Fads from the past have been reemerging in droves. Flip flops came back over the summer, as did the slip dress and bucket hat. Chunky, face-framing highlights — which were big in the ’90s — are also hot right now. The nostalgic movement is still happening, too: Experts spilled the ’90s beauty trends that will be popular in 2021, and there are plenty of throwbacks to get excited about.
The retro looks extend far beyond bold highlights and mom jeans. As far as hair trends go, celebrity stylists predict cuts (including the mullet), updos, and colors that’ll remind you of the ’90s. Makeup artists also see a range of nostalgic beauty looks reemerging this year, like dark lipstick and cat-winged eyes. Basically, expect your social media feeds to look straight out of 1995 as the glam you saw on Beverly Hills, 90210 become a thing again.
Got your crop top and ultra-high waisted denim ready to pair with ’90s-style hair and makeup? Here, celebrity makeup artists like Gucci Westman and Erin Parsons along with star hairstylist Sally Hershberger (and more) reveal the ’90s beauty trends to watch for in 2021. Prepare to get comfortable (or reacquainted) with lip liner, y’all.
The mullet is back. “It’s one of my longstanding favorite hair trends, and I’m very excited to see it make a strong comeback,” Hershberger tells Bustle. The style involves short hair that frames the front and sides of the face with longer lengths in the back. Hershberger says it works best with a lot of layers, which helps to create texture for a “cool, lived-in look.”
Another retro hair trend is the shag, a style that Miley Cyrus has been wearing as of late. The cut is similar to the mullet, but with less of a contrast between the front and back lengths. “It still has a ton of texture and layers, but isn’t as severe,” says Hershberger, adding that it’s really versatile. Her tip? Apply a styling balm for more volume and edge.
Bangs have seen a resurgence over the past several months, and Hershberger predicts the trend to continue. Specifically, she points to more blown-out, voluminous fringe as a must-try style. “Whether paired with long or short hair, this look is sure to be revived as 2021 will be all about the volume,” she tells Bustle. “Reach for a volumizing mousse to protect hair through heat styling while also providing grip to the strands for major body.”
People have been more experimental with hair color since the quarantine orders of 2020, and Jeremy Tardo, pro colorist and Clairol, predicts block coloring will be big in 2021. “Multi-dimensional hair color has been largely subtle and blended over the last decade, but 2021 will see more boldness,” he tell Bustle. “Not just solid bright pinks or neon greens all over the head, but large sections of those types of colors that juxtapose sharply against darker colors and lying right next to them.”
This style was called block coloring in the ’90s, he adds, and stars like Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish have recently embraced the trend. “Ask your colorist for panels of color or block coloring,” Tardo says. Or, if you’re looking to DIY, he suggests isolating a large section of hair and using a selected shade on that area only. “One look from the ’90s that’s trending is a color section underneath the hair, which is a good color contrast option using parts of your hair that are only sometimes visible,” he adds.
Another color trend you’ll see is natural looking highlights — think J.Lo’s lighter balayage look — according to Hershberger. “When you have processed hair, it’s important to maintain your hair health at home,” she says. She recommends using a hair mask between salon visits to restore your strands and to stick with highlight shades that closely resemble your natural color.
In the makeup realm, artist Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks — who’s worked with Taraji P. Henson and Tracee Ellis Ross — points to the return of dark lipstick. She dubs it “the Naomi,” a nod to the staple style worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell. “She’s super famous for creating a lip look that became a signature style of the ’90s,” Sheriff-Kendrick tells Bustle.
To achieve that perfectly lined darker lip, begin with a brown liner. “Line your lips first and fill in, then take your favorite soft neutral pink or beige matte lip color and apply to the center,” she says. “Blend in, then take your liner and reapply around the outer edges of the lips to and softly blend in so the color graduates into the perfect ’90s ombre lip.” Her favorite brown liner for darker skin tones is M.A.C.’s Nightmoth, the Cork shade for fair skin, and Chestnut for medium skin tones.
You’ve probably seen cat-winged eyeliner on celebs like Ariana Grande and Alexa Chung, but Sheriff-Kendricks says the look has a long history. “Cat-winged liner was seen on Madonna all the time as well as countless other pop stars,” she tells Bustle.
It can be tricky to nail the precise lines, which is why Sheriff-Kendricks recommends using tape, a hack she says was used in the ’90s. “Place tape on the outer corner of your eyes as a guide to help you form your cat wing,” she says. “Start from the outer edge and line inward toward the corner of the eyes. Then perfect your tail and remove the tape.” Clean up messy edges with a thin concealer brush, set with powder, and voilà.
After years of embracing big, unruly arches, Sessions makeup artist Erin Parsons says the skinny brow is making a comeback. “I’ve been working with Bella Hadid a lot recently and we’ve been on this super skinny brow kick, but delicately done and not overly pencil-thin,” she tells Bustle. “It gives such a soft beauty to the face.”
Parsons recommends covering your brows with a special effects glue, top with concealer, and draw them on to get an idea of what their shape will be. Then, shave your brows thin — don’t tweeze, as this will make it harder for the hairs to grow back, she says — and try bleaching them a shade lighter. “It’ll soften the face by delicately framing your features,” says Parsons.
For celebrity makeup artist Gucci Westman, 2021 will see a lot of ’90s-style smudgy, smoky black eye makeup. “I see us still focusing on the eyes,” she tells Bustle. “This will be paired with dusty, matte pink shades on cheeks and lips,” she tells Bustle.
To try it yourself, she recommends layering a deep burgundy shade over black eyeshadow. “Adding that additional tone gives depth and dimension,” she says. Start with the darkest shade, apply a lighter shade in the middle of the eye, and blend. “You can combine the two shades and sweep a little under the eyes too.” Line your waterline with a waterproof black eye pencil, then use a touch of highlighter or pale eyeshadow in your inner corners and along the brow bone. Finish with a few coats of volumizing mascara. Then, Westman recommends a monotone look for the rest of the face. “I like using the same shade on the cheeks and lips for this kind of look, so avoid anything that’s shimmery and stick to a more matte finish,” she says. “Go with a nude peach if you have deeper skin and a warm, dusty rose if you have fairer skin.”
The ’90s were all about hair accessories, and Tardo sees them coming back. “Nineties girls all remember the infamous butterfly clips, hair pins, and cutesy barrettes. Current iterations of note include the tiaras and hair pins of Chanel’s S/S show this year as well as the whimsical flowers used for hair ornamentation in Rodarte’s new collection.” His tip? Check Etsy for a huge selection of accessories.
According to Chanel makeup artist and groomer Tasha Reiko Brown, 2021 will see a resurgence of brown makeup looks. “I suspect a return to tried and true strong neutrals and a clean, sculpted face,” she tells Bustle. “Expect satin and matte textures and brown and peach tones. It’s a ’90s makeup renaissance reminiscent of Calvin Klein CK One adverts.” She also points to Naomi Campbell’s lined lips, so be sure to sharpen up on your lip liner skills.
To try the look, Brown recommends choosing a natural brown palette and define the crease of the eyes with a small, fluffy brush. “To get extra diffused definition, use a thicker brown pencil and smudge into lash lines. Consider skipping mascara to keep the overall look natural, clean, and like casual glamour.” Pair this with a soft, peachy nude lip and you’re good to go.
11 ’90s Beauty Trends Making A Comeback This Year The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Bustle.