Comparing Makeup Styles of the 1980s and the 1990s

            Makeup is the next important thing to fashion. “By the 1980s, women were displaying individuality, experimentation, and nostalgia (Place, 254).” With these experimentations come “too-hard-edged and artificial looks” of women wearing makeup (Astley, 468). Makeup became monochromatic in terms of the base, which were mostly in peachy pinks but more playful in terms of bold eye colors and richly hued lipsticks. This base created an illusion of a beautiful, healthy, and well-cared skin but at the same time looked like a mask in the faces of women. The emphasis was on the glowing, healthy pinkish skin. In addition, women are drawn to colorful trends during the 80s called the retro era.

            In the 90s, makeup trends prefer luminous skin and foundations that are yellow-based. It looks more natural to the skin rather than the peachy-pink tones of the 80s. Multipurpose products are hitting the market in the 90s. Blushes are also doubled as eye shadows while moisturizers are already tinted and may serve as foundation.

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            The counterattack against matte finish was in full effect all over the place, with the preferred look of having “glowing rosy cheeks, dewy skin, and glossy lips and lids (Astley, 468).” While the 90s look was of the same kind to a post-shower shimmer, there were innovations in the makeup industry that can deliver the luminous, fresh glow of the 90s.

            “We have had the so-called natural look for a while, but always achieved with quite a lot of makeup and a matte texture. Now there is enough confidence to bare the skin, to let it show and to let it shine—after all, skin is not naturally matte,” says the makeup artist Linda Cantello (Astley, 468).

            The revolutionary trend in makeup improved dramatically in a span of 10 years that provided a groundbreaking maquillage in the contemporary era to complement the fashion’s daring look.

            One of the makeup trends in the 1980s is achieving a perfect flawless and smooth face but without forgoing the natural look of the previous era. Yet, with too much foundation laid on the face, it looked like a mask that covers the pores and does not let the skin breathe.

            Foundation makeup is used to improve the appearance of complexion by blending skin tones, covering blemishes, and creating a smooth, healthy glow. The goal is to create a smooth illusion of the face, make the pores less visible, and even out the color of the skin. Foundation also hides the skin’s flaws such as dark undereye circles, redness, and pimple scars. Different foundation formulas are already available in the 80s such as cream, liquid, stick, and cake foundation.

            During the 80s makeup style, foundation coverage are on the matte side. Layering of foundation and powder is the technique adapted in the 80s face makeup. After the foundation is placed on the skin, whether it is a cream-type or liquid-type, it is topped with loose powder to secure it in place.

            The layering of foundation achieved a dramatic look. The glam look is the trend in the 80s. To achieve a glam look, the skin must be perfect—without any shine. The trend of layering also helped in the staying power of the foundation for hours without retouching.

            Base makeup and foundation transformed matte into a luminous, highlighted, and dewy finish of the 90s. “Natural skin tones with very natural finish are fashionable in the 90s (Conway, 353).”

            Lip color is used as the generic term used for lipsticks and glosses. It adds color to the lips while providing additional protection for harsh lip problems such as dryness and chapping. Lip colors are also used to enhance the shape of the lips or correct the size of the lips appropriate for the face of a person. The emphasis of the 80s makeup is the bold statement of the lips. Bright lip colors were worn by women. Fashion and lip color were matched most of the time.

            Lip shades during the 80s are intense and rich. The newest pink is raspberry; the newest orange is coral. True red is always a classic. Matte lip colors are dominant over glosses. Matte lipsticks are drying to the lips but provide pure pigment to the lips. Matte lipsticks are longer lasting than glosses because it adheres to the lips better. Aside from matte lipstick trend, the advent of lip liners also gained their spotlight in the 80s. It served as the base for the matte lipsticks and used to draw the shape of the lips after lipstick.

            Lips are the new beauty focus during the 90s makeup trends because of the various textures and kinds of lipsticks out in the market that ranged from cream, satin, shimmery, and frosted. New formulations provided special moisturizers such as shea butter, a features ingredient in the mid-90s used in various makeup and skin preparations (Chalfin, 16). It is added to lipsticks to prevent chapping and drying of lips even if the lipstick is matte. Lipstick shades in the 90s vary from strong and juicy colors like caramel, burgundy, and berry to the wild pinks and violets like fuchsia, lavender, and orchid. Daring colors are already applied for everyday makeup. Brown-based shades are used for women with fuller lips and glosses are used for women with thin lips. The advent of glosses was favored over the 90s as opposed to matte lipsticks since it hydrates and moisturizes the lips. Then, the usage of shimmery lipsticks and frosted lipsticks gained their popularity among women.

