Right now, no decade is trendier than the '90s. Kylie Jenner rocks lip liner and brown lipstick. Chokers somehow found their way back onto the necks of thousands. Even chunky body glitter is having a moment. If you're digging that throwback vibe, you're going to want to know how to make your favorite '90s beauty trends modern.
I was born at the tail end of 1991. As a child under the age of nine, I tragically didn't get to experience all the shimmery, frosted, and sheer fun beauty trends that littered magazine covers and television screens during the decade. I longed for the chunky highlights worn by Ginger Spice and the ever-present glitter embraced by the princesses of pop. But luckily, everything old is new again and I finally have my chance.
Though history repeats itself, we don't want to be a straight-up blast from the past. It's about stealing bits and pieces from our beloved, dearly departed decade rather than saying “hit me baby one more time.” Don't go chasing waterfalls. Leave the outdated beauty bits in the past and update your favorite looks — though we may never go back to a decade of Smash Mouth, new episodes of Friends, and Lunchables, we can throw our makeup all the way back.
Speaking of throwbacks, here's how I actually looked in the '90s.
I was only a little munchkin then. So innocent, so unaware of things like taxes, rent, and death. Ah, well. As a little baby babushka, I clearly didn't know what beauty trends I was truly missing out on! But I'm all grown up now and I can't wait to try out the makeup I was deprived of.
1. Brown Lips
Brown lips are one of the easiest '90s trends to incorporate into your everyday makeup routine. With the ever so popular Kat von D Lolita and Kylie Kosmetics Brown Sugar regularly circulating the interwebs, it's safe to say that no one will question you as you pass by with your chocolate-y pout.
To make this look more modern, stay away from shimmers and glosses that scream Drew Barrymore circa her grungy It-Girl era. Instead, opt for the presently in-vogue matte or semi-matte finish.
For my look, I played with my new Bite Beauty Lip Pencil in 044 and my Bite Beauty Multistick in Cocoa, the perfect warm brown color. The weather has been murdering my skin, so I wanted to use a product that would stay matte but wouldn't accentuate the dry, flakey texture of my lips.
I started by applying a little bit of the Bite Agave Lip Balm as a base so my lips would retain moisture and the lip liner would glide along a bit more easily.
Next, I lined my lips. Personally, I always like to start at the center on my bottom lip and then blot my lips together, so the bottom transfers to the top. This helps me with creating symmetry on my upper lip. After I blot, all I have to do is carve out my cupid's bow and fix any little gaps and bumps.
Because the color was a bit more red than I had anticipated, I filled in the whole lip to create an even base for the warmer lipstick.
Last but not least, I filled in my lips with the Cocoa multistick. It was the perfect true brown tone. Like always, I started at center and worked my way outward.
Because a brown lip can quickly wash you out, make sure to apply your bronzer a bit more liberally than normal. Also, keep the eye makeup light so both features aren't battling for attention. You can still do a warm, smoky contour, but stay away from cool and/or dark tones.
Witchy vibes straight outta The Craft, aka my everyday aesthetic.
So hair tendrils never really stopped being a thing, they just became less... prominent. More recently, you may have heard them being referred to as wispies, which just illustrates the difference between the tendrils of then and now. In the '90s, tendrils were super thin and super crunchy. They had a lot of harsh definition and they quite often were a different texture than the rest of the hair-do. Just like the term "wispies" implies, the tendrils of now are much softer. They softly frame the face while supporting the rest of the 'do. Generally, there's just one thicker tendril on one or both sides rather than dozens of crunchy, pencil-thin ones. The softer texture updates this otherwise dated look. Even celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Jamie Chung, and Ciara (just to name a few) have been sporting these little buggers on red carpets everywhere.
I started my look with my natural hair texture, which is half wavy, half straight, and all frizz (the frizz looks less clockable here because I hadn't yet stepped outside for the day).
I then parted my hair down the middle which immediately gave me a throwback vibe. You can part your hair with the handle of a rat tail comb, but I just used my fingers. When it comes to hair, I tend to be a little lazy because I spend all my time and energy on my makeup. So the less tools, the better.
As my first upgrade to this trend, I wanted to update the classic "hair-pulled-back-with-tendrils" look. The look I wore frequently with a bandana to elementary school. I started by separating out a tendril section on each side. I then pulled back the rest of my hair into a low pony.
