As the nights draw in and lights flicker on, winter make-up collections assume a deeper, more expressive mood. Now that skin has lost its summer bloom, these richer colours and textures work harder to give features – especially eyes – new definition. But as the social season gears into full swing, has make-up’s little black dress – the black eyeliner – finally had its day?
This time around, it’s all about colour. Purple is the new black, supported by burgundy, cerise and burnished rusty-bronze. Even the more muted tones have an intriguing new sheen, as style forecasters tell us that the presiding 1970s spirit is set to gain momentum into the spring. Not that there’s any urgency to dust off the Spandex. Getting to grips with real colour takes courage, especially since the hegemony of black, grey and taupe has lulled us into a safer make-up place for a good two years now.
However, these default “nudes” are beginning to pall – especially for those of us whose complexions crave the lift that only a brave dash of colour can pull off. Make-up maestro Sharon Dowsett puts it graphically. “You need an injection of blood as you get older,” she observes. Whereas beige and black drain colour from the face, the red undertones in plums and purples bring out the interior bloom of cheeks and lips. “A touch of red will also highlight all natural eye colours,” claims Dowsett, adding that a blend of pinkish rusts and bronze tones rekindles the green lights in her hazel eyes. Chanel’s Regard Signé Quadra Eye Shadow palette in Harmonie du Soir (£43) and Guerlain’s Ecrin 4 Couleurs in Les Ombres Turandot (£37) are both excellent alternatives to the classic black and greige mix.
Equally dismissive of the conservative neutral palette is Julian Kynaston, founder of progressive make-up range Illamasqua. His Generation Q campaign aims to challenge a “homogenised and outdated vision of beauty” with dynamic shades and textures that he believes to be ageless. “We’re standing up to the industry rule of only wearing matte colours and concealing your identity under a sea of beige after a certain age,” declares Kynaston. Illamasqua’s Complement Palette (£34) pulls it off beautifully with a quartet of shimmering, rich, plummy aubergines that put the sparkle back into jaded eyes. “Older women have been taught that shimmer is risky once they’re past 40. But light-reflective make-up can rejuvenate the features,” says David Horne, director of new product development at Illamasqua. Textures have moved on apace since many of us dabbled last, he points out. Contrary to popular wisdom, rather than highlight wrinkles and crinkles, the latest shimmer shadows are surprisingly forgiving to less-than-perfect lids and make intense colour both manageable and wearable.
“Shimmer is important for easy application, as matte colour is almost impossible to apply smoothly,” agrees Tom Pecheux, creative make-up director at Estée Lauder, whose flair for translating high-fashion statements into reality is widely applauded. He’s especially pleased with a new technology that wraps powder pigment in a crystal‑polymer coating so that it neither stains the skin nor fades – a particular advantage of the intense fuchsia that radiates from the blues and bronzes of glam‑rock‑inspired Pure Color Five Color EyeShadow Palette in Velvet Underground (£40). “It generates excitement,” he enthuses, while still recognising that some of us are, in fact, colour shy. “If you mix pink with blue, you get your own, custom blended violet,” he encourages. Similarly, Lloyd Simmonds, creative make-up director at Yves Saint Laurent Beauty, advocates experimenting with his Boréal Palette Arctic Night Pure Chromatics No 12 (£39) that is inspired by the vivid green-to-blue-to-violet colour show of the Northern Lights. “Create a smoky‑plum halo around the eyes, with a touch of frosty blue at the inner corners, or apply the midnight blue in a smoky line along the upper lash line and sculpt a shadow in the hollows, under the browbones,” he says.
If shimmer-shyness seems impossible to overcome, the Aerin Holiday Style Palette (£45) from Aerin Lauder’s surefooted new range, with its “effortless beauty” manifesto, offers an easier, more urbane sheen. Among the sextet of muted purple-bronze and old-gold shadows is a dusky, very slightly blackened pink – Aerin’s signature tint and the perfect all-over lid base to support layers of colour. A beautifully soft, sand-gold highlighter destined for cheekbones and browbones harmonises the look with a flattering, candlelit glow.
