21 Surprising '90s Beauty Trends Making A Comeback This Year

Including — wait for it — thin brows.

Originally Published: 
The 21 '90s beauty trends that are making a huge comeback this year.
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Fads from the past have been reemerging in droves: Flip flops came back over summer 2020 as did the slip dress and bucket hat. Beauty-wise, chunky, face-framing highlights — which were big in the ’90s — are also hot right now, and experts predict that even more ’90s beauty trends will be popular in the second half of 2021.

But the retro looks extend far beyond bold highlights. As far as hair trends go, celebrity stylists expect to see more ’90s-era cuts (including the mullet) and updos in the coming months. Makeup artists, meanwhile, see a range of nostalgic beauty looks reemerging this year, like dark lipstick, glitter, and cat-winged eyes. Basically, expect your social media feeds to look straight out of 1995 as the glam you saw on Beverly Hills, 90210 becomes a thing again.

When you think about it, the decade’s irresistible appeal makes sense. “For millennials, the ’90s represent a joyful, calming nostalgia that brings back the simple pleasures of childhood,” says Giovanna Coluccio, senior director of marketing for nail brand Dashing Diva (who sees some ’90s mani trends coming back in style, BTW).

Got your crop top and ultra-high waisted denim ready to pair with ’90s-style hair and makeup? Here, celebrity makeup artists like Gucci Westman and Erin Parsons along with star hairstylist Sally Hershberger (and many more) reveal the ’90s beauty trends to watch for in 2021. Prepare to get comfortable, or at least reacquainted, with lip liner.

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The Mullet

The mullet is back. "It's one of my longstanding favorite hair trends, and I'm very excited to see it make a strong comeback," Hershberger tells Bustle. The style involves short hair that frames the front and sides of the face with longer lengths in the back. Hershberger says it works best with a lot of layers, which helps to create texture for a "cool, lived-in look."


The Shag

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Another retro hair trend is the shag, a style that Miley Cyrus has been wearing as of late. The cut is similar to the mullet, but with less of a contrast between the front and back lengths. "It still has a ton of texture and layers, but isn't as severe," says Hershberger, adding that it's really versatile. Her tip? Apply a styling balm for more volume and edge.


Big Bangs

Bangs have seen a resurgence over the past several months, and Hershberger predicts the trend will continue. Specifically, she points to more blown-out, voluminous fringe as a must-try style. "Whether paired with long or short hair, this look is sure to be revived as 2021 will be all about the volume," she tells Bustle. "Reach for a volumizing mousse to protect hair through heat styling while also providing grip to the strands for major body."


High Contrast Hair Color

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People have been more experimental with hair color since lockdown began in 2020, and Jeremy Tardo, pro colorist and Clairol partner, predicts block coloring will be big in 2021. "Multi-dimensional hair color has been largely subtle and blended over the last decade, but 2021 will see more boldness," he tell Bustle. "Not just solid bright pinks or neon greens all over the head, but large sections of those types of colors that juxtapose sharply against darker colors and lying right next to them."

This style was called block coloring in the '90s, he adds, and stars like Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish have recently embraced the trend. "Ask your colorist for panels of color or block coloring," Tardo says. Or, if you're looking to DIY, he suggests isolating a large section of hair and using a selected shade on that area only. "One look from the '90s that's trending is a color section underneath the hair, which is a good color contrast option using parts of your hair that are only sometimes visible," he adds.


Natural Looking Highlights

Another color trend you'll see is natural looking highlights — think J.Lo's lighter balayage look — according to Hershberger. "When you have processed hair, it's important to maintain your hair health at home," she says. She recommends using a hair mask between salon visits to restore your strands and to stick with highlight shades that closely resemble your natural color.


The Dark Lip

In the makeup realm, artist Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks — who's worked with Taraji P. Henson and Tracee Ellis Ross — points to the return of dark lipstick. She dubs it "the Naomi," a nod to the staple style worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell. "She's super famous for creating a lip look that became a signature style of the '90s," Sheriff-Kendrick tells Bustle.

To achieve that perfectly lined darker lip, begin with a brown liner. "Line your lips first and fill in, then take your favorite soft neutral pink or beige matte lip color and apply to the center," she says. "Blend in, then take your liner and reapply around the outer edges of the lips to and softly blend in so the color graduates into the perfect '90s ombre lip." Her favorite brown liner for darker skin tones is M.A.C.'s Nightmoth, the Cork shade for fair skin, and Chestnut for medium skin tones.


