There are quite a few beauty fads that still play a role in my daily routine. They may be dressed up in different packaging or meant to serve a slightly different purpose, but they’re basically the same products I used in grade school, high school, college and beyond. And I bet you probably have some similar “non-fad” fad items of your own.
So here I present five “Then and Nows” — products I used back in the day paired with ones I use now that essentially serve the same purpose, if perhaps in a smarter, less harmful and more modern way.
Then: Sea Breeze Astringent
Sea Breeze was some seriously potent stuff, and every girl I knew in the seventh grade used it. It was almost like a rite of passage — I remember one particular slumber party in which a guest (who had perfect skin, I might add) admitted she’d never tried it, and was forced to soak up a cotton ball and “Breeze herself.” I recall this well because of how much she hated it —“It stings! It stings!” she kept saying, while everyone laughed.
But I liked Sea Breeze’s tingling sting, because it made me feel like something was really happening — a war was being waged on my acne-filled face. Little did I know it was actually making everything worse, since the Sea Breeze formula of yore had an extremely high alcohol content, which dried out my skin and caused it to flake. It also did nothing to rid me of zits, because dry skin is damaged skin, and damaged skin is extra susceptible to breakouts. The astringent still exists today, though I’m told the formula is much less harsh.
Now, I’ve not only rid my life of alcohol, but my skincare routine, as well. I use Neutrogena’s Alcohol-Free Toner to balance my combination-oily skin, and I don’t use it every day — three times a week, tops. The best benefit: My face doesn’t feel like it’s burning off when I apply it.
Rather than touch up my roots with a product that has a 50% chance of turning my entire head of hair orange (though I have to say, one time it worked great and I liked the highlights Sun-In gave my hair), I now use Oscar Blandi’s excellent touch-up pen. It creates such natural looking lines, I swear! So many people can’t believe a color pen could look anything but fake, but it doesn’t. Especially if you blend it in just a bit with your fingers. And it’s amazing what a difference it makes — it lightens up your entire look, just like we hoped Sun-In would do for us back in the day.
Then: Dep Hair Gel
Bumble and bumble proudly touts their product as the “Multi-Talented Sculpting Medium That’s Flexible, Brushable, Never Sticky or Stuck in Another Era.” It’s almost as if they’re specifically referring to Dep, which was the oh-so-popular gel of the ‘80s/early ’90s that literally glued your hair into place. There were flakes and cracks and awful morning-after brush outs, but by God it was worth it because this stuff kept my key wave and carefully defined curls in place.
Gels in general have waned in popularity since the ‘90s, in part because they contain a ton of alcohol, which causes breakage and weakens strands all around. Plus, there are now a host of healthier hair styling options that weren’t available before, such as serums and crèmes. Still, Bumble and bumble’s Gel, which I use for all-day or all-night occasions like weddings or work events, fulfills the same need: It keeps my style 100% in place. The difference is, the ingredients aren’t as harsh, my hair isn’t badly damaged and I can run a brush through it the next day without half of it cracking off into the bristles. Also, I only use a pea-sized amount — back in the day I didn’t understand the concept of hair product moderation.
I was too young for makeup when Dial-a-Lash came out, but I remember seeing the ads on TV and thinking it was amazing. It had a DIAL. Like a PHONE had a DIAL. You could choose your lash intensity the same way you could choose the volume on your Sony Discman. So when I finally was old enough to use mascara, I ran out and bought a tube in jet black. It certainly did what it said it would: a 1 gave me a very light touch of color while a 9 was nuts — way too much product which clumped my lashes and left me looking like a strung-out Betty Boop.
These days I use CoverGirl Clump Crusher, $8 on a daily basis, but when I really want to amp up my look, I use Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara, which totally does the trick. It fattens those lashes up without leaving globs of product behind. And it also adds length — a combo that really does make it look as though your lashes are so fab, they just might be faux.
Then: Pink Neon Lipstick
Now: Pink Neon Lipstick!
“Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!” I don’t think there was any girl my age (about nine) in 1983-94 who didn’t own a pair of fingerless lace gloves, wear black rubber bangles and sport bright pink neon lipstick (when our parents let us get away with it). I still loved this shade once wearing lipstick was allowed (my favorite was a hot pink offering from Wet ‘n’ Wild because it was cheap, vibrant, yet easy to wipe off).
Thirty years later, neon lips have made a comeback, and Obsessive Cosmetics Lip Tars are perhaps the best option for creating glowing, 80s-eque pouts. The brand has long been a secret of makeup artists, but started to become mainstream in 2011 as a result of the opening of their flagship store on the Lower East side of Manhattan, and the brand being sold in Sephora. These lip colors are highly pigmented and are designed to be buildable, so you can easily adjust the intensity of color.
It’s really too bad that OCC didn’t exist in the 80s, because the neon shades would have been perfect for that era. The Lip Tar in Nylon, $18, has the greatest bubblegum pink hue, and the more you add on, the more of a neon glow you’ll get. It may be a bit over the top, but for a party it’s perfect. Plus, everyone is wowed and wants to try it out. OCC’s Lip Tars are truly unlike any other lip colors out there.