After the 1980s when everyone wore bright, inexpensive makeup, there was a slow burnout on cosmetics. Models like Kate Moss hit the scene with seemingly nothing on their faces, and Jennifer Aniston had the new hot hairstyle. After years of doing a full face of makeup and spraying their hair all day with Aqua Net, women were ready for something simple.
We all threw out our hot pink lipsticks and our neon green and pastel blue shadows. Our hair flattened out a bit, and Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benatar were no longer our fashion idols. They had been replaced by Gwyneth Paltrow and Alicia Silverstone, women who were classically beautiful with very little makeup in neutral tones.
Yet nobody really knew how to create a classic look on their face. We all wanted that perfect no-makeup look. Enter the makeup artists. Suddenly, makeup artists were gods and goddesses. Three leaders in this industry — Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier, and Trish McEvoy — hit the cosmetics scene in the '90s, and everyone became obsessed.
These were real-live people. They were on the Today show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and they had celebrity-like appearances in Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Nordstrom. Women lined up in droves to meet these artists and possibly have them touch their faces.
There was no Instagram or Facebook; there was no beauty blogger to tell us what to do. The makeup artist was the master of our universe, and we listened to them religiously. Some of them even published books, and women would pore through them looking at the different looks and trying to figure out how to do their makeup following the instructions found in the gorgeous pages.
Kevyn Aucoin, a self-made celebrity makeup artist turned industry god, wrote three books featuring celebrities like Demi Moore and Janet Jackson, whom he made into beauty icons using makeup. He was the first person who seemed to be able to transform someone's face with makeup, and everyone in the know was obsessed. I read those books over and over again, just staring at the beautiful pictures. I once stood in line for hours at Henri Bendel for a chance to meet Kevyn at the debut of his makeup line in 2001.
It was a great time for the makeup junkie. The makeup artist would show us how to use the products that they created. Nowadays the makeup star is the user; we look to the beauty blogger who "beats her own face" all day and shows us how she does it as the modern-day "expert." I feel especially connected to this, since I am a working makeup artist!
While you are perusing those new aisles in Sephora or your local department store, take a trip down memory lane and rediscover the amazing lasting products of the 1990s that are here to stay.