
Blame it on Hailey Bieber — or our parched lips after years of matte lip products — but the juicy, shiny lips we coveted in the ’90s are back in 2023. “Lip gloss is super accessible,” says Mellinger. “It’s easy to apply, doesn’t require a lot of precision, and draws attention to your lips.”
Tower 28 Shine On Lip Jelly
This ultra-shiny lip gloss is a great way to incorporate a subtle touch of color, like a neutral peach or beige.
Rhode Peptide Lip Treatment
$16.00, Rhode Skin
If a thick coat of clear gloss is all you want, this Best of Beauty-winning, hydrating treatment gives your lips a healthy, pillowy look.
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Technically, the brow trend in the ’90s was to tweeze them into oblivion. We’ve evolved. But barely there brows are now a smash hit on TikTok, so how do we adopt this look without doing permanent damage? Bleached brows. Even better: fake bleached brows (because we want to be kind to our hair). “My favorite way to create a faux bleached brow is with some concealer and a blond brow gel,” says Wren. She starts by using a clean spoolie to coat the brows in the same shade of concealer used on the skin, allows it to dry, then follows with a tinted brow gel to add more dimension and hold.
Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow+ Tinted Volumizing Eyebrow Gel
$26.00, Ulta Beauty
The lightest color offered is Cool Light Blonde, but layered on top of a concealer of a similar hue, it should give you the bleach-blond look.
Peachy Pink Lips
If Cher Horowitz took a time machine from 1995 to 2023 and could only bring one thing with her, it would be a flirty pink lipstick. (You know, if Cher Horowitz was real… and if time machines were real.) “I love the warm, deep peach lipstick tones from the ’90s,” says makeup artist Tobi Henney. “I think it’s very wearable today and looks great on all skin tones.”
Armani Beauty Lip Power Satin Long Lasting Lipstick
Henney recommends this hydrating satin lipstick in multiple shades that suit the Clueless fantasy. We like Eccentrico for a warmer pink, or Desire if cool tones suit you better.
Grungy, Smoky Eye
Before there was tightliner, things were a lot messier (in a kick-ass, Courtney Love kind of way). “Grungy eyeliner was super popular in the ’90s,” says makeup artist Sasha Ghodstinat. These days, TikTokers apply eyeliner and then wash it off to get this incomparable I-stayed-up-all-night look. But we don’t recommend that method, especially when a kohl pencil and a smudge brush will do.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil
$25.00, Ulta Beauty
This pencil goes on thick and smudges out nicely before drying down to a waterproof finish.
Charlotte Tilbury Eye Smudger Brush
A densely packed brush with a small tip is perfect for smudging out ’90s-style eyeliner. Just be sure the brush is soft enough that you don’t irritate the delicate skin around your eyes. (And we know you’re not great about the brush-cleaning, but you’ll definitely want to keep this one clean.)
Blue Eye Shadow
Baby blue is a divisive color, but every once in a while, a pop princess comes along and lets us know that a new era of blue eye shadow is upon us. In the ’90s, it was Christina Aguilera. In 2023, Taylor Swift’s Midnights cover art has got us digging out our palettes once again.
Says makeup artist Dillon Pena, “Nineties eye makeup was matte powder blue or a pastel shimmer.” Pena recommends replicating the look now by blending blue shadow from the lash line just to the crease, finishing with a flick of eyeliner and volumizing mascara. This look is all about maximalism.
Trixie Cosmetics Nighttime Realness Mini Palette
$30.00, Trixie Cosmetics
A palette of blues will help you pinpoint your favorite hue or even play with a little shading and contouring. We love that this palette has multiple ’90s-style baby blues, including a few with shimmer.
“The monochromatic trend never really left,” says Lujan. Ask Victoria Beckham, who also never really stopped doing it (and her team of supermodels, with whom we assume she meets biweekly). There are good reasons this trend has stuck around: It’s simple and looks great on everyone. Explains Lujan, “The look is all about matching your makeup shades to each other. You don’t have to match all three — eyes, cheeks, lips — at the same time; you can choose to match just the eye and lip or the lip and cheek.” If this sounds like algebra to you, try Lujan’s easy hack: “Use a lipstick as a cream blush and as your lip color.”
Kevyn Aucoin Unforgettable Cream Lipstick
$30.00, Saks Fifth Avenue
These satin-finish lipsticks are just the right consistency to double up as a cream blush. Lujan recommends mixing the lip color with a little foundation before applying to the cheeks.
Velvety Matte Skin
There’s a difference between dehydrated skin and matte skin. Nineties-style matte skin done wrong will leave you looking chalky and parched. But when it’s done right? You’re Halle Berry. “Controlling shine at the skin-care and priming level is what will create a smooth, soft-focus, matte finish,” says Wren. Start with a mattifying moisturizer and primer, then follow with a matte-finish foundation and setting powder.
Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer – Blurring
$47.00, Ulta Beauty
This silky primer absorbs oil without depleting your skin of moisture, thanks to the squalane and glycerin in the formula.
Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Matte Foundation
Follow the primer with an oil-free, matte foundation. This formula is particularly handy because it’s buildable but still lightweight enough that you don’t feel the coverage has been caked on.
Saie Airset Radiant Loose Setting Powder
The finishing touch: This formula is actually hydrating, thanks to squalane and the brand’s “aerated cream technology,” giving us dry-skin gals a chance at perfect matte skin.
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Originally Appeared on Allure
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