There’s a hot trend that’s sending most of the female population into a panic: lipstick. With the all-neutral face so prevalent on the catwalks these days,lips need to make more of a statement. the problem is that our apply-on-the-fly, lip-gloss-wearing culture means we barely know how to do this anymore. We are the Gloss Generation. From Lancôme Juicy tubes to Carmex, we expect to glide and go. But a matte fire-engine red that needs a lipliner, a mirror and a blot? No thanks.
If you’re a cosmetics executive, this is the kind of problem that keeps you up at night. How do you persuade a whole generation of young women — whose idea of freshening up is to stick their fingers into a pot of semi-transparent goo and smear it on their lips — to convert to the exacting rituals of lipstick application?
This question causes the likes of Peter Philips, Chanel’s global creative director for makeup, to fall into a nostalgic reverie, daydreaming about the way his mother used to put on her lipstick: how she would withdraw the elegant case from her purse, open the compact mirror, swivel up the tube of rich colour and apply it in one clockwise motion, quickly scan herself in the mirror, pout, then unswivel and close the lipstick case and compact in two consecutive clicks. He snaps his fingers. Eureka! His brainwave: glorified gloss masquerading as lipstick.
“Women seem to have forgotten how to apply lipstick,” said Phillips at the recent launch of Chanel’s rouge Coco lipstick line. “Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with gloss, but there is something so feminine about the act of applying lipstick. I want to make it as easy to apply as gloss, and with a long-lasting formula to feel just as comfortable.”
Chanel’s 30-colour rouge Coco line is just that: a baby step from gloss into the grown-up world of lipstick. The emphasis is on lots of easy- to-wear shimmers, berry colours and pinks for novices. Besides the non-threatening hues, rouge Coco is designed to go on the lips in one easy swipe, a term that is popping up more frequently in this burgeoning category of lipsticks. Other new, covetable, swipe-on lipsticks are Nars pure matte (an intensely pigmented, long-lasting formula) and Avon’s ultra Color rich mega impact, which promises really shiny lips.
But that is not to say the makeup industry is uniformly treating us like children. Tom Ford’s private blend collection of 12 lipsticks is very adult — from the sleek packaging to the price tag — and so turbo-glossed and colour-saturated that you feel you should hang a “Wet paint” sign around your neck when you wear it. The private blend lipsticks are also easy to mix and layer for those who want to customize their colour — a technique usually practiced only by professional makeup artists.
Dior is also aiming high, with femme fatale Monica Bellucci headlining its 32-colour rouge Dior range. Inspired by couture, the colours are lush, but the true inspiration is the Italian actress’s lips. For those of us with a less pillowy pout, the formula incorporates high-tech lip-plumping ingredients so we can achieve the sexy Bellucci look.
In keeping with what’s going on in the rest of the bustling beauty industry, a lot of special effects are packed into lipsticks these days: hyaluronic spheres, tone-on-tone magnifiers, shine enhancers, transparent nano-particles that change colour with shifts in light, polymer films, ceramide plumpers and sophisticated metallic finishes. The list goes on.
In the case of French brand by terry, created by makeup maestra Terry de Gunzburg, lipsticks not only look good, they’re good for you. Her Rouge Délectation nourishes and stimulates cell renewal with raspberry butter, regenerating cherry-pit oil and antioxidant virgin-plum oil. It smells just like jam. Likewise, Tom Ford scoured far-flung corners of the globe to find the chamomile-flower oil, Brazilian murumuru butter and soya-seed extract used in his new lipsticks. Both are light years from the cinnabar favoured by the ancient Greeks, derived from a form of mercuric sulphide, or the mixtures used by Queen Elizabeth I, made from insects.
Science is moving toward ever more gliding textures, colour and light manipulations, and appealing combinations of delicate formulas with dense colour. Famous make-up artist poppy King, former vice-president of creative marketing for Prescriptives and founder of Lip-stick Queen, encapsulates the evolution: “Women want less shimmer and stronger colours in more see-through, tint-like formulas.”
There is an unmistakably ’40s aura to King that fits into lipstick’s image as a throwback form of makeup. Lipstick was the weapon of choice for stars like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, and when you think of modern-day celebs with signature lips, it’s always the deliberately retro ones like Scarlett Johannsson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dita Von Teese who come to mind. They’re sultry and they’re man-eaters, a message that red lips send out loud and clear.
“This is the only product that totally transforms your mood and can make you feel invincible,” says King. “I think lips are getting stronger as a sign of women trying to regain control after the mess men have gotten the economy into,” she adds. But there’s pleasure too, says M.A.C senior makeup artist Melissa Gibson: “Buying lipstick is one of those guilt-free pleasures. Not nearly as expensive as a new pair of boots, but it still leaves you feeling as if you spoiled yourself.”
And now, with strong lips on just about every runway, lipstick has finally overcome its vintage vibe and entered the 21st century. This fall, lipstick is on everyone’s lips.