How Is Makeup Shopping Different Today Than It Was When You Were First Getting Interested in Makeup?

Published in: Just For Fun

Talk to me, girlfriend!

Talk to me, girlfriend!

When I started wearing makeup in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were no beauty blogs or YouTube gurus back then (I KNOW!!).

If you were a teenager of limited financial resources and didn’t have access to a car (or someone with a driver’s license), beauty research usually involved a 20-minute walk to the nearest drugstore to look around, or begging your mom to take you to Macy’s, or asking your friend what lipstick she was wearing that day.


Recommendations from friends was how I found out about most of the makeup I wore in my teens. Like my friend Jen, with her beautiful full lips. She was a fan-freaking-tastic walking advertisement for whatever lipstick she happened to be wearing on any given day. She also happens to be the person who got me hooked on MAC Paramount Lipstick, my first MAC lipstick love (thanks, Jen!). πŸ™‚

Still lovin’ ya, MAC Paramount!

Cindy, my other high school BFF, used to wear a quad of shimmering bronzy colors from Wet ‘n’ Wild, and it was because of her that I ended up going to the drugstore and buying the same thing.

Now that I think about it…the way I found out about makeup by seeing my friends wear it was kind of like how blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook work today, only in person, haha!

Following limited edition collections wasn’t a big thing, either, at least for me and my friends, probably because of our limited access to beauty information.

We really didn’t care if a lipstick was an LE shade from the late fall collection, or whether it was from so-and-so brand. Everything seemed to move more slowly back then.

MAC Alluring Aquatic Collection

Speaking of limited edition launches, MAC Alluring Aquatic Collection is available now at, woo hoo!

More MAC Alluring Aquatic collection coverage…

We also loved reading glossy magazines. They were great sources of beauty information.

I was all about Seventeen, but the funny this is, whenever I would spot a lipstick or something in the magazine that I wanted, I could never find it in the real world, LOL!

I don’t know why… Maybe the mall by my house never got the trendy stuff.

There were also far fewer beauty buying options when I was a teen, like, I can’t remember seeing vegan products or cruelty-free. Things like that just weren’t a part of the beauty buying lexicon yet.

Beauty shopping was generally tougher. In fact, I remember foundation shopping being a very stressful thing. Forget about finding something at the Rite Aid or Thrifty that was other than a subtle variation on beige. Basically, you had to go to a department store — probably a Clinique or Prescriptives counter — to find a foundation if you had tan skin or deeper.

Oh! And we didn’t have any big beauty stores like Sephora or Ulta in my neck of the woods.

No way. I wasn’t even able to imagine what a store like that would have been like.

My 16-year-old self would’ve gone freaking nuts! I never would have left the store. I would’ve been that kid who asked the makeup artists to paint her face with everything and the kitchen sink. πŸ™‚

‘Kay, buddy. Spill them beans. How is makeup shopping different today than it was when you were first getting interested in makeup?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Sending you a sun-shiny hello from Northern California today. It already feels like summer here in Marin County. Yesterday I went for an afternoon walk and had to cut it short because it was so darned hot that I couldn’t handle it.

Might have to hit up the neighborhood pool today for the first time the season, woo-hoo!

On my lunch break today I’m hoping to make an Old Navy pit stop. They have shorts on sale now, and I need this pair of white twill shorts in my life (on sale for $15!).

I still love the mint green shorts with the pink flamingos I got last year for $10 (I’m wearing them right now, actually). πŸ™‚

Have a great day!


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So far, 40 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Divya says:

    My makeup story must be the shortest around here! I got into proper makeup-thing only in 2012 summer. Luckily for me my first big beauty hauling happened in South Korea and The Face Shop, Sulwahsoo, Lunasol etc etc were all part of it πŸ˜›
    Divya recently posted … A Not So Little Cult Beauty Haul

  2. Allison C says:

    Back in the Stone Age when I first started shopping for makeup, drugstore quality was not nearly as good as it is now. Department stores were where we went for “prestige” makeup. And there were far fewer brands many of which no longer exist. I remember Prescriptives custom-designed powders and foundations and also lipsticks. That was so cool.
    Allison C recently posted … Gabriel Lipstick: Natural, Mineral-Based, Gluten-Free

  3. I was just thinking about the olden days a little bit ago and thought about how I managed to look semi okay. Blogs and articles have saved me a lot of time by usually taken up by trail and error. I will say though, sometimes there is no substitute. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  4. Christie says:

    Didn’t start wearing makeup properly until a couple of years ago, and I’m still pretty young, but I remember heading into drugstores and just picking up what was in the cutest packaging, or what smelt nice. I’d never imagine picking a bunch of products now without doing my research! Also, beauty blogs are my number one source on whether to buy, rather than friends…Love this post and you look gorge as always!

