Ahh, 2005. I was 16 and living through the golden era of emo rock. Teenage angst was the order of the day, and it was very much reflected in the contents of my makeup bag and wardrobe. Thankfully this was before the days when everyone had a camera phone, so there's little evidence of my style choices from that time in my life. Any Smirnoff Ice–fuelled moments that were snapped on a friend's four-megapixel camera were definitely not of a high-enough quality to print as a keepsake and now reside in digital heaven after MySpace lost all content uploaded before 2016 (RIP).
Even so, the memories of my makeup bag from that time remain as vivid as ever—likely because it was the first time in my life that I had truly experimented with beauty. Sure, I'd dabbled in orange-toned concealers and powders in an attempt to disguise teenage acne (spoiler—it didn't work), but 2005 was different. It was a riot of smudged kohl eyeliner, back-combed hair and fishnet tights as I attempted to re-create the kind of unkempt cool that Kate Moss oozed at Glastonbury that summer.
Yes, I might have resided in a cosy semi-detached in suburban London where my mum still did my washing for me, but I'd be damned if that was going to stop me from scribbling "I'm not okay" (hello, My Chemical Romance) on the soles of my carefully dishevelled Converse or painting my nails black in blatant disregard of my comprehensive's uniform code. (Disclaimer: This was basically my only act of rebellion at school. Admittedly, I was not very rock 'n' roll.)
Now, over 16 years later, at 31 years old, my forays into beauty experimentation are less outlandish to say the least. While I'm always willing to try something new—it's my job, after all—I have an unshakeable understanding of what doesn't suit me (coral lipstick) and where my beauty safe space is (all the blusher, please).
However, a recent trip down memory lane with friends resulted in the revelation that many of them were still using some of the same beauty products they first discovered as teenagers. And a quick rummage in my own makeup stash confirmed the same thing—there are plenty of items that have successfully made the leap into adulthood with me.
Keep scrolling to discover the 10 throwback beauty products that have stood the test of time (and which ones remain firmly in the 2005 beauty graveyard).
The Best Throwback Beauty Products to Shop Now
Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal Eye Pencil (£3)
Eyeliner is no longer a part of my daily beauty repertoire, but when the occasion has called for a soft, smoky eye, I always come back to this teenage favourite of mine from Rimmel. It's soft, blendable and intensely black, and I genuinely haven't tried a more expensive one that's any better.
Maybelline Colossal Volum Express Mascara (£7)
I have no idea how many bottles of this mascara I went through from the ages of 16 to 21, but I'm pretty sure I was solely responsible for keeping Maybelline in the mascara business. I recently rediscovered it and can confirm it's still just as brilliant. If you like soft, subtle, fluttery lashes, this won't be up your street, but if you want thick, volumised lashes for a night out, you really can't go wrong with this.
John Frieda Frizz-Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects+ Serum (£7)
I've spoken countless times about how much I love this throwback beauty product, and that's because I've yet to find anything that outperforms it. My mum first bought a bottle of this home for me in the early noughties (thanks mum!), and I've repurchased it myself ever since. I'm not fussed about its frizz-fighting claims—I'm fond of my flyaways—but it's brilliant at detangling and hydrating dry ends.
Rimmel Clear Complexion Transparent Powder (£4)
Unlike the early noughties, 2021 is very much about the glow, so powder has basically fallen by the wayside. While I no longer wear this clarifying one on a daily basis like I did as a teenager, I always have one in my stash for occasions when I want to dial down the shine. It's totally transparent so it works on all skin tones, and I like that it's specially formulated for blemish-prone skin, so it won't clog your pores. More importantly, though, it mattifies the skin without making it look chalky. Yes, there are more luxurious powder options on the market now, but for how often I use powder, this one gets the job done.
Collection Fast Stroke Eye Liner (£3)
So many people still swear by this £3 liquid eyeliner—including my younger sister, who perfected the emo eye like no other. It has a firm tip for precise application and lasts all day. In fact, it's been the brand's hero product for 25 years, so the stats speak for themselves.
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (£11)
This is such a timeless beauty product that I hadn't even remembered how obsessed I was with it in the mid-noughties until one of my friends reminded me of its charms. Trust me—when you were wearing the amount of green eye shadow that I was in 2005, you needed a base for it to stick to, and this primer always performed. Even now, makeup artists and celebs swear by this stuff for improving the longevity of any eye shadow you apply on top of it.