Cat-Wing Liner

You've probably seen cat-winged eyeliner on celebs like Ariana Grande and Alexa Chung, but Sheriff-Kendricks says the look has a long history. "Cat-winged liner was seen on Madonna all the time as well as countless other pop stars," she tells Bustle.

It can be tricky to nail the precise lines, which is why Sheriff-Kendricks recommends using tape, a trick she says was used in the '90s. "Place tape on the outer corner of your eyes as a guide to help you form your cat wing," she says. "Start from the outer edge and line inward toward the corner of the eyes. Then perfect your tail and remove the tape." Clean up messy edges with a thin concealer brush, set with powder, and voilà.


Thin Brows

After years of embracing big, unruly arches, Sessions makeup artist Erin Parsons says the skinny brow is making a comeback. "I've been working with Bella Hadid a lot recently and we've been on this super skinny brow kick, but delicately done and not overly pencil-thin," she tells Bustle. "It gives such a soft beauty to the face."

Parsons recommends covering your brows with a special effects glue, top with concealer, and draw them on to get an idea of what their shape will be. Then, shave your brows thin — don't tweeze, as this will make it harder for the hairs to grow back, she says — and try bleaching them a shade lighter. "It'll soften the face by delicately framing your features," says Parsons.


Smudged Eye Makeup

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For celebrity makeup artist Gucci Westman, 2021 will see a lot of '90s-style smudgy, smoky black eye makeup. "I see us still focusing on the eyes," she tells Bustle. "This will be paired with dusty, matte pink shades on cheeks and lips," she tells Bustle.

To try it yourself, she recommends layering a deep burgundy shade over black eyeshadow. "Adding that additional tone gives depth and dimension," she says. Start with the darkest shade, apply a lighter shade in the middle of the eye, and blend. "You can combine the two shades and sweep a little under the eyes, too." Line your waterline with a waterproof black eye pencil, then use a touch of highlighter or pale eyeshadow in your inner corners and along the brow bone. Finish with a few coats of volumizing mascara. Then, Westman recommends a monotone look for the rest of the face. "I like using the same shade on the cheeks and lips for this kind of look, so avoid anything that's shimmery and stick to a more matte finish," she says. For instance, if you have deeper skin, go with a peach hue, and “a warm, dusty rose if you have fairer skin."


Hair Accessories

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The '90s were all about hair accessories, and Tardo sees them coming back. "Nineties girls all remember the infamous butterfly clips, hair pins, and cutesy barrettes. Current iterations of note include the tiaras and hair pins of Chanel's S/S show this year as well as the whimsical flowers used for hair ornamentation in Rodarte's new collection." His tip? Check Etsy for a huge selection of accessories.


Brown Makeup Looks

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According to Chanel makeup artist and groomer Tasha Reiko Brown, 2021 will see a resurgence of brown makeup looks — specifically, “a return to tried and true strong neutrals and a clean, sculpted face," she tells Bustle. "Expect satin and matte textures and brown and peach tones. It's a '90s makeup renaissance reminiscent of Calvin Klein CK One adverts." She also points to Naomi Campbell's lined lips, so be sure to sharpen up your lip liner skills.

To try the look, Brown recommends choosing a natural brown palette and defining the crease of the eyes with a small, fluffy brush. "To get extra diffused definition, use a thicker brown pencil and smudge into lash lines. Consider skipping mascara to keep the overall look natural, clean, and like casual glamour," she says. Pair this with a soft, peachy nude lip (like Pat McGrath’s MatteTrance in Dream Lover) and you're good to go.


Claw Clips

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Slowly but surely gracing the heads of It girls are those iconic ’90s-era claw hair clips. Just look at celebs like Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Yara Shahidi, and Kaia Gerber. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment the retro hair accessory came back to the mainstream fanfare, but it makes styling a breeze at the very least.


Frosted Lips

Makeup got icy in the mid- to late-’90s and, according to celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman, the decade’s frosty lipstick is back — meaning it’s time to swipe on those iridescent pastels. “You can wear a frosty lip with a frosty eye or a simple smudged eyeliner for a classic ’90s look,” she tells Bustle. Grab something like M.A.C.’s Lipstick Cream in Creme Cup for an icy pink pout.