            Advance technology has been used to manufacture lipsticks that contain more emollients, emulsifies, colorants, preservatives, and binders. Eye makeup is available in a wide range of colors from pastels to deeper shades and tints of blue, gray, green, brown, beige, purple, and in colors with metallic silver and gold added. Eye shadows add color and personality to the face. It may also sharpen or soften the eyeball and create an illusion of depth or bring out deep set eyes. The prevailing formulation of eye shadows in the 80s is powder-based.

            Eyes are the beauty focal point in the 80s. In the 80s, “striking shades of canary yellow; better-than-ever purple; beautiful green shadows, in shades ranging from khaki to leaf to moss are the most popular retro look (The Soft, Sexy Look of Spring, 257).” The jewel-tones of the 80s season past have taken on a softer, gentler intensity with its new color additions to the palette. The newest color blue is turquoise, the latest take on brown is a muted taupe, and soft gray replaces black. Pinks are considered as a neutral—it is a warm contrast to the jewel-toned soft shades. Eye shadows already come in palettes—artful mixtures of neutral shades, often sparked with a single vivid color surprise.

            When applied to the lids, eye color or shadow compliments the eyes by making them appear brighter and more expressive. Eye colors can match the color of the eyes or be lighter or darker. Eye makeup colors may match or coordinate with a woman’s clothing color as desired.

            Eye shadows in the 80s were concentrated with mica, a highly reflective mineral that gives sheen and brightness to eye colors. Mica was used to achieve a shiny and iridescent bold eye color that would grab the attention of the crowd. In the 90s, the trend in eye makeup shifted to creating a subtler wash of color using soft neutrals and earth shades with less noticeable iridescence and more glossy finish.

            Eyeliners are used to create a line on the eyelid close to the lashes to make the eyes appear larger and the lashes fuller. Eyeliners are also manufactured in different colors and forms. The most popular trend of eyeliner in the 80s is black. Thick black eyeliners were one of the most favorite among trends in the 80s.

            Thick black eyeliners were paired with several coats of black mascara to emphasize the eyes. Black mascara was also layered producing a clumpy and spidery effect. In the 90s, companies created mascaras for different kinds of lashes: volumizing for thin lashes, lengthening for short lashes, curling for a speedy makeup routine, and colored for a change of look. The most popular trend in the 90s was curing the lashes and forgoing the black clumpy and spidery look of the mascara which can add years to your present look or using a colored mascara .

            Cheeks look best natural, dusted with just a hint of color. Powder blushers add color to the face and give more dimensions to the cheekbones. Blushers also harmonize the face-balance between eye makeup and lipstick. The popular type of blushers in the 80s is the pressed powder type. Pressed powder blushers are similar to face powder formulations, except that a greater range of color pigments are used. In the dawn of the 90s, different formulations emerged such as cream, gel, and liquid blushers. The 90s makeup trend in blushers focused on the long lasting effect of the rosy cheeks depending on the skin type and what kind of formulation is best suited. “Liquid blush became popular in the 90s (Conway, 353).”

            The makeup trend of the 80s was all about the extremes. It was all about unique and attention-grabber makeup since it was the time women became aware of using makeup to enhance their facial features. The 80s is the stark contrast of the 90s makeup trend that focused of subtle, elegant, and discreet color blending. The minimalist look of women accentuated their natural features without overpowering colors. Women focused on looking like themselves and avoiding looking made up. These were the major trends in the cosmetics industry of the 80s and the 90s.


  1. Astley, Amy Taran. “Change of Face.” Vogue Magazine Sept. 1993: 468.
  2. Chalfin, Brenda. Shea Butter Republic: An Indigenous Commodity Goes Global. UK: Routledge, 2004.
  3. Conway, Julia. Makeup Artistry. New Hampshire: Harcourt Heinemann, 2004.
  4. Place, Stan. The Art & Science of Professional Makeup. Kentucky: Thomson Delmar Learning, 1989.
  5. The Soft, Sexy Look of Spring. Glamour Magazine April 1988: 257.

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