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Nostalgia Is the Biggest Beauty Trend of the Year

These iconic looks from the past have found a new life in 2021.

y2k beauty trends
Ashley Combs

Nostalgia has been trending for some time now, but Y2K beauty hit a fever pitch this year. From eyelids covered in pastel shades to lips drenched in gloss, the makeup and hairstyles that were all the rage in '90s and the early aughts can be found all over TikTok and Instagram.

Celebrities have been catalysts for the trend's rise, as well. A quick scroll on your feed and you'll find Precious Lee rocking the lip liner trend, Megan Thee Stallion with bold, green highlights flowing through her hair, and Dua Lipa wearing a light blue eyeshadow over her lids.

While beauty trends are cyclical in nature, there's a specific reason nostalgia is having such a moment right now. According to a study published in 2012, nostalgia helps build a stronger sense of social connectedness. Nostalgia also acts as a comfort blanket for one's senses, driving feelings of safety and security to the front of one's mind while pushing aside emotions tied to anxiety and stress. And even though the wistful emotion is steeped in the past, it has an impact on how one views their future—another study proved that nostalgia helps boost optimism about the years to come.

After 2020, it's understandable why people are looking to the past for beauty inspiration, especially since the trends that dominated the era are just plain fun. When it comes to memory, you're more likely to remember the good moments over the bad ones, so nostalgia offers an escape from the precarious nature of the present while also giving people a way to connect with others and form social bonds following a year when we were starved of touch.

Whether you want to reminisce on the beauty moments from the past or test out a new, flash look, we're taking a look at some of the most popular Y2K beauty trends, how they're being reimagined in 2021, and how you can recreate them.

High-Contrast Hair Color

y2k beauty trends

L: Courteney Cox at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards; R: Bella Hadid in January 2021; Photos: Getty, Courtesy of Instagram/@bellahadid

It felt like chunky, two-tone highlights were on every red carpet during the late '90s. Rather than opting brightly-colored streaks throughout your entire head of hair, a more modern version of the trend places the vivid tones on face-framing strands for a striking statement look.

Brown Lipstick

y2k beauty trends

L: Victoria Beckham in Paris in 1996; R: Justine Skye in May 2021; Photos: Getty, Courtesy of Instagram/@justineskye

When it comes to lip colors, brown looks great on almost every skin tone. Go for a subtle shade or embrace a more dramatic look. Regardless of which option you choose, pair this trend with a lightweight skin tint and a dab of gloss at the center of your lip to keep it fresh.

Generation G


Soft Matte Lip Cream

NYX Professional Makeup

Purple Eyeshadow

y2k beauty trends

L: Beyonce at the Wall Street Concert Series in 2005; R: Zendaya at the Dune UK premiere in 2021; Photos: Getty

The early 2000s calls to mind lids washed in soft purple pastels. The violet color is still around, but the 2021 rendition delivers vivid color saturation. Tap some pigment into the corner of your eyes to add depth and dimension to your playful shadow.

Lila Eyeshadow Palette

Natasha Denona

Lip Gloss

y2k beauty trends

L: Aaliyah at the Urbanworld Film Festival Launch Party in 2000; R: Hailey Baldwin before the 2021 MTV VMAs; Photos: Getty, Courtesy of Instagram/@maryphillips

While the impact a quick swipe of lip gloss can have on your look hasn't changed since the late '90s, the formulas sure have. You no longer have to deal with sticky glue traps—today's lip glosses are swimming with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and vitamin E.

Body Shimmer

y2k beauty trends

L: Britney Spears at the Dodger Stadium in 1999; R: Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 Met Gala; Photos: Getty

Body glitter once came in the form of roll-on sticks that would distribute chunky flecks all over your body. Now, it comes in a subtle sheen, acting as a highlighter for the skin. Use your fingers to tap it onto the high points of your collarbone and your shoulders for a warm glow.

Body Lava Body Luminizer

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

Supermodel Body Highlighter

Charlotte Tilbury

Frosted Lips

y2k beauty trends

L: Mariah Carey in Los Angeles in 1993; R: Lana Condor in February 2021; Photos: Getty, Courtesy of Instagram/@landacondor

Shimmer isn't just for the body. Take frosted lipstick, for example—the hint of metallic glaze adds a luminous veneer over your pout. Pro-tip: when applying the light pastel pigment, use a light hand. A thin coat should get the job done.

Glowgasm Lip Balm

Charlotte Tilbury

Ceramide Ultra Lipstick

Elizabeth Arden

Lip Cristal


Hair Claws

y2k beauty trends

L: A still from an episode of Friends from season one, shot in 1995; R: Kendall Jenner at an NBA game in April 2021; Photos: Getty

Elevate your go-to messy bun by holding it together with a hair claw. Not only does this hair accessory keep your hair in place, but it turns an average updo into a statement look. Lightly spritz your hair with a texturizing spray to add hold, then gather your hair towards the top of your head, and secure it with the clip—be sure to leave out a few loose pieces to frame your face.

'Couture' Jaw Clip

France Luxe

Claw Clip

Kristin Ess

Octopus Hair Claw

Free People

Glitter Eyeshadow

y2k beauty trends

L: Brandy during the 1999 Source Hip-Hop Music Awards; R: Dua Lipa attends the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in March 2021; Photos: Getty

Placing glitter onto your lids to create a glistening effect is both playful and fun, and luckily for us, the flashy accent has come a long way since the early aughts. Sweep on a powder shadow as a base, swipe on a glitter eyeshadow in a similar shade into your crease, then blend away. Finish off with a few coats of mascara and you're good to go.

Yeux Paint


Butterfly Clips

y2k beauty trends

L: Tyra Banks attends GQ magazine's "Men of the Year" Awards ceremony in 1998; R: Addison Rae in a magazine spread in July 2021; Photos: Getty, Dillon Matthew

Claw clips weren't the only hair accessory that ruled the Y2K era; butterfly clips were a signature staple, as well. These accessories come in all shapes and sizes, making them the perfect accent to any look. Clip them in at the base of your ponytail or use them to decorate face-framing accent braids.

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