Have you ever walked into a store and had one of your parents say, “I used to have something just like that when I was your age!” This is because they most likely wore or used something that looked scarily similar to the product in front of them. Even though kids would never want to be caught in something from their parents’ youth, all trends follow an inevitable cycle that helps industries grow and evolve. 

A trend occurs when a specific style or variation of an item becomes popular for a certain amount of time. These trends follow cycles that result in the trend being fazed out or continually being reintroduced over the years. 

Like most trends, beauty fads follow a 20-year cycle, which means trends of the past will most likely come back again after 20 years. This trend cycle, Laver’s Law, has been looked at for decades and was primarily studied in the fashion industry; however, it is prevalent almost anywhere you look. As the world experiences the 2020s, Y2K trends are coming back in full force. In this beauty trend 101, EnVi takes a look at how Gen Z is reinventing Y2K beauty.

Pastel Makeup


In the early 2000s, blue pastel frosted eyeshadow was the it girl look of the era. After years of neutral matte smokey eyes, this Y2K beauty trend burst onto the formerly grunge-obsessed scene and made some serious waves in the beauty industry. Pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera set the standard of having frosted-blue lids for any occasion. Like many other celebrities, Spears and Aguilera preferred to have a halo of frosted blue eyeshadow framing their eyes. 

The eyeshadow was diffused from the lash line all the way to above the crease. Then on the lower eye, the pigment started from the lash line and was blended far into the under-eye for a fuller-eye effect. Sometimes this look was enhanced with a touch of frosted white eyeshadow in the inner corner for a pop of brightness. Then, makeup artists finished the look by rimming the eye with black liner. However, this step varied depending on the intensity of each makeup look. 

Y2K blue pastel look. Photo courtesy of Mel Simmons

EnVi chatted with Kecia Littman, a freelance makeup artist and the Global Artistry and Education Manager at Pat McGrath Labs. As a veteran in the beauty industry with over 20 years of experience, Littman recollects her early days at MAC Cosmetics fondly. She recalls the countless best-selling products that can only be described as the epitome of the Y2K aesthetic. “The staple colors were blue and white. I just remember that was the era when fun colors were always sold out. Electric eel, a vibrant satin teal shade, and another yellow eyeshadow were always out of stock,” Littman says. There was a plethora of frosted lip products that were all the rage at the time, but the beauty industry expert vividly remembers a frosted lip gloss called Bubbles that would give the wearer a perfect frosted donut pout. 

Gen Z 

The beauty icons of Gen Z choose to recreate this Y2K eye look with a modern flare. Instead of sticking to blue eyeshadow, Gen Z experiments with different colored pastel eyeshadow. Gen Z is also updating frosted eyeshadow with translucent glitter. This makeup swap gives the eyes the desired twinkling effect without disrupting the color of the eyeshadow underneath.

Since this trend is highly versatile, pastel eyeshadow has made its sweep all over the K-pop industry with male and female idols rocking the retro trend. Sieun, the leader and vocalist of STAYC, sported a pastel pink eye look in the music video for the group’s Y2K-themed song “Teddy Bear.” Sieun’s look was accentuated by faux crystal freckles to give an extra eye-catching touch. 

The members of XG, a girl group known for their smooth R&B tunes and punchy hip-hop tracks, have also quickly proved themselves to be not only a music powerhouse but the epitome of the Y2K aesthetic. Maya, the lead vocalist and rapper, appears in the music video for “LEFT RIGHT” with perfectly diffused yellow eyeshadow all across the upper lid, orange eyeshadow rimming her lower lash line.

STAYC-inspired look

Photos courtesy of Mel Simmons

XG-inspired look

Photos courtesy of Mel Simmons

Blush, Blush, and More Blush

Mariah Carey-inspired blush technique


Celebrities in the early 2000s subscribed to one blush technique, and that was to “just add more.” This beauty trend was a head-turning shift from the absence of blush in the grunge makeup style of the 1990s. In the early aughts, however, pop divas piled on peachy-pink-hued blush all over their cheeks. Starting from the apple of the cheek to the temple, blush would be heavily diffused all over, giving the cheeks a full, cherub-like appearance. This look was seen on many celebrities, most notably Mariah Carey and Jessica Alba, furthermore proving the prevalence of the over-exaggerated blush technique. 

Gen Z

Similar to the original Y2K generation, Gen Z is a group that does not shy away from blush use. Blush is a highly loved beauty product and often appears in Gen Z’s beauty routine. Despite social media fads, most Gen Z blush enthusiasts apply blush all over the cheek, sometimes focusing on the undereye, nose, or temple. According to Launchmetrics, MAC Cosmetics, Dior, and Charlotte Tilbury were the top three makeup brands of the first half of 2022. All of these brands have had their fair share of viral blushes, which became everyday staples for Lana Condor, Madison Beer, and Kylie Jenner. 

The Gen Z blush trend can be seen in male and female K-pop idols as well. Danielle, the Australian-Korean member of NewJeans, for example, was seen wearing strawberry-toned blush near her eyes in the group’s “Hype Boy” music video. The look gave Danielle a cute but mischievous appearance because of the color and placement. 