  5. Alix says:

    Oh yeah, you had to go to a department store for the good stuff. The Body Shop wasn’t even around yet!

    True story: in college, I read about Bobbi Brown’s brand-new makeup line and WROTE to them asking for a catalog. They responded with a multi-pacge Xeroxed document which listed all their color cosmetics. And next to each name someone had taken the ACTUAL PRODUCT and made a little swatch next to it! I wish I still had that “catalog”!

    Back in the day, I got most of my inspiration from cosmetics ads, which is why I ended up wearing four ghastly shades of Maybelline eyeshadow all at once (with no other makeup, mind you. Mistakes were made.). As a makeup fanatic, I have no idea how I existed before Sephora. None.

  6. Caitlyn says:

    Everything I learned about makeup and everything I bought back in middle school and high school were recommendations from my mom! I actually didn’t have to buy a lot of it myself, because I would just use my mom’s. Eventually, I would use one product enough and take it from her enough times that she would just give it to me πŸ™‚

    Now, I recommend products to her!

  7. Trisha says:

    Back when I was a pre-teen there were no Sephoras or Ultas. I only ever got my makeup at the drug store or Claires. Honestly, things are WAY better now.
    Trisha recently posted … Beauty Box 5 Review: May 2014

  8. Kalli says:

    I got really into makeup in middle school, so that was like ’95-’98. My mom would always pass off anything she didn’t want from her free Clinique or Lancome gifts to me, so that was about as high-end as I got. I got most of my makeup from the drugstore and recommendations came from friends and magazines. I remember getting a whole load of Jane cosmetics for Christmas in 6th grade from my mom, I was so excited! I think it had just launched. Sephora didn’t come to my town till I was in high school (2001) and then it was all downhill from there. A store where I could swatch and grab what I wanted without having to talk to a salesperson (unless I wanted to!), it was amazing. My makeup tastes definitely got more high-end after that and started my continued love affair with Urban Decay πŸ™‚
    Kalli recently posted … OPI’s Sheer Tint Top Coats

  9. Natalie says:

    Oh gosh… I started wearing make up when I was about 11 I think, way back in 1994. The Body Shop was my go to back then (I’m from the UK), it was the first make up I bought (and until recently I still had some of the brushes I bought!). I remember that the Body Shop had just opened in our town, and it was the coolest place… I had all the catalogues… Best of all, it was a place I could guarantee being able to buy skincare, as everything they made back then was lanolin free (oh how things have changed).

    I also used to buy Boots 17 products, which were a staple in my life for a long time. Affordable reasonable quality drugstore products… My mum was a Boots No 7 range person for a long time, until at some point she started buying high end.

    I grew up in a small town which only had one department store, which was an old family run affair (sadly now closed) in this old building that had loads of floors and tiny staircases. It was a magical place! But the high end make up counters were pretty scary!

  10. I didn’t get into makeup until 2009, when I was 17, so even then, it was easy to shop since there were blogs and YouTube videos!
    Rikki Poynter recently posted … Phi Phi O’Hara Inspired Makeup Tutorial

  11. Ruchita says:

    Back when I first started wearing makeup, my experience was limited to what was available at the local drug store. I remember liking Revlon’s foundation and Coffee Bean lipstick. There was no YouTube back then, so I was left to my own devices. I think there were definitely some questionable choices I made back then!

    Old Navy – I just ordered some cute maxi dresses online with the high/low hemline. The petite length fits me perfectly and I’m only 5’0″. I surely thought I would need to get them hemmed, but so glad I didn’t. They are really comfortable and great for casual summer days.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for the Old Navy tip, Ruchita. I am always in the market for cute dresses. Hopefully I’ll see them in store! What colors/prints did you get?

