Beauty Products You Almost Forgot About

Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Listen, we’re all for living in the moment — after all, the here and now is a pretty good place to be. Still, we’re not immune to the allure of a rosy-glassed past. Everything seemed so monumental and meaningful when we were younger, and that goes for beauty, too.
Most of us remember the first lipstick we bought (or, um, shoplifted), the scent of Herbal Essences, and the bizarre allure of hair mascara. Certain products have the ability to take us back, just like that. Proust had madeleines; we have Lip Smackers.
So, we’ve highlighted 16 finds that you probably haven’t thought of in years — plus their modern-day counterparts, which are more in line with your grown-up taste (and grown-up bank account). We know you’ll have a few of your own suggestions, too, so be sure to share them in the comments. The past, for sure, never looked this good.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Love's Baby Soft
Only Humbert Humbert could have dreamed up a more inappropriate (and quite possibly, barely legal) ad campaign than the folks who promoted Love’s Baby Soft in the ‘70s. In one commercial, a young woman seductively licks a lollipop while a male voice describes “a baby who grew up very sexy.” A print ad features a tarted-up little girl with the Baby Soft slogan: "Because innocence is sexier than you think.” Gross. And, yet, was there any preteen girl who didn’t want to spray on this powdery, soft, “grown-up” cologne to feel like a woman? Nope.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
For a similarly cozy, soft — yet decidedly adult — fragrance, there’s KenzoAmour, a gentle blend of cherry blossom, rice steam, vanilla, and musk. No creepy ad campaign involved, either.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Caboodles
First things first: Yes, Caboodles are still around, and yes, Debbie Gibson is again plugging those plastic makeup organizers. For girls of the early ‘90s, there was no better way to store LipLix and dELiA*s glitter — even if your jackass brother said your Caboodle was essentially a pink tackle box. Imitators like Sassaby could never quite reach the same level of popularity, and later, there was a makeup line with garish eyeshadows that had containers shaped like tiny Caboodles. (So meta!)
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
If you already have oodles of Caboodles in your life, consider a professional train case — it’s sleeker, albeit a little less wacky in the color department.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Bo-Po Nail Polish
Bo-Po (that’s Brush On, Peel Off) polish was a godsend for noncommital young manicurists. Made by a kiddie-cosmetics company called Tinkerbell, the polish could be lifted off the nail bed without remover, leading to hours of fun. Tinkerbell tanked in the ‘90s, and a small company recently revived the O.G. Bo-Po for the little ones.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
These days, we’re more likely to want a manicure to last for a week, but still, there’s something satisfying about that peel-off motion. Enter Liquid Palisade, a paint-on barrier for flawless lacquer. Brush it on cuticles, apply polish to your nails, and then lift off the barrier. Bam! No smudges or stray color going where it shouldn’t.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Kissing Potion
Before your first kiss, there was Kissing Potion, the lip product of choice among seventh-graders everywhere. The roller-ball applicator deposited slickness and flavor in equal amounts, ensuring that if any surprise puckers came your way, your lips would be primed. Maybe you went for the cola variety, or perhaps you preferred watermelon — but everybody knew that, somehow, wearing this stuff would increase our chances of getting kissed. (It was called a potion, for god’s sake! It had to work magic.)
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Kissing Potion is no more, but Philosophy’s smooth, cherry-flavored gloss is a grown-up way to get the same feeling with a hint of tint. And, hey, when you factor inflation into the mix, you probably come out ahead with this one.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Wet n Wild 666 Lip Liner
Here’s the funny thing about Wet n Wild’s #666 liner: It worked for everyone. Was it brown? Was it more of a deep rose? Was its popularity the work of...the devil? Who cares — it was (and is!) less than two bucks.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
For those who remember and love the shade, we wholeheartedly encourage dropping the cash on a trip down makeup memory lane. But, if you seek a bit more intensity, check out Surratt Automatique Lip Crayon in mahogany. Think of the matte-finish formula as a bit more vampy than its predecessor (and more Vamp-y, too).
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
CK One
The ‘90s had a smell, and that smell was CK One. From the moment this unisex fragrance launched in 1994, it was clean and different and everywhere. Its arty black-and-white ads starred Kate Moss (waifish, soft-spoken) and Jenny Shimizu (androgynous, tattooed), adding fire to the debate over the so-called “heroin chic” look.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
As for the fragrance itself? Icy, musky, citrusy, slightly metallic. You’ve smelled it a million times, and if you’ve worn it almost as much, it might be time to splash on Azzaro Chrome. Yes, the soapier scent is another ‘90s fragrance, but it’s a cologne, so far fewer women have worn it.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
L.A. Looks Mega Hold Gel
Bet you never thought you needed multiple bottles of gel, but L.A. Looks proved otherwise. Whether you were aiming to create crunchy curls or a wet-look bun, globbing on this gel — or its old-school rival, Dep — was essential. (For guys, too. Where would Vanilla Ice and 'N Sync have been without their stand-up, glossy hair?)
