I Tried ’90s Makeup Trends To See If They Would Hold Up Today

I Tried ’90s Makeup Trends To See If They Would Hold Up Today
Photo: AP Images/Brittany Leitner. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

I grew up wanting to be a cool ’90s teen. I used to beg my mom to buy me magazines that were basically just pictures so I could cut out the makeup looks, hang them on my door and fantasize about being a teenager who wore chokers and frosted lipstick—not the dorky 8-year-old I was. I was too young to actually rock the ’90s makeup trends myself but looked up to celebs (hi, Spice Girls!) who were pushing boundaries with their strong makeup looks.

To make my dream of being a ’90s icon come true, I decided to re-create iconic beauty looks to see if they’d hold up. According to Janice Kinjo, a New York-based groomer and celebrity makeup artist, the ’90s were all about overly plucked, thin eyebrows, brick-brown lipstick lined with a dark brown lip liner. Frosty lip gloss was paired with frosty eyeshadow.

I wasn’t so committed to this project that I’d pluck my eyebrows (I made that mistake back in the early ’00s), but I decided to go hard on the matte and frosted trends that dominated the era.

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90s beauty trends

AP Images/Brittany Leitner.

Trend: Too-light foundation with blue-grey shadow

Kinjo did her best to explain this unexplainable trend Angelina Jolie rocked in 1998. “The ’90s were influenced by the grunge/goth look, so having a lighter/white foundation was accepted,” she said. “However, people with darker complexion didn’t have many options for foundations and powders, therefore makeup looked gray.” It seems, people also didn’t know about a thing called flashback.

To get my complexion this light, I mixed the Manic Panic Dreamtone Flawless White Liquid Foundation ($13.95 at Amazon) with my It Cosmetics CC+ Cream in Light ($39.50 at Ulta). Can you imagine being as beautiful as Angelina Jolie and letting your makeup artist do this to your face for the red carpet?

For my eyes, I used About-Face Matte Fluid Eye Paint in Matte Midnight Blue ($24 at About-Face). I put a few dots on my lids and tapped them upwards with my finger. Then I dabbed the shade Lava Stone from the KKW Beauty Crystalized Eyeshadow Palette ($45 at KKW Beauty) to intensify the matte effect. I finished with black eyeliner for the wings.

My favorite part of the look was using my most-complimented lip shade, the ultra-affordable Wet N’ Wild Megalast Matte Lip Color in Mochalicious ($2.59 at Target). I dabbed some highlighter in the middle of my lips for that frosty effect.

naomi campbell I Tried 90s Makeup Trends To See If They Would Hold Up Today

AP Images/Brittany Leitner.

Trend: Cut-crease and nude lips

The iconic cut-crease eyeshadow look on Naomi Campbell was created by celebrity makeup artist of the ’90s, Kevin Aucoin. Although it’s decidedly the most adaptable for today’s trends, it wasn’t easy to create and it took me a few times to get it right. You’ll probably find the trend easier if you’re already a cut-crease pro.

First, I used the shade Buzzing from the KKW Beauty Matte Honey Pressed Powder Palette ($45 at KKW Beauty) all over my eyelids up to my brows. Then, I applied the darker brown color Stung on the top half of my eye only, blending upwards. With makeup remover on a cotton swab, I created an exaggerated cut in each crease before filling it in with more of the lighter shade to set the contrast.

Kinjo has an alternative method that’s a little easier. “Cut crease placement and shape can be confusing since all of our eyes are shaped differently,” she says. “The simplest method for me is to line your eyes a little bit thicker than you normally would, furrow brows and then look up, eyes to the ceiling.” This transfers your eyeliner to your eyelid naturally and voilà—cut crease line.

Continuing the ’90s contrast, I lined my lips with KKW Beauty Honey 3 Lip Liner ($12 at KKW Beauty) and used the same shade to create a fake beauty mark. I filled in my lips with the shade Honey 1, a lighter nude lipstick. I finished by dusting my cheeks with KKW Beauty Honey Blush in Honey Pot ($24 at KKW Beauty).

white eyeshadow trend

Brittany Leitner.

Trend: White eyeshadow and glossy lips

Because contouring wasn’t a trend in the ’90s, this look, favored by Reese Witherspoon in 1997, made me feel like my face looked round. Even though I don’t contour on the regular, I do cut my cheekbones with blush that brings my bone structure upwards. But the ’90s was about putting blush on the apples of your cheeks, which I felt instantly transformed me into an 8-year-old.

For that ultra-light eyeshadow, I grabbed the About-Face Matte Fluid Eye Paint in White Noise ($24 at About-Face). The formula is easy to blend all over your entire lid and stays put once dry. I lined the corners of my eyes and on my lower lashline About-Face Pearly Shadow Stick in Pearly Cloud Blue ($21 at About-Face).

Since faux eyelashes were less popular in the ’90s, I applied just a coat of No7 The Full 360 Mascara ($10 at Target). I completed the look with Paint-It Matte Lip Color in Ask Nicely ($22 at About-Face) and swiped Lime Crime Wet Cherry Lip Gloss ($18 at Ulta) on top for that juicy look.

And yes, I had a tattoo choker at the ready to complete my look. Maybe I’m not so far off from a ’90s teen after all.

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