Health & Grooming

Made like they used to be

Old-school glamour is firmly back on the beauty agenda with flawless blending, matching palettes, and strong lips and eyes. Vicci Bentley reports.

December 07 2011
Vicci Bentley

After a decade of minimalist, mismatched looks (contrived to say, “We’re too rushed to care”), the new make-up mores will come either as a shock or relief. Proper blending is back on the agenda – and the more “matchy-matchy” the colours, the better. Nails that chime with lips are at the front line of co-ordination, while strong brows and precision-lined lids create a purposeful, polished impression.

It’s a powerfully simple look that owes much to old-school glamour. “Classic black, red and bordeaux shades create a highly charged, adult tension,” observes Mac’s creative director, Terry Barber, who cites high-style doyennes such as 1960s Vogue editor Diana Vreeland and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt as inspiration. At Guerlain, creative director Olivier Echaudemaison identifies a luminous complexion, intense eyes – neither too harsh nor dramatic – and statement lips as fundamental to this iconic beauty genre. “Since Audrey Hepburn, nothing has topped these three steps in terms of style and timelessness,” he believes. The fourth, hidden element is a deceptive restraint. Just as fashion is currently courting monochromatic impact, well-placed colour used with economy gives these confident, “pulled-together” faces an unfussy, well-groomed appeal.

While a dab brush hand and an obsessive approach to blending will give you a clear head start, the real creative genius is in the clarity of pigment and velvety textures from the latest luxury make-up ranges. Lipsticks from the new Tom Ford Beauty Color Collection have an intensity little seen since the 1980s; Giorgio Armani, whose silken, fabric-inspired textures are already legendary, has added fabulously molten eye shades to its winter portfolio; while Chanel’s glowing metallics glint like gems. This is make-up as it should be – indulgent and inspiring, offsetting flawless, natural-looking skin.

An oxymoron? To most of us, perhaps; but to makers of the new smart bases, it’s the chance to flex technical credentials. Thanks to the increasing influence of Asia’s BB (Blemish Balm) creams, it’s virtually obligatory these days for foundations to moonlight as skin-optimising treatments. Sisley Skinleÿa Anti-Ageing Lift Foundation (£110 for 30ml), for example, has firming, collagen-enhancing ingredients and is substantially creamy, yet blends to an imperceptible, wrinkle-smoothing film that will impress even foundation-phobes. And the latest limelight-grabbing pigments – the ultimate illusionists in bases – can soft-focus wrinkles, shadows and pores into preternatural smoothness. Lancôme’s pre-foundation primer Effect Miracle Base (£25.50 for 15ml) relies on liquid-silver baryon particles, five times smaller than mother-of-pearl, to scatter surface reflection smoothly and evenly. Armani Designer Lift Foundation (£38) gets over the “more cover, less radiance” problem of traditional opaque bases by way of a pearlised Prussian-blue pigment. Or for sheer, matte subtlety, By Terry’s rose-scented, wrinkle-filling Hyaluronic Face Glow (£44) is a new-generation tinted moisturiser whose velvety mousse texture transforms to a lightly powdered, “nude skin” finish even under inexpert fingertips.

Make-up artists agree, however, that only brushes smooth their way into lines and crevices for a perfect finish. “Fingers are too warm for precision blending,” warns Clare Lille, an educator at the Illamasqua School of Make-Up Art, which now offers a Maturing Beauty Course aiming to “banish the beige” with more enlivening tints and techniques. “Sweep lightly outwards from the centre of your face using a flat, synthetic brush that won’t soak up foundation,” she counsels. Illamasqua Foundation Brush (£26) works well. And since “shine” and “chic” are rarely juxtaposed in the same style bible, a powder compact is a must for serenely matte skin. YSL Radiance Compact Powder (£31) is sufficiently silken to subdue over-glow without dulling skin’s natural vitality; while foundation-powder hybrid Christian Dior Diorskin Forever Compact Flawless Perfection Fusion Wear Makeup (£35.50) covers imperfections with impressive speed and stamina.

Swept under cheekbones and angling up towards temples, contemporary blusher multitasks as glow-giver, face-shaper and gentle mediator between competitively intense lips and eyes. Guerlain’s Parure de Nuit Pressed Powder & Blush (£41) deftly combines a cool blue-pink highlighter with a deep rose ideal for creating cheekbones that even Audrey Hepburn might have envied.