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
The formulas of yesteryear are still around, but for a more luxurious gel, you can’t go wrong with Kérastase’s Forme Fatale. Instead of stiffness, it creates volume and hold — it’s as modern as they come.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Exclamation
While the ‘90s fashion revival keeps going and going, we’re waiting for some of the decade’s most iconic scents (to our noses, anyway) to make a comeback: Sunflowers, Liz Claiborne, and the one that made a statement without saying a word, Exclamation. The peachy-apricot, amber-and-sandalwood fragrance was — not to put too fine a point on it — about as subtle as Kris Kross’ fashion sense.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Looking to reincarnate the best part of Exclamation? Serge Lutens’ Daim Blond also has a sunny feel and a dried-apricot note, but it’s all wrapped up in soft suede. If Exclamation was Technotronic’s brash “Pump Up the Jam,” Daim Blond is Slowdive on repeat: fuzzed-out, dreamy, sunny, gorgeous.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Teen Spirit Deodorant
Without this antiperspirant, would Nirvana have gone platinum? We may never know, but the success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” definitely bolstered sales of both cassingles and Teen Spirit deodorant. Marketed toward teenage girls, the sweat-stopping sticks were immensely popular to begin with; scents like Caribbean Cool and Romantic Rose floated through high-school locker rooms everywhere. And, as grunge went mainstream, sales of Teen Spirit soared. But, sweaty youth are a fickle bunch, and by the time Nirvana was no more, Teen Spirit had already begun to lose its dominance.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Today, only two scents remain, and if smelling like a “sweet strawberry” isn’t your thing, may we suggest Dove Advanced Care? It’s available in multiple (more refined) scents, and the formula is surprisingly gentle on just-shaved underarms. Of course, we’re not saying you need to de-fuzz your pits — we did learn about choices from those riot grrrl 'zines, after all.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Hard Candy Sky Nail Polish
Though it might seem unimaginable in today’s color-saturated lacquer field, there was once a time when baby-blue nail polish was impossible to find. So, enterprising 20-something Dineh Mohajer mixed her own formula, and the result was Hard Candy’s Sky. The original pastel-blue color, which came with its own heart-shaped ring, skyrocketed to popularity after Alicia Silverstone plugged it on Letterman. Before long, Hard Candy was sold for millions — and now a version of the brand lives on at Walmart.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
For a next-gen version of Sky, why not slick on RGB’s Cerulean polish? It's still bright and blue, but the shimmery lavender undertones make it a little more now.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Revlon Street Wear
“So, there’s this rave this weekend, right? We should totally go. You can wear your X-Girl baby tee with your JNCOs, and I’ll pick up a bunch of candy chokers and VapoRub for us. Ooh, and we can get ready together — make it a whole thing. Like, you can dye my hair with Kool-Aid, and I just found this killer Street Wear stuff at the drugstore. You can have the purple lipstick, and I’ll take the moss-green nail polish. It will be so daring."
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
"Then, in 15 years or so, long after Revlon discontinues Street Wear and we have moved on to activities that don’t involve sucking on pacifiers in public, we can wear these color-shifting eyeshadows from Topshop and remember that a little bit of ‘90s iridescence isn’t a bad thing. Gotta go, my mom’s beeping me.”
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Ten-O-Six Lotion
Was it a cleanser? A toner? No matter what you called it, Ten-O-Six stung like a mutha. Which meant, of course, that it was “working,” right? Yes and no, actually. As any breakout-prone teen likely knew, this antiseptic formula eliminated dirt, makeup, and every last drop of oil possible.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
If you’re still battling breakouts and dull skin but don’t want to feel the burn, an alcohol-free cleanser with glycolic acid will more gently take your skin to a perfect 10.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Windmere Crimping Iron
Achieving the perfect ‘80s coiff required three things. First, enough styling mousse to blanket the state of Nebraska. Second, teased bangs. Finally — and critically — the Windmere crimper, because if hair didn’t zig and zag like the Bride of Frankenstein’s, it just wasn’t cool. Aside from a runway appearance here and there, crimping is one of those trends destined to stay in the past.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
That doesn’t mean an evolutionary style can’t work, though. Bed Head’s Wave Artist iron creates large-scale, defined waves that echo the past without, you know, repeating it. Who said crimpin’ ain’t easy?
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Sun-In
All you wanted were some natural-looking highlights, so you sprayed some Sun-In and let the rays and peroxide do their work. Not a terrible plan if your hair was blond, but if you had medium-to-dark hair? Hope you liked brassy, rust-colored streaks.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Modern blondes can more precisely control their hue with Redken’s Blonde Idol Custom-Tone conditioner, which comes in varieties for both warm and cool tones. The formula can be adjusted to deposit more or less color as needed, which makes it the perfect fit for type-A blondes.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Gap Grass
In the ‘80s, fragrance was bold, heavy, heady, statement-making. (Obsession, Poison, Opium — need we say more?) By the time the next decade rolled around, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction, and suddenly, being one-note was a compliment, not an insult. The immensely popular Gap Grass captured the moment well: Its crispness and verdancy was tempered by a hint of musk snaking its way into a newly mown lawn.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
These days, Grass lives on only in the fertile fields of eBay, but for a different interpretation of freshness, there’s Diptyque Philosykos. It smells of living fig leaves, a fern weighted by morning dew, and a hint of grass. Grown-up price, yes, but grown-up fragrance, too.
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Clairol Lock ‘n’ Roll Curlers
It was soooooo unfair that Mom wouldn’t let you get a spiral perm, right? Good thing you could use Clairol Lock ‘n’ Roll curlers. Unlike traditional heated rollers, these silicone spoolies were flexible; the idea was to roll hair into a heated curler, then secure it with a pop-and-lock motion. Ten minutes later, you’d look like Miss Janet if you were lucky (or Kip Winger if you weren’t).
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Illustrated by Laura Ann Huber.
Hot rollers never really go out of fashion, though, and these clip setters get the job done in five minutes — but if you must have the tighter coils, there’s always eBay.
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