Tag Archives: Cleopatra

The Lipstick Renaissance

This is the year of the lipstick. After all, so far this spring we’ve seen new lipsticks being launched by Estee Lauder (Pure Color), No7 (their new Poppy King range), Clarins (Rouge Hydra Nude), Dior Addict and Guerlain (Rouge Automatique). Chanel’s creative director of make-up, Peter Philips, continued on his mission to convert girls to the lipstick cause by launching the glossy Rouge Coco Shine…. Lipstick is having a moment, as they say in fashion-ville; though for many of us it’s never gone out of style.

After all, it’s difficult to resist the way a slick of lipstick can lift the spirits by brightening the smile. Not only that, but lipstick is a shortcut to glamour and can instantly transform the appearance in a way that no other single item can. Gwyneth Paltrow summed up the powerful effect of lipstick when she said: “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”

For the millions of women who have bought Chanel lipsticks since they were first sold in 1924, owning one of those little black tubes is an affordable way of sharing in the luxury and elegance of the brand – and of keeping up with the latest trends. The same goes for Dior, Tom Ford, Armani and the other beauty brands which belong to fashion houses.

The history of the lipstick as a staple of our beauty routine stretches back to the ancient civilsations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, when both sexes painted their lips using such natural dyes as carmine, which is made from ground-up insects, or sheep’s blood. By the 16th century, women were following Queen Elizabeth I’s penchant for prettifying her pout by colouring her lips with cochineal paint (made from beetles), while their great-great-grand-daughters, a hundred years later, favoured creams that were made with black grape juice.

But it wasn’t always a smooth ride for the early incarnations of lipstick. In the 18th century, it was banned – along with other cosmetics – by Parliament (which associated it with witches), and it was dismissed as “impolite” by Queen Victoria in the 19th.

Of course, back then, lip colour came in little pots or, in the case of Liquid Bloom of Roses, which was imported from England by the founder of the Parisian beauty house Guerlain, in a little bottle. Monsieur Guerlain soon changed its formula and created Liquid Rose Extract “for lip colour with great staying power that lasts through meals”. It continued to sell until 1958.

Guerlain was also responsible for the very first modern-day lipstick, made with a wax base in 1870. Ne m’oubliez pas was its name and it came in a refillable container with a “push-up” mechanism. The first swivel-up tube was patented in 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee, and 13 years later Guerlain created the Rouge Automatique – which it has recently revived – a lipstick with no cap, that can be applied using just one hand: perfect for the girl on the go, who can’t take her eyes or fingers off her phone as she does her lippie.

And it’s not just the design of the containers and the formulation of the lipsticks that have changed over the years; the colours have come in and gone out of fashion. The most enduringly popular lipstick colour is undoubtedly red, since it’s a dramatic variation on the natural colour of the lips.

Deep, dark red became popular in the late teens and early 1920s when such sexy silent movie stars as the “It” Girl, Clara Bow  and the vampy seductress Theda Bara (right, as Cleopatra in 1917) wore it – anything lighter wouldn’t have shown up in black and white. Not only did they kick off the fashion for red and scarlet lips, but Clara Bow also ignited the trend for “bee-stung” lips, the style of applying the lipstick so that it exaggerates the centre of the lips.

During the 1940s, lipstick was harder to come by because essential ingredients, such as petroleum were unavailable. In Britain, production of cosmetics almost completely ground to a halt and women swapped tips on how to make their own lip tints using beetroot juice or by melting down the stubs of old lipsticks. No7 lipsticks, many of which hadn’t been available during the war, made a comeback in 1949 with a range that included several variations on red.

Indeed, red remained the lipstick shade of choice for Hollywood stars and would-be glamour pusses well into the 1950s, the decade when Revlon launched its iconic Fire and Ice shade, which returned to shops late last year. As the 1950s went on, the pinks and corals shades introduced by Christian Dior also became popular across the world. But the biggest, most radical change in lipstick fashions took place in the early 1960s – and it was all down to one woman: Elizabeth Taylor, who died last month.

Elizabeth Taylor’s services to lipstick should have earned her an award. Not only did she show, in the famous lipstick-on-the-mirror sequence in her movie Butterfield 8, how handy the cosmetic could be in those moments when you find yourself without pen and paper and have to leave an urgent message for your lover, but she also set a new trend in make-up fashion when she starred in the infamous and extravagant epic Cleopatra, which finally came out in 1963 after being in production for two years.

Liz Taylor’s exotic make-up when she played the Egyptian queen may have borne some resemblance – at least in terms of the elaborate eye decoration – to images of the real Cleopatra, but it was also designed to show off her exquisitely beautiful face, and in particular those famous almond-shaped, violet-coloured eyes. All emphasis was placed on the eyes, and her lips were kept light-coloured – in pale corals and pinks – throughout the film.