      • Ruchita says:

        I got a plain black one and a black and white print, but I’m thinking of ordering more in different colors. The official name is “Women’s Cross-Front High-Low Maxi Dresses”. I think they would look cute with some gladiator sandals, so I’m planning trip to DSW this week πŸ™‚

        • Karen says:

          OK, thanks! I will keep an eye out for it. πŸ™‚ I was just at DSW, btw. They have a TON of cute, colorful flats in case you’re in the market for some flats. You are so lucky that you can pull off gladiator sandals. I tried them on and my toes look really long in them, LOL. Finger feet!

          • Ruchita says:

            I’m up for any types of shoes, so I’ll have to check out the flats too! As I’ve gotten older though, I am much more interested in having cute and comfortable shoes. Back in high school and college I’d hobble around in fun shoes while my feet hurt. Luckily, shoe technology has come a long way and there are more stylish options these days!

          • Karen says:

            I’m the same way. I still love heels, but I’m done with shoes that hurt my feet. I’m on mission to built a kick @ss wardrobe of flats! We shall see.

            Speaking of comfy shoes, have you tried Tom’s? Oh gosh, SO COMFY!

          • Ruchita says:

            I have not tried Toms, but I’ll have to check them out. I got a cute pair of flats from LifeStride that have a nice, cushioned insole and are really comfortable. I also like the brand Me Too, although sometimes I have to size up. Now I’m itching to leave work early and do some shoe shopping. πŸ™‚

          • Karen says:

            Haven’t tried Me Too. Are they at DSW?

            So, I was kind of skeptical about Toms because they looked very flat and uncomfortable, but then I tried a pair on that I got as a gift and got totally hooked. They have an arch inside which makes all the difference. And the cloth material means you don’t really have to break them in. I wear a 7 and find them very true to size.

            Ooh, while you’re at DSW be sure to check out the purses! And take pics of any cute ones. LOL

          • Ruchita says:

            I’m not sure if DSW has a huge selection of Me Too. I bought one pair from there a couple of years ago and another from Zappos. With the pair I got from Zappos I had to do a couple of exchanges to make sure I got the right size, so the free shipping and returns were helpful!

          • Karen says:

            I just looked and they have a few styles. Check out this leopard print pair of flats! So very cat lady. They don’t have my size though, boo!

  12. Majick says:

    I’m in a class so I don’t have time to read all but I’m with Allison C. NO COMPUTERS – don’t remember sephora – no ulta – I shopped at department stores mostly. Drugstore stuff was horrible except for the lipsticks – Oh and I do think Wet n Wild was around back then. LOL Remember lip pencil 666 – I think that was the number of the mauvey MLBB color. πŸ™‚

    • Tiffany says:

      Wet N Wild was definitely around!! I used to wear a dark berry lipstick by them… and I think the 666 lip pencil was a MAC Spice lip pencil dupe!

  13. Tiffany says:

    Well, back in my day (even though I’m only 32), there was either drugstore or department store beauty counter. No Sephora, Ulta or online shopping. Also, there is SOO much to choose from now. Brands, ranges within each brand and shade selections. Shopping for makeup has really come a long way.
    Tiffany recently posted … Throwback Thursday Beauty…

  14. Icequeen81 says:

    Well my first makeup up was a jordana matte lipstick in terracotta always used black nail polish, dark blue nail polish

    then it changed to terracotta lipstick nude eye shadow that matches my skin color, blush

    Now is brick red , rebel of MAC, plum berry blush, brow powder, and wax, nude eye shadow that matches my skin color, face powder, and sends last week winged eyes with flit tip pen, only the edges.
    Black, dark blue, dark green, dark red, plum nail polish. Pretty much I stayed the same.

  15. Nancy says:

    I got into makeup for about a year in 1994 – wearing that brown shade of lipstick, thinking I was IT. Once my friends introduced me to the blue compact (I forget who it was by? Maybe CG?) I stopped wearing makeup for another 10 years,because I felt the powder foundation looked cakey and unnatural. Now I’m addicted all over again, minus the cake. Ice cream cake I can do though πŸ˜‰
    Nancy recently posted … Get your underarms ready for summer

  16. PianoGirl1985 says:

    My mom was my first inspiration when I became interested in makeup at the age of 3! I used to take her stage makeup and put it all over haha.
    I grew up in Russia and as a young teenager could only afford cheep lipsticks that this one lady use to sell in a market near my house. I remember that lipstick having 2 sides, one is perly white and the other was pink. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and I paid like 50 cents for it lol.
    When I moved to the US I was only allowed to wear makeup as a Junior in High School, so I pretty much wore whatever I was given for Christmas and some CoverGirl stuff.

