We Wore Our Middle School Makeup A Decade Later — & Here's How It Looked

Designed by Tristan Offit.
When we think back to our middle school years, we're reminded of braces (and the holiday-themed rubber-bands they came with), puberty (and the resulting first encounters with pimples), and physical-fitness tests (tell us, why were shuttle runs always on the hottest days?!). So yeah, it's a mixed bag of memories.

On the brighter side, it was middle school that marked the start of our love affair with all things beauty. Glitter nail polish! Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers! Great Lash mascara! If you were a tween in the 1990s or 2000s, these were likely staples in your bathroom. And seeing as the cool new thing for twenty- and thirtysomethings is to embrace the nostalgic markers of youth — Pokémon, adult summer camps, spaghetti straps — we decided we'd swap out the current products in our makeup bags for the ones we used back in the days of note-passing and geometry proofs.

Ahead, see how six Refinery29 beauty editors re-created their tween looks — the good, the bad, and the frosty.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Cat Quinn, Beauty Director
"My look was tan and frosty — with a full set of braces. As you can imagine, this look really soared in middle school.

"Unlike my emo friends who were lining their eyes in the blackest black to match their hair (and emotions), my mom wouldn't let me dye my hair or wear dark makeup. So, my sister took me to the drugstore and — within the limited parameters of my conservative parents — helped me put together this exceptional look of foundation, frosty-blue shadow, clear mascara, pink blush, and goopy, clear gloss. (To her credit, that was the look of the 2000s.)

"I can't believe that when I was 13 and pore-less, I was wearing such a full-coverage foundation. And, at the time, I was wearing it about three shades darker than my skin tone to fake a tan in California. (Never mind that my neck was ghastly white.) The frosty shadow would make an exceptional highlighter now, but sweeping it from my lids to my browbone definitely washed me out in the worst way. Brow pencil would have been a welcome addition to this look.

"Since gloss is making a comeback, I absolutely loved pulling out this classic tube of clear goopy-ness. It's thick and tacky, which I love because it lasts all day and has that Anna-from-The O.C. look. Even though I had no need for it back then, the CoverGirl cream foundation concealed my acne scars and redness today. And I wouldn't be caught dead with clear mascara now, but the formula is great for taming brows 15 years later."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Cat's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Smoothers Aquasmooth Compact Foundation, $8.02, available at Walmart.

NYC New York Color Show Time Lash & Brow Mascara in Clear, $1.87, available at Walmart.

CoverGirl Bombshell Shine Shadow in Ice Queen, $7.33, available at CoverGirl.

Wet n Wild Glassy Gloss Lip Gel in Through the Looking Glass, $3.93, available at Walmart.

CoverGirl Cheekers Blush in Natural Rose, $3.89, available at Drugstore.com.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Alix Tunell, Senior Beauty Editor
"I had no idea how to do my makeup in middle school. My mom had drawers full of those Clinique gift-with-purchase sample bags, so I got my makeup education by stealing products and hoping she wouldn't notice.

"My big thing was black eyeliner — lots of it — along my upper and lower lashes. It might have worked had I paired it with eyeshadow, but as it was? Amateur hour. I just wanted to be edgy and punk-ish, okay? As an adult with contact lenses (which I didn't have in middle school), my eyes were turning red and tearing up from so much pencil on the waterline after a couple hours.

"The powder foundation wasn't fun, either. My skin is dry, so it highlighted flakiness and settled into lines. I always use foundation with a dewy finish now, and I can't remember the last time I used setting powder. This would be great for someone with oily skin today, but that isn't me post-eighth-grade graduation.

"The blush and lip gloss, however, held up to this day. In fact, I was surprised by how much I liked the blush. I usually use cream formulas or NARS Orgasm, which has a bit of shimmer, but this matte powder was really flattering. And I've been Team Gloss since the beginning, so I was excited to bring back the Juicy Tube, which I didn't remember smelling sooo good."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Alix's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Simply Powder Foundation in Buff Beige, $8.49, available at Drugstore.com.

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, $6.40, available at Maybelline.

Lancôme Juicy Tube in Tickled Pink, $19, available at Lancôme.

Essence Long-Lasting Eye Pencil in Black, $2.49, available at Ulta Beauty.

Clinique Soft-Pressed Powder Blusher in Pink Blush, $22, available at Clinique.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Maria Del Russo, Beauty Editor
"I was a dancer growing up, so I always wore cosmetics for recitals, but middle school was the first time I actually wore makeup outside of those special occasions. In seventh grade, my friend Samantha pulled out a L'Oréal eye pencil on the bus and lined my lower waterline. From then on, that was my go-to makeup look: black pencil along my waterline (but nowhere else), really thick foundation used as concealer, clear mascara, and Lip Venom. I didn't discover blush or bronzer until college (I know), so I looked like a full-on vampire.

