For me, there’s no period that quite matches the energy of the ’90s. Yes, I’m biased – I was born during the decade, and grew up in awe of beauty icons like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, not to mention Brandy and Lisa Bonet. But with films and TV shows like Pam & Tommy and Spencer now adding to the ’90s nostalgia – plus a modern spin on the decade’s trends in Euphoria – there’s never been a better time to dive back in.
The ’90s was a great time for makeup artists to gain icon status that matched their celebrity clients, too – the era providing the perfect springboard for the careers of pros like Bobbi Brown, Pat McGrath and Pati Dubroff. Now, Dubroff is one of the most sought-after makeup artists in Hollywood, having graced the faces of Margot Robbie, Angelina Jolie and so many more. Here, she debriefs us on everything we love about ’90s makeup – and how to translate those trends into a more modern look for today.
“Eyebrows were dramatically structured and squared off at one point. And there was also a period of no brows at all, followed by the famed skinny-brow moment later on in the decade,” reflects Dubroff. The key to modernizing is to use whatever the current brow trend is but keep it looking natural. “Look for a tinted brow gel like Chanel Le Gel Sourcils Longwear Eyebrow Gel, which gives a nice amount of color to brows while keeping them in place. I also love Chanel Boy Brow for filling in and giving some extra oomph.” Start by brushing brows up and outwards with a spoolie, then filling in with hairlike strokes using a thin pencil. Set with a tinted brow gel, taking care to deposit the formula on the hairs, rather than the skin underneath, to avoid blotchiness.
“The earlier parts of the decade brought us cool tones, notable pale blues and pastels, or an elongated dark eye,” says Dubroff. “The hues around the face in general were more on the cool side, but then there was a moment for smoky, golden, warm tones.” Nowadays, ’90s browns and taupes are firm favorites, as well as pale gray and even icy blue – but it can be tricky to pull them off. “The key is to keep the skin looking fresh when doing a cooler eye, and make sure to soften the edge of the shadows and liners to make them more flattering,” Dubroff advises. “The Vapour Beauty palette in Intention has great cool-toned buildable shadows, as well as Westman Atelier’s Eye Pods – specifically the color Champagne, a pale iridescent pink.” If you prefer cool tones with a hint of warmth (especially needed for deeper skin tones), try Tom Ford Beauty Eye Color Quad in Sous Le Sable for the perfect array of taupes and pale plums. A simple wash of color over the upper lid, with a pop of the lightest shade in the middle, is everything needed for a fresh ’90s look.
“The ’90s had some powdered moments, focusing on a fuller face rather than a naturally sculpted one – which can look pretty dated,” says Dubroff. “If I’m going for a cool-toned eyeshadow, I try to give the skin a bit more of a flush. I use Chanel No.1 de Chanel Lip and Cheek Balm in Healthy Pink on the cheeks – and even a little on the lips– if I’m layering another color on top, to give a slightly cool-toned but fresh-looking tint.” Kjaer Weis Cream Blush in Sun Touched is a neutral pink that can be refilled over and over, plus it sits perfectly alongside warmer hues as a nod to the later part of the decade. “Towards the end of the ’90s, it was the beginning of celebrities in editorial and in fashion,” Dubroff explains. “I was able to work with the very cool Drew Barrymore and Liv Tyler – and that era had this really warm, softly bronzed sculpted look.” Try Kevyn Aucoin Neo Bronzer for a subtle array of depths and finishes, sweeping the matte across the cheekbones, forehead and chin, and the shimmer over the nose bridge and eyelids.
Every ’90s-inspired lip starts with the perfect lip liner. Go for deep browns or taupes, regardless of what your lipstick color will be. Draw along the lip line and fill in the outer corners slightly, then blend with your little finger into the lip. Either top with a clear lip balm that isn’t too glossy, like La Mer The Lip Balm, or go in with Victoria Beckham Beauty Posh Lipstick (the entire shade range is ’90s-inspired), making sure to push the color into your lips with a finger to mattify slightly. If going for a ’90s red or plum, you can’t go wrong with Gucci Beauty Rouge à Lèvres Mat Lipstick in Janet Rust or Ivy Dark Red.