To prevent the look from being too dated, I made the sections way bigger than the typical '90s many mini wispies. And I curled them very softly with my Paul Mitchell Neuro Clipless Tapered Curling Wand.
Not too shabby if I do say so myself. Certainly more chic than '90s middle school dance realness.
I wanted to try a tendril down-do as well, just like certain celebrities have been sporting on the red carpet lately. To keep this trend in the now, I started by giving my hair a soft wave. That undone, wavy-but-not-wavy texture that Jen Atkin, Kardashian hair stylist and founder of Ouai, helped to make popular is so modern, I knew it would breathe new life into this dying look. I used my Paul Mitchell clipless curling wand to curl my hair 1-inch sections. Because I wanted more of an undone look, I only held the curler in my hair for a few seconds before letting the curl fall.
After I curled all my hairs, I separated out a nice two nice chunk on each side before tucking the rest of my hair behind my ears. If the tendril sections are too small, they'll look very dated very quickly. Observe:
This gives me all the early Julia Stiles vibes.
But, if your tendrils are bigger sections and softer curls, the look is super wearable and with the times.
When living your best tendril life, soft and abundant is the way to go. Itty bitty wispies are a way of the past.
3. Blue Eyeshadow
Wearing blue eyeshadow can be a challenge. Swipe it on incorrectly and you can look like a prepubescent applying makeup for the first time, or at best you'll resemble Mimi from The Drew Carey Show. But, when it's worn in moderation, it can serve as a cute little nod to generations past with a current flair.
To make my shadow delightful rather than dated, I chose a contoured look rather than a flat wash of blue. In the '90s, one shimmery shade of blue was worn from the lashline to the browbone. The result was one flat plane of lid that had a tendency to wash out the complexion. But utilizing multiple textures to actually contour the eye rather than cause it to recede will make the look Instagram worthy over Kodak camera worthy.
I started by patting a light, shimmery powder blue shade from lashline to crease using my finger. I used the blue from Marc Jacobs Style Eye-Con No.3 "The Shoe Gazer" palette (what a mouthful). It's a very soft wash of color with just the right amount of shimmer.
Then with a fluffy brush, I blended a matte navy tone into my crease, starting at the outer corner, working my way inward. As per usual, I worked in little circles to diffuse any harsh lines or edges. I used a shadow from my newest obsession, the Natasha Denona Eye Shadow Palette in Blue Purple, but you can use any deep matte navy.
Don't forget, what goes up must come down! I used a smudge brush to bring the same color to the bottom lashline, starting at the outer corner and working inward.
To define my eye, I used my all time favorite eyeliner, Marc Jacobs Highliner, in the new shade in Over(night). I did little dashes between my lashes that ended in a very subtle wing shape at the outer corner of my eye, which I then smudged to soften.
To finish off the look, I applied Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir and a pair of falsies.
This look gave me the most intense '90s MTV music video vibes.
So tell me whatcha want, whatcha really really want.
4. Body Glitter
Body glitter is actually having quite the moment, so this '90s trend was very easy to make modern. With brands like Lemonhead coming to the forefront and festival makeup looks making their way into the mainstream, most people won't even think twice about your everyday incorporation of body glitter.
To take this look from '90s to now, I knew I wanted to incorporate chunkier glitter and stay away from any iridescent tones. The roll on body glitters of the past were sticky, super fine, and had that pinky-blue shift. To make it more modern, I stayed away from all of that.
I started by making my own base of body shimmer. I took a dollop of the Sol de Janiero Bum Bum Cream (my current favorite body moisturizer) and mixed it with a generous helping of Violet Voss's glitter in Goldie.
I then applied the mixture to my neck, shoulders, and décolleté.
The result was a very subtle, easily wearable look that doesn't scream '90s realness.
But because I'm extra, I also took this look to the next level. I applied a chunky star-shaped nail glitter (like this one you can get from Amazon for less than $2) and tapped it onto my collar bones using my finger. Because the Bum Bum cream hadn't fully absorbed, it held the glitter on like double-sided sticky tape.
I started applying the glitter to my collar bones, and then dragged some down for a gradient effect.
Whether you want to be strong or subtle, there are a plethora of updated ways to rock your body glitter.
