Legend has it I was born wearing red lipstick.
Just kidding. I’m not famous enough for there to be legends about me. And besides, that would be kind of creepy.
I did start using “beauty products” pretty early on, though. Most of us did, if you think about it--our parents washed our hair and moisturized our skin before we could even focus our eyes on the bottles. But it’s the products that I eventually got to pick out for myself that really remind me of my childhood.
That’s why I love seeing certain brands when I’m in the drugstore: instant nostalgia. And some of those brands are still making products I would absolutely pick out for myself today.
One of the first types of products I had a say in buying was haircare--specifically, shampoo and conditioner. In the '80s, it seemed like every other commercial was for shampoo, and they convinced my baby brain that my hair would look shiny, full, and bouncy the second I stepped out of the bath. And that maybe a puppy would be waiting for me.
Back then, I used plenty of brands that I can’t find in drugstores or salons anymore--Vavoom, Salon Selectives, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific, Agree--but the one brand I regularly returned to as as kid was Finesse.
Finesse still makes a number of formulas, and the ones that appeal to me most are the All Day Fresh Shampoo and Conditioner, which promise to reduce “the lingering effects of unwanted odors like smoke and grease.” I’m not a smoker, but as someone whose scalp gets super-sweaty, I can definitely appreciate a deodorizing effect.
The very first color cosmetic I was allowed to wear was CoverGirl LipSlicks, when I was in sixth grade. These were the original glossy tinted balms, and they were going strong in their original format until just last year.
That’s when CoverGirl gave them an upgrade, introducing LipSlicks Smoochies. There’s a wider array of colors, sassier packaging, and they even smell better than the old LipSlicks, but they’re still a great “I need to slap a little sheer color on my lips without even looking in the mirror” option.
Before I was allowed to wear any lip color, I resorted to Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, probably out of sheer peer pressure. Was there not at least one flavor in every little girl’s backpack?
I love that the Lip Smacker folks are well aware of their nostalgic appeal. (You can’t tell me full-grown women aren’t part of the brand's target demographic.) Today, they make several “vintage” flavors in retro packaging, including Orange Sherbet, Piña Colada, and my personal favorite, Sour Grapes.
Speaking of grapes, artificial grape scent immediately sends me back to the ‘80s because it was the signature fragrance of Aussie products.
Although I wasn’t using hairspray back then, I had a teenage sister who used it excessively. I know, I know... all teenagers were using hairspray excessively in the '80s, but this is a New Jersey teenager we’re talking about. “Excessively” takes on new meaning.
My sister used Aussie hairspray almost exclusively--though she did try the now-discontinued and ridiculously-named Shpritz-Forte--so I will always associate its scent with her and the brown-tiled bathroom we shared.
Aussie products have a range of scents now, but their Mega Hairspray is still packing that perfect grape smell. And it’s a damn good flexible-finish spray, too!
What childhood beauty brands make you sentimental? Which ones do you wish would make a comeback?