I spent my teen years dancing at Phish shows in giant JNCO pants, with glitter makeup and star stickers around my eyes — and almost all of these things are back in style now.

By Kate Spencer
Jun 22, 2021 @ 9:30 am
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I'm a 42-Year-Old Birkenstock-Wearing Mom, and I'm Testing Out Face Gems Because Why Not
Credit: Courtesy

It was Olivia Rodrigo's album cover that first sold me: Face stickers were back, and in a big way. In case you do not live with a tween and thus have not been exposed to 24/7 Olivia Rodrigo, allow me to describe it: The teen singer stands with her arms crossed, her face covered in small stickers you might find on the back of a kid's school notebook, her album title spelled out in stickers on her tongue. It matched what I'd seen on TikTok, where folks were gluing tiny gems to their faces as part of their larger makeup looks. But I found the ultimate proof at Target, where I spotted face and body gems and decals for sale.

The reemergence of face decals sent me back to my teens, when my style was a mix of raver and hippie, the likes of which only the late '90s could churn out. I spent those years dancing around at Phish shows in giant JNCO pants, with my eyelids painted in glitter makeup, my temples dotted with tiny, metallic stars. Looking at today's teens and their constellation of face stickers felt almost eerily like looking in the mirror.

Except I am no longer that '90s girl with too-thin eyebrows and shimmery stickers on her face, nor am I an edgy teen icon or a makeup master with a TikTok following. I am a 42-year-old mom who works from home and spent the last 24 hours trying to get her dog to take her pain medication after getting her tiny teeth pulled. My current favorite pair of shoes are a pair of thick flip-flops made to cushion aching joints. Metallic face decals don't mix with my style anymore - which was the perfect reason to try them out for a day.

This current sparkly face trend is often credited to Donni Davy, makeup artist for HBO's Euphoria, now filming its second season. The show offers a heightened, hyper-dramatic look at teen life today, and the stars' faces are often covered in glitter and gems, thanks to Davy. She now has her own line of face decals, DONNI x Face Lace, and I snapped some up with great excitement. It was a perfect place to pick up where I'd left off as a 19-year-old, but now with the added cool, sophisticated, Instagrammable sheen of today's youth style.

I imagined my day dabbling in face decals as one filled with glamour - as much as one can experience while still in a global pandemic - maybe dinner out with friends, or some drinks on an outdoor patio somewhere in LA, bathed in the glow of twinkle lights overhead. I'd spend some time on my makeup, wear something silky and short, and lean into the life of someone who can wear a metallic lightning bolt on their face like it's no big deal. Then, of course, real life struck. I had to drop off my kids at camp, and drag my dog to an emergency vet visit. My dreams of dinner were dashed, and the face decals were just going to have to come along for the ride.

The Face Lace instructions said to apply them to clean skin, so they went on my face immediately post-shower. I decided on sparkly silver, and gently pressed three stickers around each eye. They couldn't have been easier to stick on, and were so light and comfortable that within seconds I'd forgotten they were there.

DONNI x Face Lace Silver Decals
My post-shower glow, plus a completely understated makeup look for the day.

I expected a shocked reaction from my tween-age kids when they stumbled out of their bedrooms that morning, some sort of snarky, horrified comment mixed with fear that I might wear these out in public and embarrass them. (That was, dear reader, my plan.) But they weren't phased in the slightest. The 10-year-old didn't even comment, the 8-year-old just asked if she could have some too. (I obliged, and she immediately looked cooler than I did.) Maybe, I reasoned, they were just used to people covered in cool gems and decals, or glimmery makeup designs painted on by hand. Surely someone else would comment on my look.

But as I went through my day, from waving at camp counselors to consulting with vet techs, no one at all ever mentioned the bright silver stickers that adorned the corners of my eyes. It turns out, face gems aren't just back, they're mainstream. There's nothing edgy or shocking about a bit of added sparkle to a brow or lid. In 2021, this is more or less the norm.

Ultimately it didn't matter if I made it through the day without anyone paying attention to my new, enhanced look. I liked catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, admired the way the light played off the disco-ball shimmer of my occipital bones. It was like having a tiny party on your face, and I grew to like the playful, joyous vibe they added not just to my look, but to my day.

Now, would I wear face gems every day? Definitely not. I can barely remember to slap on some tinted moisturizer; if I get mascara on it's a miracle. Glitter makeup of any kind is probably a bridge too far for most days. But I'm definitely keeping these on hand in my makeup bag, and I already have a plan for where to wear them next: to my first live concert in two years. It's a nod to my '90s self, sure, but it's also a way to embrace who I can be now: a 42-year-old in comfortable shoes who feels good adding some sparkle to her day.