History of Makeup: The 90s Makeup Look

Flash back to the runways of the 1990s to create a supermodel-inspired 90s makeup look.

Darlings, I will always look back fondly on 90s makeup – it’s the decade that launched my career as a makeup artist to the stars! Working backstage at fashion weeks in New York, Paris, and Milan, I had the honour of seeing the iconic supermodels of the 90s storm the runway wearing the moody brown lipsticks and smouldering smokey eyeliner looks of the era.

My fabulous Pro Artist Ria has created a runway-ready 90s makeup look with super-matte supermodel skin, pencil-thin brows and the perfect 90s nude lip. Discover my secrets to creating a flawless 90s makeup look, then brush along to channel the supermodel stardom that defined the decade.

90s Makeup Looks: An Overview

Following on from the outrageous, colourful and larger-than-life makeup looks of the 80s, 90s makeup looks became more minimal and pared-back. Nude shades dominated the decade with taupe, suede and espresso browns giving the lips, cheeks and eyes a sultry, naturally enhanced look. Whereas the 70s and 80s dialled it up with metallic, glittering and vibrant makeup looks, matte finishes were popular in the 90s to give makeup the modern, understated, sculpted look of a supermodel.

The 1990s was the golden age of the supermodel. The world became spellbound by the effortlessly beautiful faces that graced the covers of magazines and lined the runways of the most prestigious events in fashion. Supermodel beauty influenced 90s makeup looks far and wide with eyebrows being plucked thin; skin kept smooth-looking and matte; and lips painted in brown-toned, 90s-nude shades. Backstage I would mix concealers with hints of pink and brown lipstick to create custom nude shades – years later, I used the same technique to create my Nude Kate K.I.S.S.I.N.G Lipstick inspired by 90s icon, Kate Moss.

My Super Nudes collection was also inspired by 90s makeup muses and the looks I would create on supermodels and stars at the beginning of my career. The magical matte eyeshadows in The Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette and the nuanced nude shades of my Super Nudes Lipsticks like Cover Star and Catwalking capture the essence of 90s supermodel subculture and are perfect for creating an understated, airbrushed-looking 90s makeup look.

How To Get A 90s Makeup Look

Darlings, learn my secrets to looking and feeling like a 90s superstar with this step-by-step guide to supermodel-inspired 90s makeup.

  1. Step 1 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply foundation

    Step 1: Airbrushed-Looking Skin

    Matte skin was all the rage in the 90s, darlings. In my makeup kit, I would carry matte foundations that buffed into the skin to create super-smooth, airbrushed-looking complexions that looked fresh from the cover of a magazine. To get the 90s makeup look, apply AIRbrush Flawless Foundation for instantly flawless-looking skin. This full-coverage foundation has a natural-matte finish that feels weightless and blends seamlessly with my Hollywood Complexion Brush for super-matte, supermodel skin. Once you’ve given your complexion the AIRbrush effect, apply Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Radiant Concealer under the eyes, around the mouth, and anywhere you want to add extra coverage.

    Discover my matte makeup routine

  2. Step 2 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply powder

    Step 2: Perfect and Brighten with Powder

    Pressed powder is the secret to getting the smooth, velvety finish that was popular in the 90s. Set your supermodel complexion with my AIRbrush Flawless Finish finishing powder to smooth and blur the look of skin while helping to increase the longevity of your face makeup. I created my Powder & Sculpt Brush as the perfect tool for applying a light veil of powder; the tapered bristles nestle effortlessly into the contours of the under eye and the hollows of the cheeks for the perfect powder application.

    Tilbury Tip: To mimic the effects of runway lights, apply AIRbrush Brightening Flawless Finish under the eyes; on the tops of the cheeks; and in the centre of the forehead for a flattering spotlight effect.

    Discover how to apply pressed powder

  3. Step 3 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply bronzer

    Step 3: Sculpt & Define with Bronzer

    To create the illusion of a more sculpted-looking facial framework, use bronzer to soft-sculpt the look of your complexion. The modern-matte texture of my AIRbrush Bronzer is perfect for getting the well-defined, bronzed bombshell look of a 90s supermodel. With The AIR Brush, swirl bronzer onto the contours of the face, focusing on the cheeks, forehead and jawline to define and sharpen their appearance. Then, delicately contour your nose with my nose trick; tap into your bronzer with the Eye Blender Brush then make soft, sweeping motions down either side of the nose, underneath the tip of the nose and into the eye socket for a chiselling effect.

    Tilbury Tip: To get the lifted-looking cheeks of a 90s supermodel, blend your bronzer higher on the tops of your cheekbones towards the tops of the ears.

    Discover the difference between bronzer vs contour

  4. Step 4 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: thin 90s eyebrows

    Step 4: Pencil-Thin Brows

    In the 90s, brows were famously kept pencil thin, but don’t worry darlings, you can get the 90s eyebrow look without tweezing away your full, fluffy brows. First, take the spoolie end of my Brow Cheat eyebrow pencil and brush your brow hairs into place – for a 90s look, brush hairs sideways rather than upwards to create a skinnier brow shape. Next, create a defined line underneath the brow with brow pencil, starting at the inner portion of the brow and gliding outwards to create a well-defined tail. Once you’ve perfected your pencil brows, use Brow Fix clear sculpting gel to help lock the 90s nostalgia into place.

