This Controversial '90s Lipstick Trend Is Back, and We Don't Hate It

Ahh, the '90s. There were so many beauty and fashion trends (both good and bad) that we thought we left in the past: overplucked eyebrows, slip dresses, the "Rachel" cut, pastel eye shadows, mini bags, glitter everything… If you lived through the '90s, you've probably sported at least one of these trends. 

But because everything seems to circle back, a lot of these trends have made a comeback. We're not surprised about some of these and have really embraced them, but we're still getting used to others. One beauty trend that we've seen making the rounds in the 21st century is brown lipstick. The look was so popular with celebs from Drew Barrymore to Jennifer Lopez to Tyra Banks. We thought it was a dearly departed beauty trend, but now, it's back. And we're not really mad about it.

"Once a younger generation wasn't alive for the trend the first time around, it then feels new and exciting because they don't remember the horrors of looking back on it in old photographs," says celebrity makeup artist Quinn Murphy, whose clients include Karlie Kloss and Dakota Fanning. "Hopefully, each new generation can learn from the previous one's mistakes—which leads us to brown lipstick! These 20-year-old girls love a brown lip and defined lip liner with a black flicky liner. Sound familiar? Like any trend, it all comes down to how it is done and on who, except for shoulder pads. No one should wear them (except maybe Elizabeth Warren)."

Drew Barrymore


Steve Granitz/Getty Images

We're not hating on this recycled trend because it's a pretty universally flattering shade. You can go for a really subtle lip or lean into the dramatics. "Brown is a color that has many undertones and variations," Murphy says. "It's flattering when the hue is complementary to the person's overall coloring (warm or cool, light or dark, how much gray in the color, or soft). This is true of all colors but will especially show in browns."

To choose the right shade for you, Murphy says the general rule is the darker your coloring, the darker your makeup colors. Pay attention to your undertone as well. "If you have a warmth to your coloring, choose a brown with a yellow/orange undertone," he recommends. "If you have a cool undertone, go for a red-based brown. Stay away from too much gray in the brown. That's what makes browns look harsh and dated. The mauve browns and taupe browns look sickly and dull."

Jennifer Lopez



And as for pairing it with certain makeup looks, there's a lot of versatility with brown lipstick. You can wear it with a daytime look or on a big night out. "It really depends on the amount of saturation in the lipstick," Murphy explains. "The stronger the statement, the more you want to soften the other areas of makeup."

Ready to take a time machine back to the '90s and sport some brown lipsticks? Here are some picks.

Murphy says Nars's Aya lipstick is a truly neutral chocolate brown with a toffee-like undertone that's very wearable.

This taupe-y, pink brown would be a good option for those with lighter skin tones, Murphy adds.

This matte lipstick is infused with nourishing ingredients such as agave, moringa oil, and cupuacu butter.

This darker brown is highly pigmented and works on different skin tones. The creamy lipstick provides a satin-like finish.

Laura Harrier



"If you are new to browns or scared, go with something like a rosewood or raisin brown. Chanel has 287 Rosy Wood that walks the line of red/brown," Murphy says.

For more of a subtle, natural shade, reach of Glossier's Generation G in Leo. It adapts to your natural lip color and has a matte texture that you can build up for more saturation.

Murphy says this one from Dior is a darker version of the more pink brown that works on darker skin tones.

In a medium-cool brown, this creamy and matte color is lightweight and highly pigmented.

Olivia Munn



This dark brown lipstick has some reddish tones in it. The color is intense and long-lasting.

"It's a gorgeous, deep ruddy brown. The warm undertone makes it very wearable, as it lies right between brown and red," Murphy says.

With a name like "So 90's," this lipstick will really transport you back. The formula also has special pigments to make your lips appear fuller.

Super dark and rich, this brown does not shy away from the dramatics, so reach for this if you want a statement-making look. The matte lipstick lasts up to 16 hours.

This chestnut lipstick is a medium brown that has a saturated, satin finish. The cool thing about this one is the gold applicator can be reused with refills.

Lawless Beauty's rich brown lipstick is vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. It's also enriched with jojoba oil, candelilla wax, and castor oil to smooth and hydrate dry lips.

"It's a mid-tone, warm nude brown. The warm, golden undertone makes it happier than a gray-death brown. This could also be a great nude/natural lip color on deeper skin tones," Murphy says.

Next up, I'm most often complimented on my lashes, lips, and perfume—here's the reveal.