"And yet, I didn't hate my walk down makeup memory lane as much as I expected to. Truthfully, it didn't look like I was wearing much makeup at all, which may have been why my parents didn't pitch a fit. With my newly bleached hair, I really dug the slept-in, smudgy look the eye pencil afforded me, but the clear mascara and lack of an eyelash curler didn't really do much for me.

"The wheels fell off, though, when it came to the foundation. As I've gotten older, I've embraced a more natural skin look, which means I only use light concealer or tinted moisturizer. In fact, I can't remember the last time I actually wore foundation, so wearing foundation the entire day was rough.

"I was surprised by the Lip Venom. Opening up the tube was a total blast from the past — the packaging hasn't changed at all, and it still has that amazing cinnamon scent. But I remember it stinging when I was growing up; now, it barely tingled, and I didn't notice a plumping effect.

"Overall, I think I'm better off leaving the past in the past. The only product I've reused since our experiment is the clear mascara — only this time, on my brows instead of my lashes. It's actually pretty genius as a setting gel. It dries quickly, but remains flexible. It's comforting to know I got at least something right in middle school."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Maria's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Great Lash Clear Mascara for Lash and Brow, $5.99, available at Drugstore.com.

ColorStay Whipped Creme Makeup, $14.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

DuWop Original Lip Venom Tingly Lip Gloss in Clear, $16, available at Beauty.com.

L'Oréal Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner, $8.49, available at L'Oréal.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Mi-Anne Chan, Beauty Writer
"I didn't wear much makeup in middle school, but when I did, I stuck to the same few products: BareMinerals Original Foundation, CoverGirl lip gloss, Laura Mercier blush, Almay liquid eyeliner, and a random brownish-gray eyeshadow that I got in a gift-with-purchase pouch from Clinique. All of these products are ones I'd wear to this day (well, I might reach for a less shimmery gloss).

"The only difference when I re-created the routine this time around was that I had to swap the Clinique eyeshadow (which I used in my brows) for an Anastasia brow powder, because it was discontinued. I hadn't used a lot of these products in a while, so it was nice to fall back in love with my tried-and-true favorites, especially the BareMinerals Original Foundation. I love the matte, weightless coverage.

"Laura Mercier's blush was another pleasant rediscovery. It's so pigmented, and I've been using it daily since we took these photos. Almay's liquid eyeliner stayed on throughout my entire workout that evening — an intense trampoline class — and the CoverGirl lip gloss wasn't at all sticky or goopy. All in all, this was a success."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Mi-Anne's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Original Foundation in Golden Fair, $28.50, available at Sephora.

CoverGirl Colorlicious Lip Lava in Lychee Lava, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

Laura Mercier Second Skin Cheek Color in Soft Iris, $26, available at Laura Mercier.

Almay Liquid Eyeliner in Black, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo, $23, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Taylor Bryant, Beauty News Editor
"My middle school makeup look is similar to my current one: minimal. I might have actually been more experimental back then, since everything in the beauty world was totally new to me.

"My mainstay throwback products are essentially the same ones I have in rotation now — just a whole lot more affordable — though I applied them with a heavier hand when I was younger. The blush and mascara are classic and worked well, but the Lip Smackers wasn't for me. Though it's super-moisturizing and not nearly as glossy as some of the (now discontinued) lip products I used when I was in middle school, I'm exclusively a matte-formula girl now. Shine of any kind is something I'd like to leave in the elementary halls forever."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Taylor's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Great Lash Mascara, $6.40, available at Maybelline.

Lip Smacker
Chapstick in Watermelon, $2.50, available at Lip Smacker.

CoverGirl Cheekers Blush in Rock N Rose, $3.89, available at Drugstore.com.
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Photographed by Bianca Valle/Design by Tristan Offit.
Samantha Sasso, Beauty Assistant
"The thought of wearing my old favorites wasn’t all that scary to me — it helped that I really liked makeup when I was 12. But considering I hadn’t put on this exact routine in quite some time, I had forgotten just how heavy the coverage was. It looked natural, but it sure didn't feel natural.

"The base was too thick for me now — and I wouldn't reach for the acne-clearing formula now because I have actives in my skin care — but the blush-and-bronzer duo and the setting powder were still great. The worst aspect? The clear mascara and eyebrow gel. Granted, when I was in middle school, Cara Delevingne brows weren't in, but I felt naked without my usual brow primer, pencil, and gel. Also, my eyes looked dead whenever I walked by a mirror, so it's black mascara forever from now on."
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Photo: Tristan Offit.
Samantha's Middle School Makeup Bag:

Nourishing Long Wear Eyeshadow + Built In Primer, $9.49, available at Neutrogena.

E.L.F. Lash and Brow Mascara in Crystal, $2, available at Target.

Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Loose Powder Foundation in Nude, $13.49, available at Neutrogena.

Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup in Nude, $14.09, available at Neutrogena.

E.L.F. Contouring Blush and Bronzer Duo in St. Lucia, $4, available at E.L.F. Cosmetics.
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