    Learn more about eyebrow makeup

  5. Step 5 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply light eyeshadow all over the lid

    Step 5: Prime the Lids with Eyeshadow

    Create a 90s eye makeup look using my 90s-inspired eyeshadow palette – The Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette. The modern-matte shades in this palette are perfect for creating easy supermodel eyes; there are three cool-toned shades and three warm-toned shades that work in harmony to create everyone’s perfect 90s eye look. Using the 90s-inspired shades in my Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette, prime your eyelids with a wash of nude eyeshadow. Choose a matte shade that closely matches your skin tone, then use the Eye Blender Brush to sweep it onto the eye area to create a silky-smooth base for your 90s eye makeup.

    Shop The Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette

  6. Step 6 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply eyeshadow to the outer corners of the eyes

    Step 6: Create a V Shape at the Outer Corners

    Take a matte eyeshadow that’s deeper than your skin tone and subtly define the look of your eye shape. Use patting motions to build pigment at the outer corner of your eye, then use circular motions to get a seamless-looking blend. For a 90s makeup look, create a shape that angles upwards and outwards towards the tail of your brow, then back through the crease to create a soft V shape without any harsh edges.

    Shop all eyeshadow

  7. Step 7 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: intensify with dark eyeshadow

    Step 7: Build Dimension with Dark Eyeshadow

    For added dimension, use a dark eyeshadow to define the look of your 90s eye makeup. The chocolate brown and black shades in The Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette are perfect for accentuating the look of the eyes; apply a small amount of dark eyeshadow in the outer corner and along the lash line to create a well-defined, cat-eye effect. With the same dark matte eyeshadow, glide along the lower lash line with the Eye Smudger Brush to enhance and define the look of your eyes. This step will create smokey, sultry, supermodel eyes reminiscent of the 90s stars that commanded the catwalk.

    Shop The Super Nudes Easy Eye Palette

  8. Step 8 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply eyeliner

    Step 8: The Feline Flick

    I have been creating my signature Feline Flick for decades, darlings. This classic eye makeup step complements every eye look and gives this 90s makeup the quintessential Tilbury touch. With the black shade of my Super Nudes Duo Liner, apply eye-defining eyeliner close to the upper lash line and extend outwards to create an iconic Feline Flick. Reach for the Eye Liner Brush to gently smoke out your eyeliner to capture the smouldering look of the 1990s.

    Discover how to apply winged eyeliner

  9. Step 9 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply mascara

    Step 9: Push Up Lashes with Mascara

    To complete your 90s eye makeup, apply Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes! mascara to coat the lashes with captivating, jet-black pigment. This mascara is inspired by the beautifying powers of my Pillow Talk collection, lifting and stretching the look of lashes for bigger, brighter-looking eyes that could rule the runway.

    Shop eye makeup

  10. Step 1 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply 90s nude lip liner and lipstick

    Step 10: Super Nude Lips

    90s lip colours were notoriously nude, with browns, beiges and taupes being the go-to lipstick shades of the era. The secret to getting a 90s lipstick look is to reach for a darker lip liner and a lighter lipstick to create a dimensional, supermodel pout. I created The Super Nudes collection as a pout-perfecting hotbed of 90s-inspired nude lipsticks; from the rosy tones of Supermodel to the beige beauty of Runway Royalty, discover your dream nude lipstick and pair it with my Lip Cheat lip liner to get the 90s look.

    Ria used Lip Cheat in Hot Gossip to neatly overline the lips in flattering, rose-toned nude, then paired it with Matte Revolution apricot-nude lipstick in Cover Star for the perfect 90s pout.

    Shop The Super Nudes lipsticks

  11. Step 11 in Charlotte's 90s Makeup Look: apply blush and highlighter

    Step 11: Cool-Toned Blush & Highlighter

    Blush and highlighter were applied light-handedly in the 90s with cool, barely there shades being the most popular. My two-toned Cheek to Chic powder blushes are the perfect pop of colour for your 90s makeup look, delicately veiling the apples of the cheeks with flattering, just-a-pinch blush. Choose Sex on Fire for a sultry, mauve-pink pop or The Climax for a hint of reddish-brown. As for highlighter, reach for my Hollywood Glow Glide Face Architect Highlighters for an illuminating, sculpting effect, applying lightly to the tops of the cheeks, centre of the nose and along the brow bone. Apply Champagne Glow for incandescent, glowing highlights, or Moonlit Glow for an extra-icy glaze.

    Discover where to apply highlighter

  12. Step 12 in Charlotte's 90s makeup look: setting spray and finishing touches

    Step 12: Finishing Touches

    Before you hit the runway, darlings, it’s time for some finishing touches! Give yourself a 90s-inspired beauty mark with my Lip Cheat in Foxy Brown for instant glamour. Then, spritz AIRbrush Flawless Setting Spray onto the face for an airbrushing effect – it helps to mesh creams and powders together while locking in your 90s makeup look for the evening! 

    Shop Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray

Darlings, this 90s makeup look transports me right back to a decade that I adore! The magical matte skin looks as smooth as satin and the nude tones are so 90s – I can’t get enough! If you adore this look, shop my 90s makeup must-haves on CharlotteTilbury.com and the Charlotte Tilbury App, then tag me on Instagram @CharlotteTilbury once you’re ready for the runway!

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Author Details

Charlotte Tilbury

Founder, President, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty

With over 30 years experience, Charlotte Tilbury MBE is the world's number 1 makeup artist and British beauty entrepreneur. Charlotte established Charlotte Tilbury Beauty in 2013, which is now a record-breaking beauty brand that has won over 400 awards.

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