Memories of Hard Candy Cosmetics [for its 20th Anniversary]

When I heard that the 1990s cosmetics company Hard Candy will be commemorating its 20th anniversary in 2015, I once again went into nostalgia overdrive. The brand was released in 1995 and got extremely popular after actress Alicia Silverstone wore the signature (or as the New York Times referred as “du jour“) nail polish shade “Sky”, a pretty baby blue, while being interviewed on The David Letterman Show. The nail polishes were the first product created by founder Dineh Mohajer, and along with her business supporters the brand was being sold in It stops like L.A.’s Fred Segal and eventually Sephora and Bloomingdale’s.

I recently included two Hard Candy products in my 5 Discontinued Makeup Products I Miss, which was their perfume and Super Shine Lip Gloss. I used to love this line and I was so excited when I saw its expansion at Sephora. I remember its Glitter Hair Spray, quad eye shadow palettes (I remember them as the first brand to really push palettes, which are big right now), Caffeine Lipstick, and their Glitter Mascara. I described HC as “just as flamboyant but girlier” than M.A.C. and I think I used to gravitate towards it because it was campy enough to play with (experimenting with what colors looked good on me and saying yes to lots and lots of shimmer) but grown up enough in that I could manipulate a sultrier than usual eye look. I also just really loved the packaging! It was sleek and distinctively its own with its miniature heart underneath the logo, and even with its references to sugar with matching sweet scents. Ahhh, it was just so fun, so ’90s, so Seventeen magazine, it really seemed to celebrate the that loving makeup was nothing to be ashamed of or keep hidden. At the time, I felt like Urban Decay was its closest sister and rival, and brands like Too Faced would follow in in its sassy wedge prints.

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Out of nowhere it seemed, Hard Candy had made the move from Sephora and department stores to mass market to the people retailers, in this case Wal-Mart after securing an exclusive deal sometime in the late aughts. Reports treated the brand as having gone down-market, but I had no idea really of where its direction was going since getting to Wal-Mart had always been hard because I’ve also resided in cosmopolitan cities that opposed Wal-Marts in being walking distance to Saks.

Since then, I’ve seen the re-packaging of one of my favorite brands, and while I wasn’t entirely bought on its new look, I was curious to know if the products still worked well. Eventually, I trekked out to the nearest Wal-Mart I could find since I’m uptown in New York, and I needed to find a ol’ pretty friend.

When I got to Wal-Mart (which had been years since I visited) it was as chaotic as I remembered, just like Target and K-Mart. Though I also was there to get some items for the home, I made a beeline for the makeup rows because I needed to see what had brought me here in the first place: Hard Candy.

I found it, and I eyed the mascara the most because I wanted to try their Lasholic item, but I also realized I was disappointed by what had become of one of the ’90s most memorable names in makeup. The packaging was no fun, was boringly modest at best, and they even changed the shape and style of their iconic nail polish bottle that was square and the cap surrounded by a plastic ring with a charm heart or diamond in the middle. Today, they’re cylinder. I also didn’t care for how the lip products looked. Incredibly univiting. I’ve seen prettier displays at the local hood beauty supply store. What’s happened to my beloved Hard Candy?

Yet, the face and body products, such as the glow creams and primers, looked promising enough, and their eyeshadow palettes are actually now replicas of Urban Decay’s uber-necessary Naked, and but also honestly looked decent with a really cool lacy/snakeskin cloth covering half the box.

Wal-Mart also needed to re-stock on items, so much of the eyeliners were nearly gone, but I did sample an already opened glittery black one and the quality is very fade away, and not the blackest black at all. Their glitter liners were quite popular too back in the day and I will say that their Glitter Mascara remains great which is also in an assortment of galaxy hues and that’s what I ended up purchasing.

I left Wal-Mart happy with my Glitter Mascara (which is not as obnoxious as it sounds. It can be as subtle or loud as your want), but the brand had definitely lost a bit of its personality. Some of the products are still cute (their Ombre lipstick looks cool, and their Glamoflage concealer has been requested on beauty blogs), but I longed for the original products I can actually now afford to buy. For its 20th anniversary, Hard Candy had announced it would bring back some of their best-selling nail colors for the occassion. Hopefully, they can also convince Wal-Mart to allow the rebirth of some of their notable items from the heydays of clogs and mini backpacks. Change is not always bad of course, but please bring back the Super Shine Lip Gloss.


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