5. Iridescent Lips
Does anyone remember Revlon Streetwear? That was my JAM. They had so many iridescent and pearlescent shades, it was a shimmery heaven! Unfortunately as trends die, so do certain products. Even just two years ago, it was pretty impossible to find more than one frosted lipstick at your local makeup store. But with the resurgence of unicorns, mermaids, and everything shiny, iridescent lipsticks are making their way back in the best way.
For my lip look, I started by applying a base of Kat von D Requiem. Most iridescent lipsticks are sheer and can fade away easily. To give my look a little more longevity, I always have to start with a lip stain.
To get the iridescence going, I applied a layer of Urban Decay's Asphyxia lipstick on top It's the most perfect lilac with a baby blue shift.
Because I couldn't get enough of the shimmery stuff, I also tapped a little of Bite's Opal Lip Gloss at the center of my lower and upper lips for a little extra shine.
This is what iridescent dreams are made of.
6. Thin Brows
Today, we're all about the thick natural brow. Those who plucked, waxed, and tweezed in the '80s and '90s are now grabbing Anastasia products by the fist full. But who's to say one brow style is more beautiful than the other? After all, they're both just trends. I put brow beauty standards to the test by embracing the trend that most people try to leave behind.
As a means of comparison, here's how I normally fill in my brows:
One of my brows is pretty sparse, while the other is naturally a bit more full.
To thin out my fuller brow (and slightly fuller areas of my sparser brow), I did a faux bleaching technique by dipping a clean mascara spoolie in concealer and combing it backwards and forwards through my brow. I wasn't about to tweeze the little hair I have for my shaping experiment.
I filled in my remaining brow hairs with the Anastasia Brow Definer in Medium Brown. I went for a rounder shape to better embody the '90s vibe.
I didn't hate the result. It did give me strong '90s vibes, and I don't think the end look stuck out as "bad" or "wrong." I definitely prefer my full brows, but I'm not mad at it.
7. Shimmer, Shimmer Everywhere
Generally, makeup is all about balance. Think of Destiny's Child. If the eye is a bold and smokey Beyonce, then the lip should be a strong yet supportive Kelly and the complexion should be a harmonious Michelle that's cool with chillin' in the background. Same thing goes for finishes, if there's glitter on the eye, then maybe the lip should be more matte. Or if the lip is ultra glossy, maybe the skin should have more of a velvet finish. But the '90s broke all of these rules. Shimmer, glitter, and sparkly finishes adorned the eyes, lips, and cheeks all at the same time. And this is a trend I'm longing to bring back. Seriously, who doesn't love sparkle?
I started with a basic complexion application complete with highlight, contour, blush, and luminizer. I also contoured my eye by putting a lighter matte shade on my lid and blending deeper purple shades into my crease. For some eyeshadow technique suggestions, click here.
To begin the twinkling takeover, I patted on some of Make Up For Ever's new Star Lit Liquid in Arctic White, which acted as a base for my second coat of glitter. I just dabbed a dot of the liquid onto the back of my non-dominant hand and patted it onto the center of my lid with my finger.
Before the liquid dried, a tapped on some additional Violet Voss Glitter in Wendy for an extra sparkly finish.
For my lips, I started with a nude base of Sephora Collection's Pink Tea and topped it with Dior's Ultra-Gloss in Fantasie, which was a beautiful peachy-pink iridescent glitter finish. Again, for extra sparkle, I tapped some Wendy on top.
The finish was to die for. Sparkly cotton candy dreams.
To be honest, all the glitter finishes work super well together. Yay for shiny!
If you're still longing for more sparkle and you want to live your best Gwen Stefani life, you can always incorporate face jewels. Now that's a trend I really miss.
I got my face jewels from the dollar store. I recommend getting the ones with the adhesive already attached, but you can always pick up some rhinestones from Michael's and adhere them with eyelash glue.
I began by adhering a big flower gem to the center of my forehead. This helped to make achieving symmetry a bit easier.
I then followed by sticking tinier gems on either side of the larger gem. I bounced back and forth between applying to one side and then the other. Again, this helped me to make sure the stones followed a pattern and weren't just a hot mess of sparkle on my forehead.
You can't touch this.
So if you're catching the '90s fever, it's totally possible to update your favorite trends for the modern age. Don't forget, "only shooting stars break the mold." Go get you glitter, shimmer, and tendrils on!