Funky, frosty, surprisingly simple — that’s right, we’re talking 1990s makeup. The ’90s was a decade of contradictions, excess juxtaposed with irreverent grunge, pared-down minimalism set against quirky futurism, and those contrasts made for some seriously striking beauty. And with the resurgence of all things ’90s and early aughts, the decade’s most noteworthy makeup moves are getting a modern upgrade and are more wearable than ever.
“My mind instantly goes to the ’90s supermodel and iconic makeup looks by Kevyn Aucoin,” says makeup artist Omayma Ramzy. “Matte skin, matte eyeshadows, nudes and soft tones, lip liner, and brick-brown-toned lipsticks.”
For Euphoria makeup lead Donni Davy, it’s all about application. “There’s an effortlessness and simplicity that comes along with the 1990s makeup style that I am such a fan of, and I use it in so many of the looks I do on set,” says Davy. “Eyeshadow is a wash of color over the lids or concentrated more along the lash line. Like, no cut crease, nothing graphic, just eyeshadow being used to color the lids.” The colors themselves range from shimmery pinks and blues to matte grays with lips, often lined, painted in nudes and brickish burgundies.
Meet Our Expert
Omayma Ramzy is a makeup artist in Los Angeles.
Donni Davy is the lead makeup artist for HBO's Euphoria.
The through-line here is straightforwardness. "There are ties between the 1970s and the 1990s with regard to soft applications of eyeshadow, and not generally a big emphasis on graphic or winged liners,” says Davy. That said, the addition of contemporary beauty’s want of artful touches blended with the no-sweat sensibilities of the 1990s makes for an ideal blend of old and new.
Here, 20 ‘90s-inspired makeup looks to help you come as you are, as you were, or as you want to be.
Shimmering silver shadow and a peachy nude lip is an unquestionably ‘90s combination. Make like Yara Shahidi and add a feline flick of liner and a brushed-up brow to pull the look into this century.
Our current lean toward warm browns is also defined by the ‘90s beauty scene. Emily Ratajkowski keeps her chocolate shadow current by pulling it into an eye-extending shape—and pairing it with ample contour.
Pinks and Blues
If reflective pink and blue were the predominant playful shades of the ’90s, then Sydney Sweeney’s look is the ultimate modern interpretation. A wash of pale pink shadow is punched up by a touch of silvery blue at the inner corners, the pastels grounded by black liner.
Deep lip liner was a 1990s calling card—one which Kylie Jenner carries off with aplomb. Extra-long lashes and a swipe of glassy lip gloss turn this would-be retro move into a practice in referential glamour.
Dove Cameron’s aquamarine makeup is a late ‘90s fever dream. A bright blue frame and pressings of watery glitter play well with a pinkish nude lip—and the era’s face-framing tendrils.
Related: What Comes After Y2K Fashion?
More Is More
Between the over-lined and gilded lips, brow-reaching wash of brownish silver shadow, and the matte-finish skin, Rowan Blanchard’s look is more ‘90s than now. Though the decade tended toward minimalism, the more-is-more moments were definitely present, and always memorable.
The ‘90s weren’t all grunge and glitter—goth rock glam also had its place in the decade. Willow Smith’s black lips and harlequin liner offer an ode to the darker elements of the era.
“For a classic ‘90s look, we love seeing all the latte colors,” says Ramzy. Now that latte makeup has returned in full force, modernizing the throwback mode—a la Kendall Jenner—is as easy as relying on a palette of browns.
Madelyn Cline’s pop star styling plays well with a sheer wash of frosty white shadow. But while the ‘90s would have found the hue on the lid alone, Cline’s inner corner application helps transport the moment.
Rainy Day Shadow
Another retro shadow made new via its shaping. Gigi Hadid’s French blue shadow finds contemporary form via a straight-across cat-eye application.
Ramzy lists brick-brown lips and arched brows as two quintessential ‘90s trends. Add to that a high, slicked ponytail and shimmering shadow, and you have Taraji P. Henson’s noteworthy look.
A brick-brown lip plus ample sterling shadow (brushed to the brow!) make Lupita Nyong’o look like a time traveler from the mid-'90s.
Lili Reinhart’s deep teal shadow may be pulled from the past, but the subtle application at the outer corners feels modern. A pink lip and swirl of coordinated blush balances the look.
Nudes on Nudes
Pour us another latte. Hailey Bieber’s all-over nude makeup—and its harmony of matte, gloss, and shimmer—is entirely today, but the palette finds roots in the past.
Bleached brows are born of the ‘90s punk rock scene, a subversive trend that made its way to the decade’s runways. The striking look is still finding popularity today—even within looks a touch less literal than Julia Fox’s frost queen situation.
A pout painted burgundy is all Margot Robbie needs for a quiet ‘90s nod—though arched brows and face-framing tendrils don’t hurt.
Another Y2K-era moment, Hunter Schafer’s chrome cat eye is cyborg chic, and calls to mind the sort of futurism of late-'90s predictions. But that pink lip, dewy skin, and wet-look hair? Those details are all about today.
Maybe it’s the bangs and bandana; maybe it’s the full face of brickish brown. Barbie Ferreira’s extended red liner and nearly nude lip team in an entirely ‘90s vibe and make the case for coordinated colors.
Matte finishes were a big part of the ‘90s that also finds favor today. Dua Lipa’s matte, pinkish nude lip is balanced by touches of shimmer and shine, all framed and furthered by an Old Hollywood mane.
Taylor Hill’s nudes veer to the terracotta end of the palette—think stylish and summery. The subtly orange incorporation plays well with the model’s bronzer, creating a fresh, warming feel.
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