Deliberately darker lip liner–paired with a hit of high-shine gloss–is the beauty look that always circles back. Nostalgic images of the likes of Naomi Campbell, Iman, Pamela Anderson, Victoria Beckham, and Jennifer Lopez sporting obvious brown lip liner in the ’90s spring to mind, although the look can be traced back to Mexican American Pachucas, chola culture, and young Black and Latinx hip-hop fans in the South Bronx in the ’70s.
Even in the age of minimalist, “no make-up” make-up–catered to by the likes of Rhode, Glossier, and Ami Colé–the brown lip liner and gloss combination continues to resonate. The liner enhances the shape of the lips, while the neutral gloss keeps things on the natural side.
“I love the trend, because a clean ’90s lip is the cheat code to looking like you’ve worn a full face,” shares professional make-up artist Ranti Adeyemi. “The ’90s lip transcends eras, because it works for everyone. Who says no to a cool, over-structured lip?”
Below, find Vogue’s guide to nailing the trend–and the best products to use for a long-lasting look.
Make it work well for every skin tone
“Choosing a pencil two shades darker and cooler [than the skin] helps create dimension,” says Adeyemi. The classic ’90s lip is brown, but in order to accommodate all skin tones, ashy plums and soft grays can also create the same effect. And the neutral, matte lipstick in the center is universal.” As Adeyemi puts it: “For women of color, the ’90s lip allowed us to wear any lip color on the market–no matter how beige! The lip liner was going to make it work.”
Increase its staying power
“Placing a matte brown eyeshadow similar to the lipliner around your lips will help keep the lip liner intact,” says Adeyemi. “Usually, your contour color should be a perfect match. Rub the lips together without lipstick, then apply flesh-toned color in the centre with a little clear gloss on the perimeter for high shine.”
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