The effect of this bold eyed, pale-lipped look was sensational. Revlon picked up on it immediately and launched the Cleopatra collection (including “Sphinx Pink” lipstick), which offered a watered-down version of the Liz-as-Cleo look. Andy Warhol later said that Cleopatra was the single-most influential film in terms of style in the 1960s: it certainly launched the make-up trend which defined the 1960s – and it’s a look which is still popular today.

Of course, these days, anything goes lipstick wise – you can work a 1960s, Cleopatra-inspired look one day; a shiny red 1950s Hollywood pout the next and a vampy dark 1920s one at night – and there are any amount of colours, textures and finishes to choose from.

There is a lipstick for everyone – for those who want a signature colour to see them through the ups and downs of life to those who want to stay bang on trend and are currently replacing nude shades with brights for summer. After all, changing you lipstick is the cheapest way to immediately update your look.. Not for nothing did Max Factor advertise its Color Fast lipsticks, way back in the 1950s, with the strapline: “High fashion for every woman’s lips.”

But the last word on lipstick in the 2010s should really go to the American comic Jerry Seinfeld, who once said: “Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not colour, but to accept God’s final word on where your lips end.”

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My Week in Beauty


Amongst the numerous gorgeous new cosmetics which have been arriving chez moi over the last few weeks came a batch of new eyeshadows from Revlon. With their plain, black packaging, the Revlon Luxurious Color Eyeshadow Monos (£4.99) hardly had the wow factor of some of their more expensive counterparts but they quickly turned out to be serious contenders.

Within the new range of richly pigmented eyeshadows are some with a “Perle” finish and others with a “Satin” look. The standout for me, when I tried them on Monday, was the beautiful Peacock Lustre shade, a gorgeous, blue-tinged green satiny powder which matches the eyeshadow worn here by Elizabeth Taylor in her role as Cleopatra. It’s perfect for using as a light wash of colour across the lids or if you want to create asmoky eye by mixing it with a brown shade for a khaki effect – very autumn 2010! Since the season’s blue eyeshadows just don’t do anything for my blue eyes, I’m going to copy the famously violet-eyed Liz and give green a whirl instead ..


The fates are clearly conspiring to make me go green this autumn. I was rummaging through a bag of Topshop Make Up that I had been sent to help me research an article for their 214 mag, and leapt out? A stunning, metallic emerald green nail shade of nail polish. Topshop Nails in Poison Ivy (£5; www.topshop.com) is its name, and it is a Wicked green indeed – definitely reminds me of those Wizard of Oz witches.


Having been suffering from some bug that I caught during the Edinburgh Jazz Festival as well as several disturbed nights’ sleep due to unwell children, I couldn’t wait to try out the new Elemis SpaPod in Debenhams, in Glasgow’s city centre. I needed a nap!

The visit began with a detailed analysis of your skin by a therapist. And when I say detailed, I mean detailed: absolutely no flaw goes unrecorded by the clinical imaging equipment which takes a picture of your skin and then highlights all the different types of damage on one particular area. I thought I was doing a pretty respectable job of keeping wrinkles at bay so was gutted to be told that I had 27 on one side of my face alone!

Once the therapist – and the machine – have worked out which products would be best suited to your skin type, you move through to the SpaPod for your facial. The pod is a cosy, quiet room with an “Intelligent Massage Chair” which, I quickly realised was not for me. As my Elemis Modern Skin Power Booster Facial (£45/30 mins; www.elemis.co.uk) got underway, with the therapist removing my makeup and cleansing my skin, the chair whirred into action and I found myself being rolled around, pushed up and then sinking down thanks to the chair’s undulating movements. Relaxing? No way. The worst bit was when it grabbed my legs tightly around the calves and squeezed them till I thought the blood vessels would burst. The noise and the motions combined to make me feel like I was on a mechanical rodeo bull… Shades of Gene Wilder in Silver Streak.

But, once I had asked the therapist to put me out of my misery by switching off the chair, the facial was utterly blissful – thanks to the lovely-smelling and feeling products used and to the super-relaxing neck and shoulder massage I was given. The human touch? You can’t beat it..  And what’s more, my sensitive skin didn’t flare up afterwards: in fact, it looked radiant for days. I’ll definitely be looking to make this a regular thing. They’re currently doing two facials for the price of one at the Glasgow Debenhams Elemis SpaPod so I’m off to make my follow-up appointment.


Thursday evening was a long-overdue night out with the girls, Lizzy and Colette. The catch-up was supposed to happen over Prosecco and pasta at Jamie’s Italian, the new Jamie Oliver eatery in Glasgow. However, after queuing for, oh, two minutes, we decided that we really didn’t want to waste another 88 (you can’t reserve tables for small groups, apparently), and headed off to find an alternative restaurant.

