As far as iconic fashion goes, the nineties get a bad rep. They’re not as out there and extreme as the eighties, but they’re not as slick and timeless as late noughties fashion either. With that said, there are some staples of the decade that are starting to come back into fashion, and who knows what other nineties hallmarks will become trendy again in the coming months.
So, in honour of the looks that we can look back on kindly, and the ones we’d rather never look at again, we’re counting down the top 20 nineties beauty products that you begged for as a teenager.
Lipsmackers weren’t technically make-up, which was good, because it meant you could just about convince your parents to buy them for you.
They smelled delicious, came in a variety of flavours, and were so small that you could easily put them in your pencil case and top up your lips slyly during class. Also: real cool girls wore the cherry cola flavoured one because it was the only one with any pigment, and made you feel like a real rebel.
19. Hair twirlers
If you were lucky enough to own one of these contraptions, then there’s probably only one way it happened. You saw the advert on TV, begged your parents every time it came on for the next few months, and eventually got it as a birthday or Christmas present.
Then it took a few hours to locate the right kind of batteries, figure out the correct head to use for your hair type, and get your hair tangled in some seriously brutal knots before finally figuring it out. Then when you did, the soft twists you put in your hair would fall out within minutes anyway.
18. Lancome’s Juicy Tubes/Shakers
Once you’d been allowed to graduate from lipsmackers to real make-up, chances are these Lancome juicy’s were where you ended up. The Jucy Tubes were a thick glittery paste that never blended or dried down, which meant you couldn’t eat, drink or wear your hair down while wearing it.
On the other hand, the Jucy shakers came in a fancy cocktail shaker applicator, and were so pigmented and liquid-y that one wrong move would leave you looking like a sad clown or someone’s drunk aunt.
17. Butterfly clips
With their hippie-dippy, peace and love iconography of butterflies and sunflowers, these technicolour plastic clips were one nineties trend your parents could probably get on board with. Unfortunately, that just sucked all the fun out of the look.
These clips would fall out and scatter to the floor seemingly at random, which meant you had to secure them by scraping your skull raw. By the end of the day you’d have a serious pressure headache, and raw spots where you’d left them biting into your scalp for too long.
16. Herbal Essences
Herbal Essences are still around now, but the brand is positively demure and conservative compared to how it was in the nineties. Back then, the scents were so intense that they almost knocked you out whenever you stepped into the shower, and everyone in the house could smell them too.
Not only that, but the commercials became famous for the over-the-top reactions of the models who used the shampoo and conditioner, making washing your hair seem like the ultimate fantasy. Every girl wanted to capture that feeling, even if they didn’t fully understand it.
15. Stackable Eyeshadow
Almost every girl who was alive in the nineties probably has these little containers floating around their house, and they’re almost certainly completely empty. Once upon a time though, they contained eyeshadows in every colour of the rainbow, as well as sheer and glitter options.
The eyeshadows weren’t compressed at all, which meant opening them was an exercise in trying not to get powder over yourself. More important than that though was collecting as many as possible, since the higher the stack was the cooler you were.
14. Clip-in braids
This was another trend that the hippie parents of the world could get on board with, but looking back it was a pretty regretful trend. As well as threading their hair with glittery pastel beads and plastic strings called scoobies, some people took it even further.
If you didn’t wear your hair in cornrows while on holiday (because it didn’t have to be washed as often that way), then chances are you had at least one of these macrame wraps put in instead – and gosh help you if it whipped around and hit you in the face.
13. Neutrogena face bars
Most of the products on this list are pretty similar in terms of branding: they’re pink, they’re glittery, and they’re whimsical. This soap, with its clinical orange colour and simple packaging, screamed something else: that it meant business.
Using this heavy duty blackhead clearer felt like a constant battle with your skin to strike the balance between spots and horrible dryness, and you can probably still remember the smell to this day.
12. Candy accessories
Thinking about it, it’s difficult to understand why jewellery made out of food became popular in the first place, or why it became such a huge trend among nineties girls. Once you started nibbling at them, the string got wet and the candy got sticky, which is pretty gross actually.
Despite how gross they felt to wear in real life, they felt like a super chic accessory to sneak into your lunch box and were like real jewellery all the way through dinner time. Bonus points if you brought in one for your best friend to wear too.
11. Sunflowers perfume
Most of the scents popular in the nineties were super overpowering and sweet, so it’s not surprising that Sunflowers got popular as an alternative. It was marketed as a subtle and summery fragrance, but the eye-popping orange colour made sure it was noticed.
