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Pamela AndersonPhoto by S. Granitz/WireImage

Cya glass skin, we’re heading back to a 90s dream matte complexion

Dewy glazed donut skin has been reigning supreme when it comes to skincare, but it looks like a Pamela Anderson-style powdered, matte complexion is starting to mount its comeback

  1. THE LOOK: Matte softly-powdered skin straight out of Making Faces, or take it one step further with an exaggerated theatrical look à la balletcore or clowncore
  2. WHO’S DOING IT? Julia Fox, kids on TikTok, clowns, Pamela Anderson never stopped

  3. HOW CAN I GET IT? Put down the vaseline, dewy primers, glowy foundations and all highlighters. Powder is a must. Foundation a shade or two paler than your skin tone if you are ready for the advance level. 

As a former teenage greebo, something about the glazed donut and glass skin trends never sat right with me. Not only does leaving the house with my face engulfed in a gloopy texture make me question whether particles of pollution and debris from the London Underground are sitting trapped on my face all day, but I was convinced that it also made me look like a sweaty mess – as though I’d just missed the train but still made a run for it. Although it looks gorgeous on seemingly everyone else, perhaps it simply isn’t one for the girl who already has oily skin. Luckily for those of us who couldn’t fully take the plunge, matte skin is making a well-received comeback. 

We can thank Pamela Anderson and her trademark 90s make-up for this reappearance of the matte look. Over the last year, the blonde bombshell ex-Playboy superstar, animal rights activist and actress has enjoyed a return to the spotlight, first because of the Pam & Tommy miniseries which, like the sex tape whose distribution she didn’t give permission for, she didn’t sign off on. However, she dealt with the situation by releasing her own tell-all Netflix documentary series Pamela, a Love Story and an accompanying memoir Love, Pamela – thus finally taking her narrative back, and leaving us all in awe of her strength and beauty.

The Pamaissance has been slowly taking over our make-up routines since then. Last year saw the return of the skinny brow as people said goodbye to their fluffy soap brows and dusted off those long-forgotten tweezers. At the beginning of 2023, Google searches for Pamela Anderson were at the highest they’d been since 2008 and the TikTok hashtag #pamelaandersonmakeup has 50m views alone as users recreate her iconic 90s looks courtesy of make-up artist Alexis Vogel. Earlier this month, make-up artist Erin Parsons bought the entire Alexis Vogel Makeup Kit (priced at $499) to pass on the knowledge of Pam’s signature smokey eye and matte complexion. 

“I prefer matte because I am almost 45 and I find anything with a shimmer accentuates texture,” Parsons tells Dazed. “Especially when filming, powdered skin looks velvety and for me gives a vintage effect.” As fans of her content know, parsons is a huge fan of Old Hollywood glamour and is an avid vintage collector, recently posting a video winning one of Marilyn Munroe’s lipsticks in auction. But it’s not just admirers of Old Hollywood make-up who are adopting this look. Why is it so appealing to beauty fans across the board? “People seem to have an aversion to what they’re labelling as ‘2016’ make-up, the Instagram beauty guru era,” says Parsons. “What I’m seeing is less of the overly highlighted cheekbones and more radiant skin, matte, velvet and subtly highlighted with creams and liquids vs intense sparkling shimmer and glitter.”

It was the popularity of the “clean girl” aesthetic over recent years, alongside the slugging technique and K-Beauty trends like dolphin skin, that pushed glossy glass skin to the mainstream. Looking like a “glazed donut”, as Hailey Bieber has taken for her brand’s slogan, showed off your commitment to your stringent (often expensive) skincare routines and signified a healthy glow. But recently, the mood has turned and looks that require obvious levels of effort are beginning to feel irrelevant. As make-up artist and Polyester Zine beauty editor Grace Ellington wrote in a recent piece about the end of the snatched look, “it telegraphs an intense commitment to looking perfect which no longer chimes with a population experiencing a cost of living crisis.” The hyper-aspirational social media aesthetic feels tired these days. “Where once the level of perfection felt empowering, now it feels impossible.”

@erinparsonsmakeup I bought the entire Alexis Vogel Makeup Kit, the book and the DVD to create authentic Pamela Anderson Signature Smokey Eyes #makeuptutorial #smokeyeye #pamelaanderson #alexisvogel #greenscreen ♬ original sound - Erin Parsons

Recent countercultural nostalgia, which has manifested in trends like indie sleaze, also has Gen Z thinking fondly of the era where millennials had Dream Matte Mousse reigning supreme in their messy make-up bags. Minimalism is making way for maximalism to the point where it’s becoming theatrical. Microtrends including clowncore and balletcore both explore exaggerated styles centering skin overpowdered to withstand the hot stage lights. Think Gabbriette’s recent tribute to Vivienne Westwod and Julia Fox rocking matte white clowncore-esque skin to the White House.   

The beauty style of Fox and Gabbriette, as well as trend-setters like Alexa Demie, are hugely indebted to Kevyn Aucoin who, along with Vogel, was responsible for the matte skin and neutral colour palette of the 90s. Aucoin’s legacy has left a lasting impact on glam beauty looks, in the work of the make-up artists who are setting the trends today – people like Sam Visser and Mary Phillips – and on TikTok where users have been references and recreating his editorial make-up. 

“I’ve been watching so much Charmed and all three sisters have this Kevyn Aucoin-esque soft velvet beat,” says TikToK beauty creator August. In their circle of creatives, they’ve been seeing a renaissance of powdered 90s make-up which they attribute partly to Aucoin, as well as trends like clowncore and balletcore. “In [Aucoin’s book] Making Faces, he details this technique of applying an initial powder base on both the face and eyelids that allows for pigments that you apply on after to blend in smoothly.”

In a tutorial on how to create this new theatrical matte look, August mixes white base with their own foundation to create a pale look that’s “like a cloud, almost” with new romantic style pastel blush placed high on the cheekbones. While they don’t believe dewy skin, in the skincare sense, is over – “I think we will always want hydrated skin as a canvas” – when it comes to make-up, August says the matte look is on its way back. “We’re slowly coming off the peak of when everyone was doing a glossy cheek and coloured lid.”

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