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Reviving ’90s Makeup Trends: Icons, Evolution, and Modern Twists

90s makeup
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Grunge makeup, with its edgy allure and carefree vibe, has made a triumphant return to the forefront of beauty trends. Originating in the rebellious spirit of the 1990s, grunge makeup is characterized by its smudged eyeliner, matte complexion, heavy mascara, and bold, dark lips. However, its recent resurgence brings with it a modern twist, making it more wearable and versatile for the present day.

In today’s beauty landscape, where nostalgia reigns supreme, the revival of grunge makeup offers a refreshing departure from the polished perfection of mainstream beauty. It embraces imperfection and celebrates individuality, inviting makeup enthusiasts to experiment with unconventional looks and express their unique style.

For those eager to embrace the grunge aesthetic, here are seven must-try ideas that offer a contemporary take on this iconic trend:

1. Something Blue

In the ’90s, blue eyeshadow took center stage, offering countless variations beyond the typical grayscale spectrum. While celebrity makeup artist Priscilla Ono opts for a vibrant blue hue, those seeking a subtler look can take inspiration from Dali’s recommendation: a delicate, watercolor-like application of baby blue eyeshadow on the lids, with a hint below the lash line, followed by layers of mascara. To modernize the look, opt for a matte, powdery finish. Nars Single Eyeshadow in Baby Jane is a reliable choice for achieving this style.

2. This Brown Grunge Makeup Idea

Is there anything more quintessentially ’90s than sporting a complete ensemble of brown makeup? Fortunately, this nostalgic trend is now more wearable than ever, eschewing the heavy grunge aesthetic for a simpler approach. Achieve the look with a solid application of brown lipstick (makeup artist Robin Black utilized Fenty Stunna Lipstick in Unveil), paired with a brown smokey eye. For the latter, consider using products like Smashbox Cover Shot Eyeshadow Palette in Minimalist or Surratt Artisque Eyeshadow in Truffle.

3. Sultry Black Tightliner 

Millennials will recall the meticulous effort required to achieve a precise line of black tightliners, often risking eye jabs in the process. This ultra-close line accentuates the eyes, with the added benefit of settling into the lash roots over time, creating a smudged, reminiscent-of-Britney-Spears-circa-Blackout effect. Makeup artist Katie Mellinger emphasizes the charm of ’90s makeup, noting that imperfection is part of its allure.

4. Spider Lashes

Spider lashes may have received negative feedback, but when executed properly, they can be captivating. To achieve this look, start by using black cream eyeliner to boldly outline your entire eye. Precision is not necessary; in fact, a bit of smudging is encouraged for added effect (details below). Then, intensify the drama by applying L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara to both your upper and lower lashes. Just two coats of this mascara will leave observers convinced that you’re sporting falsies.

5. This Smudgy Grunge Makeup

When uncertain, simply opt for a generous application of black, smudged eyeliner—yes, even on your waterline—and you’ll tick off all the boxes for grunge makeup. Kohl eyeliner is your go-to here, as its blendable and creamy texture enhances the smudged effect. Some top picks include Uoma’s Kohl Pencil or Maybelline Master Kajal liner.

6. Deep Shaded Lips

While Chloë Grace Moretz might not have firsthand memories of ’90s makeup, her bold dark lips could easily deceive us. Mellinger confesses her love for a deep pout and recommends pairing it with a mostly natural complexion. “For a true ’90s feel, opt for a rich burgundy or better yet, a brown lipstick,” she suggests.

7. Lacquered Lip Gloss

Credit Hailey Bieber or perhaps our lips craving moisture after years of matte lip products, but the luscious.

glossy lips adored in the ’90s have made a comeback in 2023. According to Mellinger, lip gloss is widely available and convenient. Its effortless application, forgiving nature, and ability to enhance lip prominence make it a go-to choice.

8. Peachy Pink Lips 

Imagine if Cher Horowitz could travel from 1995 to 2023 and could only carry one item with her—an alluring pink lipstick would undoubtedly top her list. (Of course, in a world where Cher Horowitz existed, and time machines were real.) Makeup artist Tobi Henney expresses affection for the warm, rich peach lipstick shades of the ’90s, considering them highly versatile for modern wear and flattering on all skin tones.

9. Blue Eye Shadow 

Baby blue may spark mixed opinions, but occasionally, a pop icon emerges to signal a resurgence of blue eyeshadow. In the ’90s, it was Christina Aguilera; in 2023, Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” cover art has reignited our interest in the hue. Makeup artist Dillon Pena notes that ’90s eye makeup featured either matte powder blue or pastel shimmer. Pena suggests recreating the look by blending blue shadow from the lash line to just above the crease, adding a winged eyeliner, and volumizing mascara for maximum impact.

10. Posh Spice Cat Eye

While her fellow bandmates were embracing playful looks like pigtails and Union Jack dresses, Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh Spice,

captivated with her fierce, captivating, meticulously sculpted smokey cat eye—setting a standard that even Taylor Swift couldn’t match. “This trend revolves around highlighting your eyes,” explains Lujan. “While lips can be enhanced with layers of pencil and gloss, it’s essential to stick to nude shades to avoid detracting from the attention drawn to your exquisitely framed eyes.”

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