  17. Sylirael says:

    It’s funny – I was going to say that we had even fewer brands here than we do now (which is still probably somewhat true) but actually it seems more like we lost a bunch! For example, you used to be able to get Hard Candy (polishes at least), Nyx, Red Earth, Bloom etc… but now you can’t! πŸ˜›
    Sylirael recently posted … Rogueish Fun and Games – A Gandyl the Grey Caption Contest!

  18. Chas says:

    My first intro to makeup was my Mom really. She used to (and still does sometimes) wear MAC Russian Red and other various reds. I used to swipe her lipsticks when she wasn’t looking and bring them to school with me. High school was all about MAC Russian Red, Paramount and Chelsea, Revlon’s Toast of New York, Rialto (I think) eye and lip liners and Wet n Wild dark blue nail polish. Man, the 90s were great! Thankfully I wasn’t into the dark liner with pale lips phase!

    I (in Canada) only really went to Shoppers Drug Mart or The Bay, where I went to the MAC counter for the first time, for make up. That first time I tried Paramount though… (*sigh*)loooooved it! Now with Sephora and not being afraid to go into Holt Renfrew (since my brother works there!) the high end cosmetics are so shiny, new and exciting! My make up is simple now though. I loves me some mascara, blush and cat eye liner!

  19. Tracy says:

    1987- 6th grade Secret Santa Swap. I got a shimmery peach lipgloss that I wore every single day and never left the house without it. Wish I could remember the brand but I do remember that it had a very sweet/synthetic scent. And so began my love affair with any kind of lip product under the sun.

  20. Katherine M says:

    My first makeup was from a kit I got subscribing to Seventeen magazine. Prior to that, anything I learned about makeup was really from my mom (in middle and high school). I would just buy whatever struck my fancy in the drugstore, and some of my favorite brands then are my fave drugstore brands now. I’ve always been into Cover Girl and Milani for eye stuff, and Maybelline for mascara. When I hit college, I hadn’t discovered any beauty blogs, and didn’t have a lot of friends who wore makeup, so everything I learned about makeup came from magazines like Allure, Cosmo, and Seventeen. I didn’t get hooked on Sephora until a friend of mine raved about DiorShow Blackout mascara and told me I had to try it. She is a redhead with very fair skin and eyelashes, and the mascara made it look like she was wearing fake eyelashes. When I finally walked into a Sephora, I had also heard raves about NARS Orgasm via Allure magazine Best of Beauty awards and bought that and the DiorShow Blackout mascara. I still wear both to this day but I do not wear the Blackout mascara as much as it is expensive and hard to remove. But I still love it and break it out for special occasions or when I need something that I know won’t come off.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Katherine,

      Wasn’t walking into Sephora for the first time kind of magical? I still remember the very first one I visited — it was with my friends, Jen and Cindy, and at mall deep out in the East Bay. I could’ve spent all day sniffing the perfumes. My friends literally had to drag me out of there, LOL!

  21. Eileen says:

    I started wearing makeup back in the late 1950’s. At that time there was a decided difference in quality between drugstore and department store brands. Being a teenager on a limited budget, the majority of my purchases were from the drugstore, but for special products or perfume, the department store was the destination of choice. Going to the department store counters was an occasion and products were presented with such flair. Those SA’s were taught how to market the dream and make you feel pampered. The biggest difference; however, was that there were ABSOLUTELY NO RETURNS!

    • Sara says:

      Eileen – I absolutely LOVED reading your comment… You were buying cosmetics in the late 1950s and now you’re engaged in the beauty blogging community? That is SO COOL! I’ve got to say that being able to return cosmetics is definitely something I take for granted…

  22. Kwmechelle says:

    Like many here, my mom was my inspiration that got me into makeup. She had creamy eyeshadow quads that I liked to play in when she wasn’t home. Her signature lipstick was, and still is, a cranberry red that she can wear sans any lipliner. It was a long time before I was allowed to wear makeup but she bought me a Fashion Fair palette with creamy lipsticks for Christmas one year. I had NO clue how to wear them and the colors frightened me bc I thought they were too colorful (imagine that).

