Remember Orgasm? Looking Back on ’90s Beauty Breakthroughs

Prada Spring 1996 RTW

What was it that they used to say about CK One? “The Only One”? It was over 20 years ago that Calvin Klein introduced this singular, unisex fragrance and changed the way the game was played in the process. But it was hardly the only beauty breakthrough of the decade, which also saw La Mer and Chanel Vamp come on the market. And of course, you can’t forget Orgasm – Nars’ Orgasm that is.


Kate Moss modeling Prada Spring 1996. Photo by Getty Images.


1990: John Frieda Frizz Ease

Decades before we learned about keratin treatments and Brazilian blowouts, one savvy hairdresser in London whipped up a formula that smoothed out the frizziest of heads. Ka-CHING!


1994: ck one by Calvin Klein

This quiet lemon, bergamot and tea blend pioneered the gender-neutral scent. Oh, and it was the launchpad for a little unknown waif model named Kate Moss.


1995: Chanel Vamp Nail Polish

Rumor has it that the day after this nearly black polish debuted on Chanel’s spring 1995 runway, Madonna called Karl for a few bottles. Which explains why the rest of us got a busy signal when we tried him.


1995: Crème de La Mer

This sea kelp and “miracle broth” infused potion was actually created back in 1965, but the Estee Lauder company made it a star when it acquired the tiny brand 30 years later. To this day, it remains the gold standard of anti-aging creams.


1995: Nars Cosmetics

The French makeup artist and photographer debuted his line with 12 lipsticks, formulated in sophisticated shades bearing cool names like Blonde Venus and Jungle Red. Who knew he’d also be responsible for giving us (or, at least our cheeks) the greatest Orgasm ever??


1995: Frédéric Fekkai

If a cut from the sexy Frenchman wasn’t enough, you could now bring him home to your shower. Any socialite worth her highlighted tresses always had all seven of his debut line, including his Shea Butter Mask, always a blowdryer’s length away.


1996: Demeter fragrances

We had no idea that we wanted to smell like dirt or a laundromat until founders Christopher Brosius and Christopher Gable bottled them for us. Who knew Snow even had a smell???


1996: Hard Candy

Nail polish with a plastic ring around the bottle? So cute! More importantly, founder Dinah Mohajer and Ben Einstein made polishes in shades that had been unthinkable for fingernails, like Sky and Mint.


1996: Urban Decay Cosmetics

With shade names like Asphyxia, Bruise and Smog, this gritty brand landed at the peak of grunge. In spite of the unattractive names, the makeup really did look pretty on.


1998: Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish

Fragrances that smelled like cake, cookies, chocolate or cotton candy were flying off the shelves, so tapping the mother of sweeteners for both its scent AND exfoliating properties spelled BLOCKBUSTER HIT. It proved to be just the beginning of many more Sugar products to come from the brand…