On a recent trip to visit my family in South Carolina, I noticed my mom was super-sparkly in the sunlight. Apparently, she found an old body lotion by Victoria’s Secret in my bathroom drawer and had been using it in a pinch, not realizing it contained specks of glitter. My mother, who is the director of a preschool, radiated from head to toe as if she had just been called to the main stage. My sister and I teased her, as we do so well, before reminiscing on the days when this was the beauty look of grade school It Girls.
Hitting its stride in the late 1990s and early 2000s, glitter was the OG of highlighters. Thanks to the likes of Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, covering ourselves in sparkles before slipping into a tube top, denim skirt, and thong sandals was second nature. It came in many forms, from gels to sprays to roll-on sticks (my personal fave) and required very little skill to apply. Seriously, you just slathered it on your cheeks, clavicles, legs, midriff—anywhere and everywhere the sun shined. The more you sparkled, the better.
Body glitter was the pixie stick of the beauty world–if we could of snorted it, we probably would have. But just as we swapped our barely-there brows for thick ones, we swapped our shimmery lotions for sheer. We grew up and out of our sparkly phase, and the girls that came behind us shifted their focus to precise eyeliner application and contouring techniques. Body glitter, like Mariah Carey’s career, became a thing of the past.
Fast forward a couple of decades and body glitter is making a comeback. In December 2017, Kim Kardashian West released a collection of loose powders called Ultralight Beams, and while they are intended to be applied to the highpoints of your face, the social media sensation showed us how you can use them to cover your entire body in sparkle. Rihanna is also here for it. Just today, she released two much-anticipated body glitters under Fenty: Body Lava, a shimmery liquid, and Fairy Bomb, a powder puff packed with shimmer.
“I think the world is looking for a light moment right now, and what better way to create an interesting distraction than with glitter?” says John Stapleton, global senior artist for MAC Cosmetics. “Also, quite a few designers, like Greta Constantine, turned to sequins last season, and for those of us who can’t afford the sequined jumpsuits off the runway, we can get a nod to the season’s look by popping some glitter on our eyelids or décolleté.” On April 9, MAC is set to release Strobe Body Lotion, a take on the cult-fave Strobe Cream moisturizer.
While beauty brands are bringing body glitter back to the mainstream, Stapleton says that for professional makeup artists, it never really went away. It’s a technique that’s long been used on celebrities before red carpet events to enhance their best “assets.” No doubt, the idea of using of body glitter is inherently sexual. Back in the day, it cashed in on our burgeoning sexuality as we tried to gain the attention of our first crush, while these days, celebrities (and my mom) are demonstrating how you can use it to your advantage as a grown-ass woman.
Apply it to the front of shins to make your legs look longer, and the same for the tops of your arms, avoiding the underside so you don’t get glitter on your clothes, suggests Stapleton. You can also use it to highlight the chest, collarbones, and back, Or, go wild and wear it all over. Because the pigments are so finely milled, most of today’s body glitters leave a finish that subtle yet still noticeable. “It’s glitter. Be playful. Have fun,” Stapleton reminds us.
A revival is happening, and I’m all about it. Get in on the glitter trend with some our new favorites below.