Excerpt from N Magazine
by Rona Arato
"A woman without paint is like food without salt," said Roman philosopher Plautus. In his day, women painted their lips and nails with sheep's blood. Even then, red was the colour of choice.
Today our options are vastly improved, with Hollywood exerting a major influence over our cosmetic selections. "Red is simply the classic Hollywood look," says Dean Factor, co-creator and C.E.O. of Smashbox Cosmetics, a studio line in Hollywood. Ever since silent film goddess Theda Bara shocked audiences by appearing heavily made up by Helena Rubenstein, movies have defined our concept of glamour. Rubenstein focused on lips and eyes (she invented mascara and introduced coloured eye shadow) and popularized the look when she mass-marketed red lipsticks, mascara and coloured powders in the 1920’s.
"The most memorable female faces in the last century were defined by their red lips: Monroe, Garbo & Deitrich. They defined Hollywood and red has remained synonymous with being a movie star," says Factor, whose grandfather, Max, created false eyelashes, eyebrow pencil, lip gloss and pancake makeup for use on the screen.
Vibrant reds were very much evident last March when Peter Nygård hosted his Annual “Night of 100 Stars” Academy Awards® celebration in Beverly Hills, CA in support of Martin Scorsese's “The Film Foundation”. This organization helps preserve classic American films, including, those early reels that launched the age of commercial cosmetics.
Why is red so popular? Audrey Ann Lowrie, Director of The Colour Institute of Canada, says that red broadcasts the message, "I am strong. I am courageous. I am stimulating." Remember Scarlett O'Hara biting her lips before confronting Rhett Butler? Red makes us look healthy and excited. "Red says, I am a passionate person," explains Lowrie, adding that it also implies energy and leadership. Think of Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge - the ultimate femme fatale, swathed in crimson, exciting men into frenzies of desire.
How then to choose the shades of red that are right for you? "I go by hair colour and the undertones in the skin," says Factor. "You want warm colors for pink skin undertones and cool colors for yellow skin undertones. I also find that, generally, brick reds look great on brunettes and orange reds complement blondes and redheads." This fall's deep and metallic reds are perfect for everyone, says Factor, who likes applying them on a clean face with just mascara. "I love the look that it creates on women in any season. The deeper red shades bring a natural flush to the cheek, so often you don't need blush." And, he says, lips and nails needn't match. The up-to-the-minute look is sheer tips with dramatic lips or vice versa.
If lips are dramatic, blush should be subtle. Apply lipstick first to see what colours come out in the skin. "It varies a lot," says Factor. "Sometimes you'll need a brown blush, maybe a more pinky one. Let your lips lead the way."
To create a dramatic mouth, start by defining lips with a soft red lip pencil, choosing a colour that doesn't clash with the lipstick. Factor suggests using a lip brush, a step that prevents excess colour application and helps lengthen the wear of the lipstick. To minimize fine lines and prevent bleeding, he uses a foundation stick as a lip base, then seals lightly with powder before applying lipstick.
When Rubenstein adorned Theda Bara, she borrowed heavily from the French stage, using eyes and lips as dramatic central points. Today's look is softer. "Two focal points on the face are hard to pull off. If your lipstick is dramatic," says Factor, "keep your eyes subtle." He recommends warm natural tones that won't overpower the lips and make you look garish. "For sheer reds which create subtle lips - a favourite look of Charlize Theron - he suggests a smoky effect for the eyes.
When choosing your makeup palette for this fall and holiday season, remember the power of red. By selecting the right tones and wearing them well, you can create drama; inspire passion and look and feel like a Hollywood star.