This Polarizing Y2K Beauty Trend Is Back With a Vengeance—See How to Pull It Off


(Image credit: @dualipa)

Anyone who lived through the late '90s and early 2000s knows just how devoted we, as a society, were to wearing frosted eye shadow. We held onto that stuff like a vice grip, and it was pretty much fundamental to any on-trend makeup look. Celebs such as Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton, and Naomi Campbell were just a few of the era's It girls who embraced it. Fast-forward to the mid-aughts, and it pretty much fell completely out of style. We've lived a fairly frost-free existence ever since—up until now, that is.

It's officially back, and celebs such as Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Megan Thee Stallion, and Elsa Hosk are cosigning the new-old trend. The only difference is they're wearing modern frost finishes in a fresh way. If you're wondering how "frosted eye shadow" and "modern" could ever possibly be placed in the same sentence, we get it. That's why we've rounded up the most influential frosty makeup looks as of late. We've also tapped a celebrity makeup artist to learn more about the trend and how to update it for 2023. 


(Image credit: @hoskelsa)

"When we talk about iconic makeup looks in the late '90s and early 2000s, frosted eye shadow undeniably holds a special spot," says celebrity makeup artist J Guerra. "That's when frosted eye shadow reigned supreme. The metallic shimmer, the icy allure—it was the go-to look for A-list celebrities, pop stars, and basically every fashion-forward individual. How can anyone forget those frosty-white brow highlights?" 

While the trend had some staying power, keeping its relevancy through the late '90s and early 2000s, Guerra says it hit its peak in the year 2000. "To pin down an era, it really was the transition from the late '90s into the early 2000s (literally the year 2000) when the frosted-eye-shadow trend hit its pinnacle," he says. "Our beloved yet chaotic energy—the Y2K era. This look dominated most of the decade. From music videos to red carpets, that frosty iridescence was everywhere. And while trends come and go, the frosted look holds a nostalgic charm that every now and then makes a stunning comeback." 


(Image credit: @theestallion)

Speaking of comebacks, Guerra may have had a hand in the recent resurgence of frosted eye shadow. "I worked on the movie Hustlers starring J.Lo and did dozens of early 2000s makeup on the exotic dancers featured in the film," he says. "The amount of frosty, metallic eye shadows, highlighters, body glow, and, of course, lip gloss was intensely nostalgic! I never thought I'd see that much MAC Frost Eye Shadow ($23) again." 


(Image credit: @gigihadid)

Now, for the ultimate question: How can we update this look for 2023? Guerra says it's possible, and he has some tips to help all of us get there. First, use a light hand. "Less is definitely more when it comes to re-creating this lookDitch the heavy-handed application. Start with a muted base and gradually layer on the frost. Try focusing only on the center of the lid for a pop of brightness. Create subtle gradients instead of harsh lines or chunky textures," he says.

You can also use frosted eye shadow sparingly in precise locations. As Guerra puts it, "Keep frosty shadows in smaller, contained areas like the inner corners of the eyes instead, and let go of the metallic highlight under the brows." He says this is an easy trick to get a brighter, more sophisticated look.

That note on subtlety applies to eyeliner too. Guerra recommends leaving the thick kohl-rimmed liner in yesteryear. "Pair soft frosted shades with delicate, defined eyeliner," he says. "Keep the liner matte black for balance. Soft contrast is still cool."


(Image credit: @haileybieber)

Another easy way to modernize the frosted look is to make it monochromatic. If you try to incorporate too much color, you'll lose the effortless, modern edge. "When working with frosty finishes, try to stay in one color family for your entire look," Guerra says. "If you're using a rosy frosted eye shadow, consider a blush and lip color in the same spectrum. This gives a cohesive and monochromatic vibe that’s modern, flattering, and fresh."

Speaking of fresh, Guerra recommends focusing on the complexion too. "Any modern makeup look is still all about skin. Opt for a dewy, fresh foundation and liquid or cream highlighter, allowing your skin to shine through. It balances the texture of frosted eye shadow beautifully. It creates a more glazed, polished skin look instead of heavy, powdery metallics," he says. 

Don't be afraid to play with texture. Just because you're creating a frosty look doesn't mean you have to stick to one finish. "Mix and match matte, satin, and frosted finishes, slowly introducing the shimmer in small doses," Guerra says. "A matte crease paired with a frosted lid adds depth and keeps the look current."


(Image credit: @hungvanngo)

Guerra's final frosted-makeup tip is to consider the undertone of the shade you use: "Frosty shadows in cool shades were most common during the Y2K era. Try warming up the look with frost finishes of bronze, warm browns, burgundy, rose, or other colors that aren't the typical pastels of the 2000s."

His favorite way to use frosted eye shadow "for a subtle look with maximum impact" is to treat it as eyeliner. First, reach for a thin, angled brush. Then mist the brush with setting spray before picking up the eye shadow. This will give you a smoother application. Finally, line your upper lash line. "After completing the top portion, sweep a shimmer eye shadow across the bottom lash line to create a glow around the eyes. Apply a delicate coat of bottom mascara to finish the look," he says. There you have it—frosted eye shadow done in a fresh and modern way. 

Shop the Best Frosted-Eye-Shadow Products

Kaitlyn McLintock
Associate Beauty Editor

Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.