Lip Liner

Another nostalgic look to ready your pout for: lip liner. The outline style is back because, well, “history always repeats itself,” celebrity makeup artist Erin Parsons previously told Bustle. You can wear liner in multiple ways but, according to makeup artist Lisa Aharon, a very ’90s formula combines a pink or brown liner with a simple balm or gloss in the center blended out, she tells Bustle. “It gives the illusion of a fuller pout without being overdrawn,” says Aharon. Try Kevyn Aucoin’s Unforgettable Lip Definer for the job.


Animal-Print Nails

In the manicure world, prepare to see a lot more animal-print nail art, a design that reigned supreme in the ’90s. “French has made a huge comeback, and so has animal print,” says Dashing Diva’s senior manager of marketing communications Gina Chang, who recommends trying an on-trend animal-print French. You also could opt for cow print, leopard print, snakeskin — the list goes on. Keep a black lacquer, like Pear Nova’s polish in Absorb, on hand to try it for yourself.


Blowout Hair

Something Alicia Silverstone, Cindy Crawford, and Veronica Webb had in common in the ’90s? Bouncy hair. Now, according to celebrity hairstylists Ryan Richman and Sunnie Brook, the look is back — and it’s all over TikTok (“It’s even Addison Rae’s go-to hairstyle,” Richman says). “This hairstyle works best on medium to thick hair, and can be challenging for those with fine or low-density strands,” says Richman.

To achieve the level of volume the look calls for, you’ll need a round brush and a blowdryer. “Prep towel-dried hair with the Monat Studio One Blow Out Cream from mid-shaft to ends to provide a silky-smooth feel and protect against heat damage,” says Richman. Then use a blowdryer with the concentrator nozzle to “lift hair directly off of the scalp with tension,” he advises, and “roll the brush down toward the base of each section while drying to give your hair bounce and shape at the ends.”

The good news? If you’re not super handy with a round brush and blowdryer, you’ll find using InStyler’s Max Prime quick and easy to get this look. The rotating iron smooths while also adding volume and body.


Matte Makeup

The dewy glow has been a trending finish for quite some time, and now, makeup artist Carissa Ferreri forecasts a return to matte makeup. “The ’90s look was all about matte beauty,” she tells Bustle. “Tackle any greasy shine with a setting powder for a look that’s much softer and more wearable for an updated version.” She recommends Kosas Cloud Setting Powder for the job.


Butterfly-Print Nails

Another comeback to watch for is butterfly nail art, according to Chang. “The trend is so nostalgic and reminiscent of that era,” she tells Bustle. You can DIY the look by painting wings on an accent nail, trying your hand at a mosaic wing style, or — the easiest route — using butterfly decals for an easy upgrade to single-color polish. Chang points to Dashing Diva’s Stickers On My Notebook collection for a playful take on the ’90s trend.


Glitter Eyeshadow

“I see glittery eyelids making a big comeback,” says celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman, pointing to the resurgence of body shimmer as an early sign. “It’s starting to creep back into our makeup bags.” To go all-out with the trend, she suggests pairing a glitter eyeshadow with a simple glossy lip. Either top your favorite shadow with something like Rituel de Fille’s Celestial Sphere Eye Soots, or stock up on a glitter palette if you prefer a range of shiny options.


Chunky Layers

According to celebrity hairstylist Kat Thompson, this year calls for extra layers — in all haircuts and styles. “Having some chin-length layers pulled down around your face is a perfect way to change your typical style into a ’90s hairdo,” she tells Bustle. If you’re not looking to cut your hair, Thompson recommends adding thick sections of highlights to the front instead (think Bella Hadid or Dua Lipa). “It creates a dramatic look for any hairdo,” she says.


Butterfly Clips

Another retro hair accessory to get reacquainted with? Butterfly clips, which basically epitomize the decade’s hairdos. “Believe it or not, twists and butterfly clips from the ’90s are reemerging on the scene in a big way,” says celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland.

The colorful accessory you may have purchased at Claire’s as a preteen is actually a functional way to keep your hair out of your face (you can now get them at Urban Outfitters, BTW). “This easy style is perfect for combatting summertime humidity,” says Cleveland. “Simply twist the hair back and keep it going as far back as you’d like, then use a small butterfly clip to lock it in place — and voila.”

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