Chances are someone you know still has a bottle of this sitting on the vanity of their childhood home, half empty from being sprayed everywhere from in diaries and on love letters to posters and pillows.
10. Brown lipstick
For a while, the nineties were considered a decade of minimalism as far as make-up is concerned. Sure, people wore stickers on their face and shimmery lipgloss, but almost all of it was sheer or nude.
The one exception was brown lipstick, which the older generation of nineties chicks considered the height of sophistication. Any girl who was anyone knew it was the key to seeming grown up and put together, as long as you avoided the cardinal sin of overlining or smudging.
9. MAC Lipglass
If brown lipstick wasn’t your style though, then there was always MAC’s Lipglass. This ultra sticky lipgloss gave you a mirror shine and made your lips look and feel ultra plump for about an hour, before you got tired of the ultra gelatinous layer of gunk on your mouth.
You couldn’t eat, you couldn’t drink, and if you wore it over your lipstick then the colour transferred onto everything you owned, but it sure did make you seem like a glamourous celebrity.
8. Stick on gems
For a lot of nineties pre-teens, there was nothing they wanted more than to get their ears pierced, preferably at the Claire’s in their local shopping centre. However, if parents were refusing to budge, then the only alternative were stick on earrings.
These stick-on gems were squishy and shiny, and peeled off after just a few minutes no matter what you did. The only place they did stay on was under your eyes, which led the trendsetters of every school to show up to class with moons and stars on their cheeks.
7. Bath and Bodyworks shower gel
More than any other brand of the nineties, Bath and Bodyworks managed to capture the pre-teen and teen demographic for a whole decade. With a variety of different scents that you could buy in everything from candles to shower gels, you really got to choose what kind of girl you were, and stick to it.
The scents relating to brown sugar and vanilla were the most popular, while you’d be hard pushed to find someone who’s genuinely passionate about cucumber and melon. As for the rest, it depended on your personality.
6. Love’s Baby Soft perfume
We’ve already mentioned that a lot of the popular 90s scents were super sweet and overpowering, and Baby Soft is maybe the perfect example of that. It smells like a mix of talcum powder and violets, which made it cloying and sweet but also super nostalgic and feminine.
This was the perfect perfume to wear if you were planning on going on a summer picnic and skateboarding down your street, preferably while listening to Blind Melon.
5. Hard candy nail polish
Alicia Silverstone was one of the biggest celebrities of the nineties, so when she said she loved Hard Candy nail polish, everybody else immediately became obsessed as well. In particular, Silverstone’s love of the sky blue colour sent sales of that particular shade skyrocketing.
The nail polishes were actually pretty good quality, and came in more colours than you could ever need. Not only that, but every bottle came with a plastic ring around the lid, which would automatically match your nails when you wore it.
4. Tattoo chokers
Most nineties trends have been left to fade away in the sands of time, but one trend has arguably become more popular now than it was back then. That’s tattoo chokers, the stretchy wire plastic necklaces that have accompanied every trendy outfit since late 2015.
They were stackable, they came in every colour, and you could even get tattoo anklets and bracelets to match. Not only that, but some even came with a dangly pendant, most commonly a moon or sun.
3. St. Ives apricot scrub
Nineties skincare tended to treat puberty like a war to be won, and St. Ives Apricot Scrub is the embodiment of that. It dried your skin out like crazy, and rubbing it in felt like washing your face in gravel, and yet for some reason everyone continued to use it.
Maybe it worked, maybe it made things way worse, or maybe it just felt good to scrub your skin red raw at the end of every day.
2. Body glitter
Body glitter is another nineties trend that disappeared completely for a couple of decades, before finally making a resurgence a few years ago. With that said, these days it’s only really acceptable to douse yourself in glitter at festivals and parties, whereas back in the nineties it was an everyday occurrence.
These rollerball applicators made it easy to ensure that every part of your body was covered in a thin layer of glitter in various candy colours, normally suspended in a liquid that made your skin just a little bit tacky. It did mean your shower was always covered in glitter, but it was worth it.
1. Teen Spirit
Of course, there was never really any question of what would end up in the top spot on this list. Not many nineties beauty products have ended up being named in song, especially not in one of the most famous songs of the entire decade, by one of the decade’s most important bands.
This product wasn’t super effective, it wasn’t super unique, and it wasn’t even that loved. It was just so common, so ubiquitous, and so unavoidable that it became the unofficial scent of the whole decade.