It was a well-behaved night, with moderation on the alcohol front, but I had come prepared, beauty-wise, by applying a layer of Origins Zero Oil Instant Matte Finish (£11 ; www.origins.co.uk). This wonder-working, all-natural liquid absorbs oil but doesn’t dry out the skin and provides a lovely base for make-up – though it can be used over make-up in shine emergencies. Just wish I had had some with me the previous week in Edinburgh when photos were being taken after wine had been consumed …


Uh-oh. I’ve spotted the first deep creased wrinkle on my forehead. (It’s probably been there for ages and I hadn’t noticed, though I’m sure if it was very obvious either my mother or my twin sons, who have inherited her critical gene, would have taken great delight in pointing it out!) Anyway, now I’ve noticed it, there’s no going back: I have to face up to it, and take it on. And I’m going to do this with the help of Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus  Wrinkle & UV Damage (£35; available in Selfridges nationwide and at www.clinique.co.uk now, and at other stores from September 10).

It claims to visibly repair UV damage and reduce wrinkles while preventing future signs of ageing and the environment by fighting free radicals. I’ll let you know how I get on … Hopefully, it will be more successful than the Clinique Self Sun Body Daily Moisturizer, the self-tanning body lotion that streaked my legs for a week in early July and just would not budge.

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My Week in Beauty


Dear God, don’t let them run out of ojon oil in the tropical rainforest .. Why? Because if and when they do, that will be the end of my favourite haircare find of last year.

Ojon Hydrating Ritual Collection (from £16; www.johnlewis.com) is a new haircare range which, I am convinced, has boosted the condition of my permanently highlighted hair. It uses a whole host of naturally derived raw ingredients, including nourishing ojon oil, in its shampoos, conditioners, treatments and cultish mask.

I was thrilled on Monday to receive a parcel with the shampoo and conditoner I liked best from the Ojon range – Shine & Protect Shampoo and Shine & Protect Conditioner. If you’ve never been tempted to splurge on hair products before, Ojon might be the range to convert you … wish they’d improve the design of the flimsy lids though.


Thanks to my second bug of the year – oh, the joys of having school-age children who bring us back a daily dose of whatever’s going around – I was pretty much confined to quarters on Tuesday and decided to catch up on my viewing.

I had just bought the special edition DVD of Cleopatra, the lavish Liz Taylor-Richard Burton epic from 1963. I confess I didn’t buy it so much for the film as for the two-hour documentary about the film.. And because I wanted to ogle Elizabeth Taylor’s style in the film – it’s as much 1963 as it is 40BC..

Of course, aside from her 65 costume changes (her wardrobe alone reputedly cost $194,800) and myriad hairstyles, what is particularly striking throughout is her make-up, which again straddles both Ancient Egyptian and early 1960s beauty aesthetics. Of course, we all owe good queen Cleo a debt of cosmetic gratitude: she is a poster girl for mineral make-up, kohl eyeliner and milk baths.


With all her eye make-up, Cleopatra would have loved the latest product from Benefit.

Stay Don’t Stray (£19.50) is an eye base which keeps your eye make-up in place all day so that it stays fresh-looking and doesn’t slide into the crease of your eye lids.

I started testing it on Wednesday – and it works, though I would probably only use it when I knew I had a long, busy day or evening ahead. Otherwise, my recently learned trick of using a flesh-toned shade of eye shadow as a base is fine for general day-to-day use. Check it out at www.benefitcosmetics.co.uk


My pal, and deputy product tester, Shiv gave me her verdict on the new Clinique All About Eyes Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage (£20; www.clinique.co.uk) on Thursday.

As someone whose eyes are prone to puffiness, she was the ideal person to try out my preview sample – especially since she has  “form” when it comes to testing eye de-puffers.

Her verdict? “It was no great shakes – certainly no different from the Garnier one I’d already tried, and although the puffiness did indeed go down, it wasn’t noticeably faster than when I don’t use a product at all. What I did like about it was the coolness of the metal rollerball..”

And her personal, tried and true, recommendation for de-puffing the eyes? “Origins No Puffery eye mask (£19.50; www.origins.co.uk) is still the best.”


Oh, life does get complicated when you keep falling in love … On Friday I fell, again, for a hot pink lipstick – this time the limited edition Island Hibiscus shade of Givenchy Rouge Interdit (£18.50) from the French company’s exquisite new tropical island-inspired summer collection.

Rouge Interdit is a moisturising, shiny lipstick which is a pleasure to wear – and this deep, dark hot pink (that’s how it looked on me, though the press release talks about “a new shade of red with nuances of coral” – don’t see that myself) is going to be vying with the lighter, nearer bubblegum, pink of the Dior Addict Lipcolour in Ravishing Rose for outings over the next few weeks …

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