The Harley Medical Group

Beauty through the ages - 1990s

The 90s - a decade that brought us grunge and girl power. Beauty in this era was distinctive; hairstyles were alternately spikey, twisted, butterfly-clipped creations while makeup fell into two looks: iridescent or vampish, both topped off with a choker necklace.

The earlier half of the decade brought a grunge look into fashion for women, with dark baggy clothes, muted makeup and vampish lips acting as a nod to the latter end of the 80s. As the 90s progressed, grunge gave way to girly – with glitter and gloss becoming must-have products.


Women dressed in a messy, masculine style favouring dungarees, oversized flannel shirts and high waisted jeans. Kate Moss’s rise to fame popularised a slender body image. Thin was beautiful; an idea epitomised in the super model’s iconic quote, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Super-skinny eyebrows were another 90s beauty statement. Nicknamed the ‘tadpole brow’ women plucked their hairs to near extinction.

Body gems and bindis were also in style – perhaps a natural extension of a love for all things opalescent – worn around the eyes or to decorate an exposed mid-drift. This was a particular favourite of No Doubt front woman and 90s poster girl Gwen Stefani.


Hairstyles were experimental in the 90s, everything from spikey up-dos to chunky highlights to crimping was in vogue. Though bizarre up-dos were perhaps the most iconic look from the era; often dubbed ‘prom hair gone wrong’ these spiralled creations were held in place with a myriad of decorative clips and slides.

Make up

There were two schools of thought around makeup in the 90s:

The first favoured sparkle; frosted eyes and lips created a girlish pretty look, counter balancing a more masculine style of dress:

  • Eyes

Metallic shades of pink, blue and gold were especially popular for the eyes, with shadow and glitter applied liberally to the eyelids.

  • Lips

Die-hard fashionistas co-ordinated iridescent eyes with the glossiest lips – and perhaps a body gem or two!

The second look was a more grunge statement:

  • Skin

Porcelain pale skin was achieved by wearing a shade-too-pale foundation.

  • Lips

This was paired with dark matte lipstick, usually in a plum rose brown colour, and lots of lip liner (which was a bizarre shade or three darker than your lipstick).

Recreate the grunge look for yourself with this easy tutorial.


Tropical colours and tropical smells were all the rage for 90s beauty brands. Lip Smackers,

Hard Candy and Urban Decay were popular choices thanks to their dazzling array of hues and eye-catching packaging designs. Body care products usually smelt like watermelon, pineapple or raspberry - and of course there was a healthy dose of glitter in near enough everything!

We’ve taken a great interest in iconic beauty trends from the past. If you’d rather look further back than the 90s, take a look at our Beauty Through The Ages infographic.


What was your favourite makeup look from the 90s?



Posted July 18, 2020
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