This Cheesy '90s Beauty Trend Is Suddenly Cool Again

Photo: Courtesy of Tom Ford Beauty.
It seems the beauty world's fascination with all things '90s shows no sign of waning. Nostalgia for brands like Caboodles and Lip Smackers runs rampant, and editorial looks featuring brown lipliner and grunge eye makeup seem to be everywhere. One trend we didn't see making a comeback, however, was the oft-maligned frosted lip. And yet, here we are. The frosted lip is not only back, it's suddenly very high fashion.

We know, we know: The fashion world has a tendency to recycle outdated, outlandish beauty looks and label them as trendy. Raver beauty, anyone? But this is one case where we are not only on board — we actually think it might be something that looks good on women who aren't genetically blessed 15-year-olds bathed in professional lighting. Stay with us on this one, we promise we're not totally bonkers.

Tom Ford's fall beauty collection ad was meant to present the brand's new Face Focus collection of complexion enhancers, but we could not stop looking at the somehow both subdued and statement-making gilded pout. Seriously, how badass does that gold lip look? At the brands fall/winter preview, we also noticed that some of the new lipstick shades, including additions to the core line and the relaunched Lips & Boys collection (oh yeah, the boys are most definitely back in town) featured pearlized, metallic, or straight up frosted shades.

As we dug deeper, we noticed quite a few brands rolling out their own frosty hues, from Champagne to metallic mauve. And each one made our hearts beat a bit quicker, rather than making our gag reflex kick in. What gives?

"Today, with new technology, frosted lipsticks have better light reflectivity then they used to. Because of the finer pearl particles, they deliver a smoother finish and an even application," says makeup artist Philippe Chansel. Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King agrees, noting that the shimmer and frost are much more sheer than the chalky, pastel-white frosts we saw in past decades. Not to mention that the background shades of the frosts are also more flattering — think berries, bronzes, and warm neutrals rather than bubblegum pink and washed out tan. "What’s great about these new iterations of shimmer is that the particles of the shimmer are much finer milled so the formula is much more moist," she says. "They don't look as artificial —they look more natural."

Still scared? We were too. So we asked Chansel and King to give us the lowdown on how to venture into frosty territory without making yourself look like a corpse. King says to look at opalescent and frosts as a kind of Instagram filter: Different hues and opacities can create new tones and expose different aspects of the shade. "They bring out your natural lip color with a light shimmer finish," she explains. That shimmer plays with the light, producing a more dimensional visual effect. This can also create the illusion of fuller lips.

Some sheer frosted lipsticks can be used alone or layered on top of other hues to create a metallic effect. "Layering gives you more options," says Chansel. "You can instantly add a metallic finish and more shine and dimension to your lip color by layering a frosted shade over a cream formula." Kind of like a shimmer topcoat. When layering, Chansel recommends using a more opaque shade on the lips as a base, and then adding a frost that is at least one shade lighter than your base color.

According to King, you can layer a frost over a lipstick, or apply it underneath a non-shimmer lipstick or gloss to create a more subtle opalescent look. And if you really want to get into it, you can layer two frosts on top of each other, although King says that's going to be a statement holographic lip — and you're going to want to feel pretty confident with your makeup skills to pull that one off. For those on the more timid side, try wearing a sheer shimmer over top of your bare lips to dip your toes in the frosted pond.

When trying to decide which frost is right for you, King says to stick with those in the warm family. "Silver shimmer can look ashy on darker skin tones. The easiest shimmer is more of a golden shimmer or what’s called tone on tone, where the shimmer is the same color as the actual lipstick." She loves frosts on wine or deep pink shades, but notes frosty shimmer is more difficult to make work with coral, peaches, pale pinks, or orange hues.

King says to just keep in mind that any shimmer you use is going to slightly matte out the finish of the base color. So if you start with a matte shade underneath, layering a frost over top is going to give you a velvet lips effect. How you actually apply it to the lips also makes a difference. "The fullest impact of it is going to be straight from the tube," says King. If you want to sheer the frost out, apply with a brush or blot it out, she suggests.

In short, not only are frosted lips flattering and actually wearable, they are also hella versatile. "It’s really something that this time they’ve come back, but they’ve come back in a way that is so much more wearable," says King. "I would encourage women to give it a try. Back off on the shimmer on your face and do it on the lips — it just feels very chic and new."

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite frosted, pearl, and opalescent lip colors to get you started. To borrow a line from Matthew McConaughey in the seminal film, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, frost yourself.
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While it's not the exact shade used in that stunning campaign visual, this neutral hue (which is actually the stand alone, full-size version of William from the original Lips & Boys collection) provides just the right amount of copper shimmer and neutral undertones to make it accessible to frosted newbs.

Tom Ford Beauty Lip Color in Guilty Pleasure $52, available at Nordstrom.
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King described her latest, Ice Queen, as "fairy dust for your lips." The sheer shade is basically an illuminator, blending gold and silver shimmer in a sheer, Champagne white base. It looks scary in the tube, but this one is one of the most flattering, intriguing hues we've tried yet.
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A perfect example of the tone-on-tone metallics that King was referencing, Nyx's deep rose hue features a matching shimmer that's surprisingly flattering and not too in your face with it's sheen.
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Go for the gold (literally) with this shade from cult indie brand Uslu Airlines. The antique gold shade looks amazing on olive and dark skin tones. It's what we imagine would happen if you had a serious makeout session with King Midas.

Uslu Airlines Lipstick in TIN, $20, available at Beautyhabit.
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This looks way more orange in the picture than it actually looks on your pout. When applied to the lips it reads as a beautiful flamingo pink with a hint of a golden coral undertone.
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A glossy topcoat that leaves lips with an otherwordly opalescence, we prefer this beauty applied to bare lips, but it will add a hit of razzle-dazzle to your regular lipstick.
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Perfect for layering underneath a gloss or lipstick, this Champagne balm gives your lips a subtle dimension by letting the soft shimmer peek through.
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If you're more of the DIY type, try making your existing lipstick a metallic frost by using your finger to press in some loose shadow, like this iconic gold powder. Duo-chrome shades are also great for this, providing the tones are in the same color family as the base lipstick.

As King says, lipstick is like a painting — you have a background and a foreground, and playing with how you apply the shimmer will create a different effect each time. So don't be afraid to experiment — who knows what kind of beauty alchemy you might cook up.
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