For sheer graphic flattery, Laura Mercier’s excellently appointed Classic Smoky Eye Palette (£55) should be your new best investment. Ebony cake eyeliner, sparkling noir shadow, matte and sheeny browns, plus a vanilla highlighter (useful for disguising inner corner shadows and crow’s feet), come with professional brushes that have it all covered. But if shades of black seem too predictably monochrome, the new “bright browns” and inky aubergines update the smoky theme with a contemporary injection of colour.

“With the return of glamour, colour is important this season,” says Olivia Chantecaille, creative director of her eponymous brand. “I wanted to offer women something different from the usual blacks and browns; a softer, classic palette to give eyes life and lift, day or night.” The result is Chantecaille’s beautifully wearable Classic Palette (£75). “Sweep the luminous neutral shade all over the lids, then buff soft brown into the creaselines. Line the eyes with the deep plum, wetting the brush first for a richer effect, then dust the rose outwards along the cheekbones, with downwards strokes,” she advises. Flashes of colour confined to the creaselines achieve a modern illusion of shadow, and can also lift heavy brows, believes Lille. “To keep eyes looking fresh and wide, take colour no further than just above the iris edge,” she adds. It’s a technique that works especially well with auburn tones, such as those from the Tom Ford Eye Color Quad in Burnished Amber (£62). Or, for a translucent glimmer, Chanel’s creamy Illusion D’Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow in bronze Ebloui (£22.50), simply finger-smudged over lids, gives whites an eye-popping sparkle.

Eyeliner is synonymous with elegance, yet essentially fine and fluent tapering can elude even practised hands. An artful and effective cheat is to trace the inside upper lids with a felt-tip liner pen such as YSL False Lash Effect Shocking Felt-Tip Eyeliner in black (£22.50). The result is a “secret” definition that won’t show up wobbles. Easier still, resort to lashings of mascara. “After the nonchalance of last year’s ‘no-eyes’ phase, we’re now welcoming back the magic of perfect lashes against a powdered-down face,” says Barber. “The thing is, real women love mascara. No one wants to go out with piggy eyes,” he adds, with an emphatic wink to Mac’s intensely thickening Opulash Mascara (£13.50). YSL’s False Lash Effect Shocking Mascara (£22) has equal impact – try Bronze Black for a glint of colour.

For the intrepid, false lashes themselves are now the go-to accessories for laconic, Lauren Bacall sensuality. Lille short-cuts potential overload by snipping off centimetre sections of Illamasqua’s handmade False Eye Lashes No 14 (£12) and attaching them at the outer edges of the upper lashlines. “This is the most comfortable, weightless way to wear false lashes. It also lifts and subtly lengthens droopy lids,” she says.

The ultimate signature of the monochrome movement is, of course, perfectly matched lips and nails. Red – in all its hues and intensities – is the bold essential. Team Dolce & Gabbana Gloss Fusion Lipstick in Infatuation (£24) with Estée Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Enchanted Garnet (£14) for a slick ruby finish; or, for a jewel-like, gold-shot Bordeaux, match Rouge Dior Les Rouges Or Nocturne lips (£22.50) with Dior Vernis Apparât nails (£17.50). Or consider Lancôme’s blood-red L’Absolu Rouge Lipstick in shade 132 (£19.50) and Le Vernis in shade 102 (£15), both from the limited-edition Golden Hat Foundation collection, created with actress Kate Winslet in support of her autism charity. (The shimmering shell pink and golden highlights in the Golden Hat Blush Palette, £34, complete this glamorous hat-trick.)

It may be make-up’s most enduring staple, yet red lipstick issues challenges. Too loud, too harsh or too “there”, it’s the dominatrix in your glamour kit that takes some living up to. Chanel has struck an elegant compromise with Rouge Allure Velvet Luminous Matte Lip Colour in Fascinante (£23.50) – rich and vibrant, but giving a gentler, less predictable glamour without the gloss. “Intense matte lips are dramatic, but also sophisticated and romantic,” comments Peter Philips, creative director at Chanel Make-up.

For the ultimate match, top Le Vernis Nail Colour in classic red Pirate (£17.50) with Beauté des Ongles Mat Top Coat (£18). Matchy-matchy was never quite this indebted to detail.

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