    Years later, I started out with Mary Kay foundation and lipsticks. Then learned how to apply eyeshadow using a CG eyeshadow quad. During my senior year in high school, WNW was all I knew. And I’d get pencil liners by Black Radiance. Totally rocked the 90’s black lipliner craze (don’t judge me!). Fast forward upmteen years and this beauty maven has no idea how I lived without Sephora, MAC, or Ulta. Oh but I loved Seventeen magazine and would flip through it looking at all the beauty trends. Yeah, despite my limited makeup knowledge or know-how, those were the days!

  23. Cocochanelno1 says:

    I started dabbling more hard core, into makeup about three or four years ago. Now, I am totally addicted and have a-massed a monger collex! I Love makeup sooo much! I have always really enjoyed reading your blog and reviews. It is really is exceptionally helpful to me! Thank You!!!
    I am dieing to know what lavender/pink lipstick your are wearing in the pic above!
    Oh! and also, being the hardcore Walking Dead fan that I am, I am sooo jealous you will be on the show, lol. Nah! jk, πŸ˜€ I think thats sooo freaking awesome and can’t wait to see ya on there! It will be a memorable experience for you! You gotta be sure to take lots pics!!!

  24. Chelsea says:

    Less frosty lips now, LOL!

    I’m from a very small, rural town, about an hour and half from any kind of mall! Now I’m into a lot of higher end stuff, that would have just been ridiculous back then! I only had a Clinique (fancy!) foundation because we were downstate visiting family! Even our drugstores didn’t have as good selection as down here!

  25. Lorraine says:

    Love this thread! and it is true and very cool that our moms were so much a part of our makeup intro. Mine was a tomboy who bought her first makeup back in the ’40s. She told me how limited the choices were then but there were great iconic brands, like Max Factor, and products, like Tangee(an orange lippie), that aren’t around today. She described how stars like Hedy Lamar or Veronica Lake started beauty trends that she and her friends tried to emulate by guesswork and trial and error. True today, too, but now there is InStyle magazine or Refinery 29 telling us eactly what shade of lipstick JLo wears, with a link to buy it online and stars have their own makeup lines to promote. when I was young(’80s) the stars were supermodels and Cindy Crawford, modelled and sold the latest brown lipstick(Revlon Raisin Rage, anyone?). Very few celeb faces promoted makeup. Isabella Rosellini was the face of Lancome, but that was about it. Also, music videos were our inspiration instead of You Tube(Madonna looks, Michael Jackson eyeliner, Boy George dreds, Adam Ant stripes). My guy friends were as into makeup as I was. And the trending terms weren’t used so loosely as they are now. Case in point- a Smokey eye of the ’80s involved a lot of sooty shadow and liner steps, blacker the better. Now everything is a called a smokey eye, I have seen a multitude of looks even a “nude smokey” Huh? in my day nude was nude, smoky was smoky. Neon was eye-popping and looked like highlighter. Now I am surprised to see what is marketed as neon, just anything that is bright, basically. And with youtube and bloggers, most teens skip the step of asking mom to take them to the cosmetics counter, they will just go online or to Sephora to do research, and there is less slumber party experimentation, I will just bet. My son’s girlfriend knows more about mascara than I do and she is only 16! OK, now I feel ancient.

  26. Erin says:

    Back in the day I thought I was warm toned. I shudder to think what I looked like all the time. I only remember looking really good when I wore purples. I don’t know why it took until I was 20+ to click that I was neutral leaning to cool on the skin tone. Now that I know this, much of the makeup world is closed to me because of overly warm nature of so many shades. I’m much more willing to plunk down a lot of money for something that works. I’m also less likely to try every new thing even though I have a blog. If I find a cream or makeup item that just works for what I need it to do, I’m less likely to look in depth for an alternative. Plus, I have all of you lovely ladies to help me spend wiser while still seeing the majority of what is out there used in such creative ways!
    Erin recently posted … Outdoor Living Space Updates For Summer

  27. Iris says:

    I got into makeup when I was 11. This was a time when the internet was just starting up and not many people had home access. There were no beauty blogs or on-line reviews. Being a junior high school kid, my main places for makeup were drugstores and discount stores. I read fashion magazines but a lot of the products were not available in my part of Canada. It took me a long while to find dark lipstick and nail polish, which I loved to wear when I was younger.

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