Could we slip into the festive spirit without going for gold? The precious metal attains a dazzling intensity in the season’s most opulent palettes. In the style of an 18th-century dance-card case, Christian Dior’s Palette Grand Bal (£60), is, quite literally, the belle of the ball. Accessorising two quieter lipglosses and (whisper it) an inky-black liner where the card-marking pencil should be are swatches of pearlescent‑gold and platinum gel-powder. Buff them over bare lids for a dreamy, soft-focus allure, or use them on top of matte shadow to highlight lids, browbones and inner corners to “lift” and dramatise.
“Gilded is the new smoky eye,” contends Laura Mercier, whose Holiday Collection is inspired by art‑deco painter Tamara de Lempicka’s languid‑lidded sirens. Used solo or blended together, her Laura Mercier Illuminating Eye Colours in Gilded Rosegold and Gilded Bronze (£20) sculpt and enhance the eyes’ orbed contours, she promises. Dampened and brushed along the lash line, they also add a flattering, light-catching glint to your blink that is far more original than black liner. Mixed with a drop of water, most metallic shadows morph into liners, their pencil-like blur forming a definition that lacks the harsh edge of conventional black liquid eyeliners. As Sharon Dowsett puts it: “The effect is less statement than genuine enhancement.” Wary of adding water? Chanel’s ingenious gel‑mousse Illusion d’Ombre in Apparence (£23) gilds or lines lids with a long-lasting sheen all on its own. Or have a flutter on Dior Grand Bal False Lashes in Gold Crystals (£19), which instantly furnish you with both glossy long lashes and a gilded liner in the form of a thread of gold Swarowski crystals.
Perfectly prepped skin is, of course, the mandatory canvas for well-blended make-up. According to Dowsett, a smooth and luminous base is vital to offset vibrant colours. To cool redness and enhance radiance, she primes skin with Le Blanc de Chanel (£30 for 30ml), perhaps adding an extra highlighting touch to cheekbones and brows after the foundation goes on. Those who aren’t fans of fluid foundation (perhaps it sinks into lines, disappears, or shines rather than glows) may be converted by Giorgio Armani’s new Maestro Fusion Makeup complexion perfector (£36 for 30ml). The latest of the new‑generation “invisible” bases, its glow-enhancing pigments are suspended in moisturising dry oil, which feels velvety, yet astonishingly fresh and light. For additional close-up confidence, Chantecaille HD Perfecting Powder (£62), buffed into foundation with a firm but soft Kabuki brush (£60), minimises pores and fine lines.
A touch of blush is also essential to “settle in” intense colours and prevent them upstaging a healthy skin tone. “Cooler pink offsets purple eyes, while apricot looks fresh against plum and bronze tones,” Dowsett suggests. “Sweep it high over cheeks and outwards for a flattering profile.” The merest stain of Tom Ford’s Cheek Colour in Narcissist (£45) or a touch of Yves Saint Laurent’s Blush Radiance in No 7 (£31) should do it.
Keep lips and nails in toning mode – dark and blue-bloodedly gothic or soft and gilded. Chanel’s emotive Rouge Allure Velvet in L’Impatiente (£25) delivers a glimmering damson intensity in a velvety matte finish, while Guerlain’s plummy Shine Automatique in 760 Lou-Ling (£24.50) is shot through with glints of gold. Not for the faint-hearted, Tom Ford’s Ultra Shine Lip Gloss in Wet Violet (£32) and Estée Lauder’s Pure Color Velvet Lipstick in Violet Crush (£19.50) offer either a patent or profound matte finish.
Estée Lauder also has some of the moodiest magenta nail polishes you’ll find – Pure Color Nail Polish in creamy Black Iris and shimmering Purple Velvet (both £19.50) chimes perfectly with a violet colour theme. Chanel’s Le Vernis in Malice (£18) sizzles with film‑noir potency. If dazzle‑without-drama is more your style, you’ll appreciate Guerlain’s Shine Automatique lipstick (£24.50) and Nail Lacquer (£18) in matching Altoum. Both transform workaday lip and nail colours with their cool, gold finish, or, worn alone, create an elegantly restrained, glossy sheen that allows lavish eyes to have their say. Either way, you’ll be good to glow.