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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


Oh dear, I rather overdid it on Sunday night during a couple of back-to-back jazz gigs in Edinburgh – and felt somewhat the worse for wear on Monday. Unfortunately, unlike the uber-chic Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, I didn’t have the urbane William Powell on hand with a liquid hangover cure, but I did have Clarins Eye Contour Gel (£26.50; www.clarins.co.uk) which refreshes the eye area, while toning and de-puffing it. It’s even better if it’s been in the fridge overnight. If William Powell was around today, you can bet it would be as essential to his hangover-chasing kit as Worcester sauce and raw egg..


I finished using Origins Plantscription after about six weeks and have to report that while using it, I found it had a slightly drying effect on my skin – so much so that I had start using a moisturising serum as well. I didn’t notice any improvement in the lines on my face – if anything, I became more aware of the lines on my forehead because I was studying them more closely than ever. After I finished Plantscription I switched to Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Serum (£245.50; www.houseoffraser.co.uk) and Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Rich Night Cream (£255) for my evening skincare routine. I’d been using these two high-end products for about a week when – on Tuesday – I had an appointment at the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow,  for my monthly facial.  And the first thing that my facialist, the lovely Lindsay, said when she had finished working her magic was that my skin felt significantly firmer than before. Whether this is the result of the Plantscription, or my new Guerlain evening routine, I don’t yet know … but I’ll be continuing with my super-expensive skincare ritual and shall report back anon.


I went to see the French film Little White Lies – Ces Petits Mouchoirs – on Wednesday, with my French pal Sabine. Over our pre-movie coffee, Sabine – who had just returned from a holiday in France – was singing the praises of a face cream which her sister had advised her to track down while en vacances..

Its name (which evokes our last cinema trip – to see the superb psychological thriller Les Diaboliques)  is Diabolique Tomate by Garancia (around 33 Euros in French pharmacies), and it harnesses the goodness of tomatoes – in particular lypocene, which is a powerful antioxidant – to hydrate the skin and help with anti-ageing. So far, Sabine is very impressed – and her sister is a complete convert.


Our man from Dior, Jamie Coombes, was in Glasgow on Thursday to acquaint journalists with the latest additions to the company’s vast range of beauty products. Not only did I come away with fantastic, glossy, neon-pink painted nails – Dior Vernis in Paradise (£23, with top coat) – but also with a brilliant tip which I wish I’d known last time I ran out of nail varnish remover: if you paint a layer of nail varnish over the varnish you want to take off, then wipe it off while wet, it will take off both the fresh and the old coats. Jamie showed me – and it works! He also picked out a couple of colours from the new Dior Addict lipstick collection (£22 each) for me to try – the photo shows me (just hours before I finally got that hair colour sorted out!) having the New Look shade expertly applied.

* Jamie Coombes, international make-up artist for Dior, is available to book for a personal make-up lesson in Jenners, Edinburgh (0844 8003725) on Monday April 25 & Tuesday 26, and in Frasers, Glasgow (0141 221 3880) on Wednesday 27 & Thursday 28. 

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My Week in Beauty


A dull Monday was brightened up by the arrival of a package containing a selection of new lipsticks from Dior – all from its revamped Dior Addict (£22 each; at Selfridges now and nationwide from April 11) range. As you can see, none other than Kate Moss is the face of this new collection, the advertising film  of which was directed by Jonas Akerlund who’s best known for Lady Gaga’s Telephone vid.

Miss Moss looks gorgeous – 1960s rock chick meets 1950s starlet – in the ads, but frankly I’m more excited about the fact that there are 44 exquisite colours to choose from, and the texture, which is less waxy than a conventional lipstick and contains an innovative gel that makes lips feel hydrated and look shiny and full.

Kate’s favourite shade is no578 “Dior Kiss” – which she models in the ad above. I’ve only tried out a handful of the 44 colours, but love the texture and the glossy effect. I’m hoping that when Dior’s  National Make-up Artist Jamie Coombes comes to Glasgow next month, he can help me find the best shade for me …


Some beauty products just baffle me – not because of the “science part” (though that can be a challenge sometimes, if not explained well), but because I do wonder: “What’s the point?”. That was my reaction to the latest nail varnishes from Revlon, a company which already has an impressive range of nail colours. Why? Because its latest thing is smelly nail varnish.  The limited edition Revlon Scents of Summer Nail Enamels (£6.49 each; available now) are just what they say on the label – unfortunately. If you are so inclined, you too could smell papaya, coconut, bubblegum or one of the other scents every time your fingers are near your face. One for the tweenies, methinks – it’s just a step up from the scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers that my generation collected ..


At lunchtime on Wednesday came the sad news that Dame Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most beautiful and talked-about women of her time, had died. Contrary to many news reports, she was not “the last of the great Hollywood stars” – we still have Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Olivia de Havilland and several more – but she was unquestionably one of the most fascinating.

She had delicate features and, in the early part of her career, often looked like a porcelain doll; her rosebud mouth usually the focus of her look. At some point after she became a fully-fledged sex symbol in the late 1950s, she began playing up those unforgettable, so-called violet eyes. The 1960s suited them beautifully: lashings of fashionable kohl drew attention to them, and personally I think she looked far more alluring with the accent on her eyes and her lips painted in muted colours than in the darker shades which were undoubtedly a requirement of being filmed in black and white a decade earlier. In fact, it almost looks like she’s wearing Dior Addict no.564 (AKA Model)  in this pic …


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Clarins make-up is really having a moment just now. My Neo Pastels Eye Colour and Liner Palette (£30) is being used on an almost-daily basis and on Thursday I finally got round to trying out their new range of creamy, natural-coloured lipsticks.

Clarins Rouge Hydra Nude Smoothing Cream Lipsticks (£16.50; www.clarins.co.uk) would have been a pleasure to use – had it not been for one thing: their scent. What is it about smelly beauty products? First the fruity nails – and now these lipsticks which have a caramel sort of fragrance to them. I realise that most lipsticks do have a scent but this one is very pronounced, especially if – like me – you can’t stand sickly, sweet, vanilla-ish fragrances. Anyway, if you do like that sort of smell under your nose all day – lucky you: you’ve four pretty nude shades (coral, rose, beige and caramel) to choose from …


And speaking of Clarins, thank heavens for the their treatments … I was feeling quite run-down and fed-up before I arrived at the Clarins Spa at Frasers in Glasgow but a Clarins TriActive Facial (from £62) soon sorted me out. When Lindsay, my facialist, asked about my skin concerns, I mentioned that I was beginning to worry about the signs of ageing (well, the fortieth birthday is hanging over me), in particular around the jawline. She tailored the treatment accordingly, explaining to me afterwards that “as soon as someone mentions concerns about sagging round the jaw, I reach for the ClarinsPRO Refreshing Lift Mask.”

Regular lymphatic massage – which is a staple of all the variations of the TriActive facial – helps to prevent jowls appearing, but that mask produced especially impressive results. So much so that it can only be used by therapists in the spa: at one point, customers could buy it, but they loved the tightening effects so much, some were over-using it – and it’s very potent..  Needless to say, I’ll be back for more!

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