There’s never been a better time in history to be a makeup lover and/or beauty enthusiast. Consumers have never seen as many brands and as many categories of beauty as we do now — all at a variety of price points. Brands are expanding left and right, beauty technology is getting better, and foundation ranges are finally starting to acknowledge people with skin tones other than light and medium. Beauty is having a moment right now, and although I’m easily tempted by the all the new lines and constant product launches, my favorite makeup products and brands are more timeless than trendy.
Classic beauty brands like Clinique, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden, Coty, and Estée Lauder fall into a category that I like to call “grandma chic.” Sure, I don't find myself rushing to Instagram their packaging the same way I might with newer brands, but, for me, they are the OGs. I'm definitely guilty of walking past the counters, avoiding eye contact with the salespeople, and disregarding the classic array of products in favor of the bright pink displays of Benefit and adorable packaging of Too Faced. I race towards the “What’s New” section, overlooking these brands and their products that are and have been for many years some of the best in the business.
Coty Airspun powder has been around since the mid 1930s and was used on movie stars to keep their T-zones from getting shiny. Estée Lauder’s revolutionary Night Repair serum launched in the '80s but is still widely talked about today as one of the best serums on the market. These brands are the matriarchs of the beauty world, and they deserve to be treated as such. Especially in a time when it seems like every brand is trying to outdo one another with "limited edition" products and collaborations, these classic brands have a history and a legacy that we all can somehow relate to.
Some of my first memories of playing with makeup involve sneaking into my grandmother’s bathroom and ogling at her impressive makeup stash. My grandmother was the ultimate glamour girl. Her style could be described as over the top (although gaudy is a bit more accurate), and she had an excessive makeup collection to match.
In my grandmother’s vanity, shiny gold tubes of lipstick in every shade of red and fuchsia mingled with heaps of tiny little green and blue tortoise shell eyeshadow and blush compacts. I would open and close them just to hear that satisfying snap of the compact, imagining I was a movie star or a model being called to set. I was mesmerized by all the different colors and textures, fascinated with all the potential inside these tiny boxes.
Sitting next her Pond’s cold cream and Coco Chanel perfume were her makeup brushes. They had long, fluffy white hair (definitely not cruelty-free) and gold handles, and they were heavy in my adolescent hands. I used to swirl them around my bare face, hoping whatever magic left on that brush would suddenly mature me to an age at which my mother deemed appropriate to wear makeup. I still remember asking her if I could have some of her makeup when I was old enough to wear it, completely unaware of the fact that by the time I was old enough to wear makeup, most of her stash would be long expired. Like any loving grandmother, she assured me I could have whatever I wanted.
She passed away before she got the chance to make good on that promise. When I got older and more into makeup, I gravitated towards the newer, cooler brands. I fell for the cute packaging and savvy marketing tactics. It’s only recently that I’ve started to rediscover the brands that sparked that love for beauty all those years ago sitting at my grandmother’s vanity. It started with Clinique Cheek Pops (Nude Pop and Melon Pop are gorgeous on everyone) and Lancôme Juicy Shakers (Piece of Cake and Apri-cute give your lips the perfect amount of color) and it's been a journey down memory lane ever since.
I like to think I have a strong will power when it comes to makeup. I can zip right past the newest eyeshadow palette or highlighting drops, but I still pause when I see an Estée Lauder counter. I’ll pick up a tube of lipstick and I instantly think about my grandmother. “Did she have this color? Did she feel confident when she wore it? Was it the one she kept in her purse all the time, or something she kept tucked away for special occasions?"
My heart fills with a nostalgic homesickness for a time when the idea of wearing makeup was still just a faraway daydream, when bright lip colors excited me instead of scared me, and when she was here. I inevitably end up dropping some cash on items I don’t really need, but I feel less guilty about these impulsive purchases, because I know if she were still here, she would encourage to buy the products that made me happy and remind me of her.
Wearing these timeless, albeit untrendy brands make me feel like a kid pretending to be an adult. They represent a level of maturity and elegance that I so desperately wanted to emulate when I was younger, but still seems so out of reach even today. It reminds me of a time when makeup was less focused on new product launches and more focused on how it made you feel. My grandmother took pride in her appearance and these brands and products made her feel stylish and sophisticated — and her eccentric elegance lives on in me whenever I wear Clinique’s Black Honey lipstick.
Trendy brands can keep their carefully calculated, buzz-building, pre-hype hype. Give me all the gold packaging. Give me that old lady smell that lingers in the air. Give me time-tested formulas and classic colors that work as well in 2018 as they did in 1968. I unabashedly love and respect these classic lines, and I’ll continue to wear them until I’m old and gray, just like my grandmother did.