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'90s Beauty Products: An Ode To The Classics We Love And Miss

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I just don’t think we’ve reached our quota for nostalgia yet. How can we have? With every day that passes, we inch closer to "The O.C." being the new pinnacle of vintage fashion, which is nonsensical and terrifying. So, because that idea frightens me to my very core, I’ve chosen to take one last look (JK, as if) at the '90s before we go quietly into that dark night.

These are the beauty products that defined our lives, our beauty routines, and more specifically, our high school locker rooms. So slick on some Lip Smackers and brace yourselves for a Wet 'n Wild ride down memory lane ...

1. Tommy Girl Sparkling Fragrance Gel

Circa 1999, only one thing mattered: Tommy Girl. Always. Forever. Worn in such massive quantities that your mom asks you to please tone down the scent because she’s gotten a migraine (well, too bad, Mom!).

But on top of spritzing yourself to high heavens, you covered your body in scented, sparkly gel, praying the guy you liked would notice how high-brand you were: fancy enough to afford a designer perfume, but fun enough to slather yourself in glitter. He never did. But you, on the other hand, developed a rash that led to you having to swear off Tommy Girl Sparkling Fragrance Gel forever.


2. Sun-In

Full disclosure: not all of us were allowed to use this. But if you were, you knew the ups and downs of having normal hair one day and very damaged yellow-ish hair the next. I was jealous of all these girls. I wanted to be them, with their faux blond streaks and their cool parents who let them put God-only-knows what onto their heads which immediately catapulted them to greatness. Instead, I just had bangs and a Conair hair straightener. And I’ll give you three guesses as to how that turned out.


3. Calgon Hawaiian Ginger Body Spray

There was no locker room in North America that wasn’t defined by the scent of Calgon Hawaiian Ginger Body Spray circa ‘99-2001, with the only exception being the locker rooms that smelled like Calgon Peach. Me, I chose both. Rotating between both Calgon offerings, I considered myself a beauty connoisseur — despite (tragically) using them to mask the smell of my gym shoe bag.

With that in mind, let me be perfectly clear: the only thing worse than too much Calgon is the smell of too much Calgon mixed with gym shoes. Especially since after spraying my shoes, I would tie them tightly in a plastic bag. Which meant that every time I wore them, they were wet, smelled like Peach or Hawaiian Ginger, and whatever else you’re currently imagining.


4. L’Oreal Detangler Spray

loreal detangler spray

Fun fact: I still use it and hate my late-teen and 20-something self who thought she was too cool for hair that smells like pears. So yes, Detangler Spray still exists, and yes, it is a wonderful antidote to trying to undo the damage you’ve done by forgetting to buy conditioner that week. Also, you will lose less hair as you brush it, so thank you whatever-higher-powers-that-be. Pear hair for all! The '90s are back!


5. Bonne Bell Lip Lix

Each day I wake up and I scream into the sky about the discontinuation of the lip product that first introduced me to real, actual lip colour. Available in colours like “raisin” and “coffee,” the line embodied the palette we associate with the '90s now, thanks especially to the popularity of Kylie Jenner’s lip kits and preferred lip colours which I will now claim are modelled after Bonne Bell’s greatest line to date. RIP you sweet princes.


6. Bonne Bell Bottled Emotion

Hands up if you bought every Bottled Emotion available and then attempted to pair each with how you were feeling when getting ready for school. Hands back up if you realized some scents were just not great, but here we are, and now you’re stuck feeling “flirty.” Arguably, Bottled Emotion is good in theory: it’s wonderful to think about pairing particular smells with particular moods. But it’s also solid just to buy regular perfumes and equate them with moods all on your own.

Also: in general, I am anti-roller stick. But that’s probably a piece for another day, since that’s such a controversial take.


7. Gap Dream Perfume

You were the coolest person on the planet if you owned Gap Dream perfume proper — and not just the solid version of the perfume which was not the same, thank you everyone. Me, I owned the solid stuff (of course), and was convinced that I was just as good as this girl Corey, who had a massive bottle of the eau de toilette, because if you stood close enough to me you could totally tell I was wearing Dream.

And then, upon receiving a small bottle at Christmas, I truly came into my own as a North American Teen because I could put Corey to shame with the amount of Dream I was drenched in. So take that, Corey. You and your Furby.


8. Hard Candy Nail Polish

Hard Candy, Wet ‘n Wild, Bonne Bell: these were the nail polishes of our young lives. And they also defined our furniture and carpets since some of us (hi!) for sure spilled dark blue all over the place, and then red, and then got in a lot of trouble and weren’t allowed to buy nail polish for a while.

FYI, Hard Candy nail polish is still very much available.


9. Roll-On Lip Gloss

In theory, these made sense. We liked gloss, we liked sheen, we liked how easy it was to roll on a particular lipstick. (Brands unimportant.) But roll-ons were also sticky. And our hair got stuck to our lips. And sometimes, the roller-balls would come uncapped and your school books would be covered in gloss (or worse: your pockets, which just looks like something’s wrong). And one year, I tried a citrus flavour I was allergic to. And while Kylie Jenner-esque lips are all the rage now, they were less so when mine blew up, broke out in blisters, and I had to go through grade 10 pretending that nothing was questionable in the slightest.

So now I blame roll-on lip gloss entirely. And citrus-flavoured everything.


10. Herbal Essences

Granted, Herbal Essences shampoos are also still available now. But they’re not the same because at the time, the commercials were almost as scandalous as...well, nothing. Nothing was quite as scandalous. Or weird. In retrospect, these commercials were bizarre because the stars were getting off while washing their hair. And while I’m a sure that’s a thing, it didn’t explain why a bunch of us started buying Herbal Essences like we understood what was happening. (I mean, we did. But not really. We just wanted to feel like grown-ups.)

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