MAC Clear Lipglass (£17)
I didn't discover the complexion-brightening wonder that is red lipstick until later in my beauty journey, so 2005, for me, was all about clear lip gloss or lip balm. This one from MAC was a firm favourite in the era of Lancôme Juicy Tubes and remains a bit of a backstage beauty secret. It works just as well now as a clear lip gloss (a trend that's had a major resurgence in recent years), but makeup artists swear by it for adding a dewy sheen to the cheekbones too.
GHD IV Styler (£109)
Unless you were blessed with strands that did what you wanted them to, styling your hair at home before the turn of the millennium was a challenge. So when GHD launched in 2001—yes, it's their 20th anniversary this year—it was a real game changer. I'm going to say off the bat that I didn't own a pair as a teenager (I wasn't earning enough from my Saturday job at Boots to buy a pair, and my parents would not have been okay with spending over £100 on a hair tool for me), but I would go to a friend's house who did own a pair to straighten my unruly fringe before a night out. These days, I'm the proud owner of a set, and they're still just as good as I remember.
Benefit High Beam (£16)
I remember receiving this liquid highlighter alongside Benefit's iconic Benetint (£21) for one of my teenage birthdays and being so excited. For 16-year-old me, Benefit makeup was as fancy as it came, and the formulas really have stood the test of time. While I used to stripe this onto my cheeks for a kind of Tin Man effect, these days, I love mixing a few drops of this with my foundation to add a glow or applying it as a luminous primer before my concealer.
Barry M Gelly Hi Shine Nail Paint (£4)
As a teenager, black nail polish was a (very tame) symbol of rebellion. I used the classic Barry M nail paint formula, as it was cheap and lasted a long time (I always chipped it off, as I could never remember to buy nail polish remover). These days, I still have a soft spot for a black mani. I happen to think it's classic, chic and looks good on everyone. This high-shine formula is still as cheap as chips but looks a little glossier and more expensive than the original formulation.
Throwback Beauty Products That Should Stay in 2005
Stargazer UV Neon Hair Mascara (£3)
I don't know what marketer came up with the idea of repackaging lurid bottles of temporary hair colour into mascara packaging and calling it hair mascara, but I salute you. I, along with millions of other teenage girls fell for the fad—combing neon shades of pink, blue and silver through our strands to create a rainbow of terrible highlights. I can't see this making a comeback anytime soon.
Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation (£8)
I'm genuinely a big fan of Maybelline but I recently gave this throwback foundation another go and it just has no place in my 2021 makeup bag. Admittedly, a lot of the negativity around everyone's favourite 2005 foundation is to do with the shades (I was definitely guilty of wearing one that was about four shades too dark for me). If you like a completely matte complexion, this could be for you, but my skin up looking a little too Gerard Way for my liking.
Rimmel Professional Eyebrow Pencil (£4)
Nobody cared about eyebrows in 2005. Mine were like two anaemic stick insects I rarely touched (except when I was going at them with the tweezers). On very special occasions, I'd attempt to fill them in with this very pencil, which basically involved drawing the exact shape of my brow on top and colouring it in. Eyebrow products have come on leaps and bounds since—with volumising fibres and innovative applicators that genuinely mimic the appearance of hairs. If you can create that natural brow effect using this pencil, you're my idol, but I definitely cannot.
Urban Decay Eye Shadow (£15)
Disclaimer: I absolutely love Urban Decay powder eye shadows and think that they're some of the best formulations that you can buy. This is just an illustration of my 2005 love for green eye shadow. I'm not sure if this is just a personal thing, but I used to wear green eye shadow all over my eyelids—almost up to the eyebrows—and even on my lower lash line. Colourful eyeshadow is definitely having a moment again in 2021 but these days is more about soft washes of colour on just the eyelids or brighter slicks of eyeliner for a more contemporary finish.
Natural Collection Clear Mascara (£3)
When I wasn't going for the clumpy mascara look as a teenager, I'd opt for clear mascara. Why? I don't know. It never really did much other than make my lashes look a bit wet. While I'd reach for such a product now to tame unruly eyebrow hairs, I'm of the opinion that skipping mascara entirely is a lot more of a modern eye look. In fact, you'll find that fashion girls often forgo mascara entirely when they're wearing a bold lip.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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