Why Nostalgic Beauty Products Are Trending More Than Ever

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There’s something profoundly comforting about our first beauty memories. The products we cherish from our past hold as much sentimental value as the sound of our favorite TV theme song, the scent of our grandmother’s kitchen, or the feel of the sun on our skin while tanning in the backyard. With grooming and self care deeply intertwined in our core memories, it’s no surprise that nostalgic products are making a comeback and reclaiming their spots on our vanity.

Iconic items like Clinique’s Black Honey, Urban Decay’s Moondust, Sun-In hair lightener, and modern takes on classics such as MAC’s Spice Liner and Bain de Soleil’s Orange Gelée are resurging with stories that blend their past popularity with new formulations. These products not only evoke fond memories but are also on their way to becoming holy grails for a new generation of consumers.

  • Dr. Elizabeth Trattner is an acupuncturist and Chinese and integrative medicine expert based in Miami
  • Marty Bell is a founding partner of Vacation
  • Vic Casale is cofounder and ceo at MOB Beauty
  • Steve Kassajikian is the head of global artistry for Urban Decay

The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a potent force, particularly in the beauty industry. It taps into our emotions, conjuring memories of simpler times, cherished moments, and beloved rituals. “For late boomers, GenXers and early millennials rediscovering these products evokes a time in our lives when we read magazines, watched TV and we were much more in the moment. Smell and sound can bring us right back there,” says acupuncturist and Chinese and integrative medicine doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner. “There are robust studies that show how powerful ‘autobiographical memories’ are elicited by sight and sound.”

These sensory triggers can transport us back to specific moments in our lives, enhancing their emotional connection to certain products says Marty Bell, founding partner of Vacation, a ‘leisure-enhancing’ sunscreen brand created to evoke the past. “Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful emotion,” he explains. “We looked at the history of the sunscreen category and realized that in the ’70s and ’80s it used to be more fun and indulgent, back when it was all about tanning. We had strong conviction that when we layered together a familiar fragrance with nostalgic branding that we’d create a special kind of magic that can transport you to that vacation mindset.”

Dr. Trattner adds that tapping into those memories can instantly boost your mood. “If I am ever sad, I take a whiff of my beloved grandmother’s Youth Dew perfume. The smell of Bain de Soliel can make most of us yearn for that St. Tropez tan. Also, the TV commercials were visually beautiful, and glamorous, and it was our slow and simple version of social media.”

Modern Remixes

Vacation’s recent recreation of the iconic Bain de Soleil Orange Gelée sunscreen gel, originally launched in France in the 1920s, is a testament to the enduring allure of nostalgic products. After its discontinuation in 2019, fans called for its return. “There was such a uniquely dedicated cult following behind this product, and after it was discontinued in 2019 countless of these fans were begging for it to come back—even launching a Change.org petition with 10,000 signatures, creating private Facebook groups discussing the product, and buying half-used tubes for over $300 on eBay. We were honored to be able to make this dearly loved product available to its dedicated fans again, and to make new fans along the way.” By increasing the SPF from 4 to 30, the iconic Orange Gelée meets today’s needs while the formula gives users a moment of time travel.

Many of cult classic makeup products are also making a comeback. Vic Casale, co-founder and CEO at MOB Beauty, single-handedly revived the original formulation of the beloved MAC Spice Liner. As lovers of the ’90s shade know, today’s MAC Spice leans warmer than the OG shade. Casale served as chief chemist for MAC when the shade launched and recently brought out his original formulation notes to recreate it. “MAC Spice was one of the most iconic shades of the ’90s. It was beloved by so many and became larger than life and a symbol for ’90s makeup,” Casale says. “After I left MAC, the shade changed, and Spice today is not the same color that everyone loved. The makeup community wanted their shade back. I knew how to deliver it, so we did it for our community!”

Reviving this iconic shade required meticulous effort. Casale shares, “It took real science to reverse age the lab sample I had from 1990 along with the color formula in my lab book from October 1989.” This delivers the essence that made the shade a fan favorite while meeting today’s standards. Just like all MOB products, the formula is consciously formulated, plastic-free, talc-free, cruelty-free, and vegan.

Spanning Time

The resurgence of nostalgic beauty is much more than a trend; it’s a celebration of the best products that have left an indelible mark. They resonate across generations, appealing to those who experienced their original glory and those discovering them for the first time. As Bell puts it, “We feel that there’s always good reason as to why a given product was a hit back in the day; and if it worked then, there’s very likely some version of it that can thrive today.”

Steve Kassajikian, Urban Decay’s head of global artistry, says the enduring appeal of certain products also stems from their ability to deliver. “The product needs to be universal and wearable by everyone. It should also be something that enhances and makes you feel good when wearing it. I still use and love the Urban Decay OG Naked Palette and the Lancôme Hypnose Mascara.”

With new launches and trends coming out daily, seeing an old faithful back on the shelves is comforting. As we embrace them once again, we are reminded that the way products make us feel can never be replicated.

Shop This Story

1 / 7

Clinique Black Honey ($25)

Clinique Black Honey is a versatile, universally flattering lip color that transitions seamlessly from sheer to deep hues, reminiscent of its iconic 90s popularity.

nostalgic beauty products
Clinique Almost Lipstick Black Honey
2 / 7

Vacation Orange Gelée ($23)

A cult-favorite tanning gel from the past, Orange Gelée reintroduced by Vacation with modern SPF 30 protection, evoking nostalgia with its unique scent and luxurious feel.

Nostalgic Beauty Products
Vacation Orange Gelee
3 / 7

MOB Beauty Smooth Precision Waterproof Lip Liner ($22)

A legendary lip liner from the ’90s, revived by MOB Beauty in its reincarnation as the 1990 Smooth Precision Waterproof Lip Liner, perfect for defining lips with a neutral ’90s shade.

Nostalgic Beauty Products
MOB Beauty 1990 Lip Liner
4 / 7

Urban Decay MoonDust ($24)

A dazzling eyeshadow with a celestial glow, Urban Decay’s MoonDust in Space Cowboy brings back the beloved sparkle of the early 2000s thanks to Gen Z’s rediscovery of its shimmery color-changing effect.

5 / 7

Jean Nate After Bath Splash Mist ($17)

Jean Nate, the famous and affordable ’80s after-bath splash, has found a second life in drugstores and as the subject of many a TikTok video.

6 / 7

Sun In Lemon Fresh Hair Lightener ($5)

A classic spray-in hair lightener that captures the essence of sun-kissed summer highlights from the ’80s and ’90s.

Nostalgic beauty products
Sun-In Hair Lightener
7 / 7

Caboodles Rose Gold On the Go Girl ($24)

The iconic, colorful cosmetic organizer from the late ’80s and ’90s, perfect for storing and transporting beauty essentials with style and nostalgia.

Nostalgic Beauty Products

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