TBT: 90s Beauty Trends

We look back on the era of Lip Smackers, Sun In and Barb Wire tatts


Friends star Jennifer Aniston with 'The Rachel' haircut. Picture / Supplied.

From my parochial 90s North Shore perspective, a cohesive teen beauty look involved glitter, way too much lip gloss and daisies and gems strewn through badly-dyed hair.

Teen idols ranged from the Spice Girls and Gwen Stefani (the No Doubt era), to Kate Moss, Destiny's Child, and Drew Barrymore. From grunge, to glam, to girl power – we wanted it all.

Pre-reality TV and models of Instagram, model search competitions run by magazines like Dolly and Girlfriend reigned supreme. Memorable, still-famous winners of my teenage years included Miranda Kerr, Jessica Hart and Alyssa Sutherland.

My most intense beauty experimentation sessions occurred late at night, while cleaning the bathroom after a day of procrastination. The lure of the mirror and my older sister's beauty supplies proved to be too much, and I'd put off the dreaded task a little longer.

Out would come the butterfly clips, ribbons and crimping irons, the purple lipstick, green eye crayon and blue mascara. Gold shimmer powder was applied in abundance to accentuate cheekbones, forehead and decolletage (until one day when an older friend remarked that perhaps I had a little too much “base on my face”).

Colour was big – and never deemed too much. Lipsticks ranged from orange and purple to black, brown and green, as did nails. Anything went, as long as it wasn't so classic as red or pink.

By comparison, my pared-down school look consisted of mascara, cheap blue glitter on the cheeks and eyelids, and Poppy Shine lip gloss or M.A.C. lipglass – both so sticky that I would spend half the day pulling my hair off my lips.

Prior to gloss, we obsessed over Lip Smackers, the pop rock cousin of ChapSticks and Blistex (other high school pocket essentials). The draw card for Lip Smackers was that they came in so many flavours and colours - your popularity was directly related to how many you had. Dr Pepper, chocolate mint, strawberry, bubble gum... the scents of my favourites still linger.

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Temporary tattoos were the perfect grown-up beauty accessory, and $2 shops provided plenty of options (along with cheap and cheerful lipstick and nail colours). Pamela Anderson's Barb Wire tattoo was bad ass, while on the flipside, the release of Impulse's Spice Girls deodorant spray came with free butterfly decals. Ah, Impulse. No school bag was complete without it.

Hair flicked between the Rachel look made famous by Jennifer Aniston on Friends (not actually flattering on all hair and face types, thanks Jen), pigtail buns a la Emma Bunton, and poker straight dyed-black locks. Sewing classes were spent ironing our hair with actual irons; the days before Ghd.

Guys went from long greasy locks and dreads, to spikes caked with gel, thanks to bands like Nirvana, Korn and Green Day. Both sexes attempted home dye jobs, using coloured crepe paper for a pink or green effect, or bleach, henna and Sun In (the bleach product which lets the sun do the work) for surfer-style streaks.

Hair removal was an intense discussion point too. Countless hours were spent in the bathroom with Nair creams, wax strips, razors, and tweezers. These days I could probably make a little more time for such tasks, but never was it so crucial as those first few outings in a bikini.

Clear mascara to tame the eyebrows was also deemed essential, and, in intermediate school, for some reason that she lived to regret, the same friend who advised us it was time to start shaving our legs, decided to shave her eyebrows off. It was a busy time.

So what's changed in the teen beauty world? Aside from the bands, trends, and newly-crowned beauty bloggers to follow, not much. Pink hair is back, and Nair, Impulse, Sun In and Lip Smackers are still around (who knew?).

But, thank goodness, when we were young, we had disposable cameras instead of Instagram and Facebook, so there are only a few hard copies of our early experiments lying around.

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New Zealand Herald

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