NewJeans-inspired look

Photos courtesy of Mel Simmons

All Things Glitter


In the early aughts, people felt the need to have frosted everything. Eye makeup, lipstick, and even hair products included shimmery pigment to make the user stand out from a mile away. The makeup enthusiasts of the era did not want to skimp out on the glow and even added it to body products. Many celebrities were seen using oils, lotions, and creams with added shimmer to make their bodies shine on the red carpet. Everyone from Beyoncé to Paris Hilton participated in the signature Y2K look and shined bright wherever they went. 

Paris Hilton-inspired glitter look. Photo courtesy of Ellie Forte
Hyolyn-inspired makeup. Photo courtesy of Mel Simmons

Gen Z

Gen Z is definitely inspired by the glowing goddesses of the past, but they are taking a subdued approach to this Y2K trend. Now makeup mavens gravitate towards all-over glitter powders and lightweight oils to achieve the glowy look, rather than using the heavy creams and lotions of the past. Products like the Fenty Diamond Bomb All-Over Diamond Veil and PATRICK TA Major Glow Body Oil are popular among Gen Z consumers to give their bodies a glowy appearance. Hyolyn, former vocalist and leader of Sistar, was spotted with glowy skin and sunset-inspired smokey eyes in the sexy, summer-themed music video for her song “SAY MY NAME.”

Beauty expert Kecia Littman also discusses the changes in the glowy skin game within the beauty industry. “Gen Z is more focused on skincare and health than my generation ever was,” she states. She believes Gen Z’s skin can be highlighted by glowy, translucent products that let their natural skin shine through. Lastly, she shares that glowy formulations have become much more refined, so they are suitable for almost anyone compared to the cakey products of the early 2000s. 

Long Flowing Hair


Long, flowing straight hair defined a large part of Y2K hair trends because of the sheer amount of A-listers rocking the style. To match the sexy R&B tunes of the era, everyone from Rihanna to Christina Aguilera was spotted with smooth, silky hair that would flow down to their waist or even their hips. Beyoncé was seen with long, straight hair with money piece highlights in her “Crazy in Love” music video, the hit single off of her first solo album, Dangerously in Love. However, this trend also caused a rise in teenagers straightening their naturally straight hair in hopes of achieving pin-straight perfection.

This hair trend was so popular it climbed to international fame. Pop icons of the era from South Korea to the southern United States were seen rocking this style. At the age of 16 years old, BoA, the legendary vocalist and K-pop songstress, was spotted with long, flowing caramel-colored hair in the music video for her hit song “No.1.” The members of Fin.K.L all effortlessly rock this hairstyle in their iconic music video for “Now,” spotlighting their majestic hair flips in a high-intensity choreography.

“Crazy in Love” inspired look. Photo courtesy of Ellie Forte

Gen Z

This hair trend is still very prevalent among teens and adults today. Many choose to get dramatic layers added into their hair to add movement to the pin-straight hairstyle. The look is praised for its versatility and K-pop stars have taken a particular liking for the style. The girl group aespa has been spotted in the music videos for “Girls” and “Savage” with dramatically long hair accentuated by extensions that bestow a fierce, modern look.

aespa-inspired look

Photo courtesy of Mel Simmons

Y2K Nails


Y2K was an era where nail trends embodied maximalism. Twenty years ago, everyone’s nail beds were bedazzled, airbrushed, and even pierced to achieve an extra bold look. The kawaii nail look was one of the biggest trends of the Y2K era. This trend was achieved through charms, pearls, and gems piled on top of each other to create a nail art masterpiece. This unapologetically cute style originated from the Harajuku mavens strutting the streets of Shibuya, Japan in the late 1990s to early 2000s. People would sit at nail salons for hours arranging the kawaii nail gems and stones to perfect their look. The signature kawaii nail look also included charms consisting of large Sanrio-themed cartoon shapes to accent pearls and gems. 

Another trend that dominated the nail game in the early aughts was chrome nails. This manicure style can be seen as the antithesis of the kawaii nail trend, but the two coexisted in harmony and served both the cute and edgy nail communities. Since CDs and cameras were becoming mainstream items, chrome nails became increasingly popular due to their similarities to new technology items. 

Gen Z

Even though nail trends have been rapidly changing over the past couple of years, Gen Z is staying true to its early 2000s roots. Gen Z is taking inspiration from the kawaii nail trend by using chunky nail charms. However, this generation is putting its own spin on it. Instead of strictly using kawaii charms, the new generation tends to get creative and uses gummy bears, clear acrylic charms, and quirky beads. Also, Gen Z uses clear nail extensions in tandem with this technique. The contrast between the artificial, clear nail extension and the chunky, bold charm gives the nail a unique translucent appearance. 

This nail trend can be spotted in XG’s “SHOOTING STAR” music video. Most of the members rock the chunky nail trend to match the music videos’ bold theme. Harvey, the main rapper, flaunts long, multicolored coffin-shaped nails with large gummy heart charms to match the charms strung in her hair.

Chrome nails have also been making a comeback in recent times. Now, Gen Z tends to use chrome powder as an accent to highlight certain areas of the nail or create unusual shapes. This technique was spotted in NCT 127‘s music video for “2 Baddies,” where Yuta’s nails are shaped into bold flames and coated with silver chrome powder. Yuta’s unapologetically authentic personality and rocker-inspired aesthetic match this chrome nail trend to a tee and is a reminder that beauty trends have no boundaries. 

This article is part of EnVi’s Gen Z issue. Get yourself a physical copy here!