Victoria Beckham is not a woman whose style dictates are taken lightly. After more than ten years’ hard work, and against all expectation, her label is now decidedly established in the fashion firmament.
And, last year, she added a successful beauty line, too.
Her latest decree is that the ‘nude lip’ is back, that there is a shade of it to suit everyone, and she has come up with nine options to prove it.
Her new range makes a surprising nod to the Spice Girls — with names including Pop and Spice — that reminds us of the Nineties, when muted mouths last ruled the world.
Hannah Betts tested out a number of different shades to find her perfect nude. Pictured, with no lipstick (left) and Maybelline Color Sensational Matte 981 in Purely Nude, £6.99 (right)
It’s not just VB insisting on this comeback, Nars, L’Oréal, Charlotte Tilbury, Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown — anybody who is anybody in the beauty industry is churning out nudes by the crateful.
I cannot be the only cosmetics fan to regard this news with horror. All women have a make-up moment they’d rather forget. In my case, it’s the nude pout.
During my teens in the late Eighties/early Nineties, I took to using a murky brown lipstick that rendered my features corpse-like; it may even have been (whisper it) frosted. If I had to find a name for it, it would be ‘dog mess’.
Pale, yet to discover blusher, with naturally berry-coloured lips, I was ghoulish. At a time when I should have been in the bloom of youth, I resembled a bloodless wraith.
Only later did I discover draining my face of all colour didn’t make for a fetching proposition.
Lesson learnt. Today, at 49, I either wear no lipstick; a sheer, balmy berry (Lipstick Queen’s Hello Sailor, £22); or — if in need of something bolder — Charlotte Tilbury’s Glastonberry (£25), a matte, purplish-plum, recently reinvented as Festival Magic.
Next up in her quest to find the perfect nude lipstick, joined by make-up artist Oonagh Connor, Hannah tried Huda Power Bullet Matte Lipstick in Last Night, £22, (left) and Victoria Beckham’s Posh Lipstick, £34 (right)
That’s me done. I know what suits me, and it isn’t blandness dressed up as sophistication.
‘But’, cry the new nude champions, ‘nudes have moved on!’
As with nude shoes, undies and plasters, their definition has expanded to reflect greater diversity. As Posh Spice herself argues, there’s a nude for everyone: even cool, or blue-toned goths such as me, who look deathly in warm hues.
Just as it would be ridiculous to put my milk-bottle-white legs in American Tan tights, so my nude should be a berry incarnation rather than a dirty protest. ‘Look at your nipples, and follow suit!’ cries one expert.
‘A nude should be your lip, but better,’ make-up artist Oonagh Connor tells me. ‘It can involve “erasing” your features by creating a paler version of your mouth, or it can mean going a shade or two darker or brighter than your natural lip — a look which makes your skin fresher.’
Terry Barber, MAC’s director of make-up artistry, agrees. ‘I don’t like it when people are rude about nudes,’ he says.
Next up in the game of trial and error, Hannah tried out Glossier’s Generation G in Like, £14, (left) and Lipstick Queen’s sheer berry Hello Sailor, £22 (right)
‘It’s only because they’re not clear about what they are. Nude doesn’t mean a flat, taupe shade. It should reflect all kinds of undertones in skin and lip colour, be they olive, grey, rust, blue, black, or berry, like yours. Diversity isn’t just about foundation.’
At their best, he adds: ‘Nudes are the great balancer of your face, bringing everything together like a good pair of jeans or a great jacket. They’re as personal as a signature scent — and as uniquely you.’
While this sounds fabulously beguiling, it is also complicated — and trickier than picking out your red, given that your nude depends not only upon your gene pool, but a more elaborate alchemy of shade, texture, mode of application, and desired effect; whether subtle, sensuous, or striking.
Back to basics: Hannah tries out Nic Chapman’s Perfect Nude by MAC in her quest for a perfect pout helped by make-up artist Oonagh Connor
An expert can give you the guidelines: cool undertones suit blue or purple-based hues, such as roses or mauves; warm types work best in tawny, orange nudes; while neutral complexions can pick either. However, the decision can only be yours.
With this in mind, Oonagh and I sally forth to find ‘my’ nude. Out of the hundreds of new shades, we pick out a fistful.
The first is Maybelline Color Sensational Matte 981 in Purely Nude (£6.99), a too-pale apricot that vanishes away my mouth. Claudia Winkleman pulls off this retro look with aplomb. I do not.
How to find your nude
By Warren Dowdall, senior pro artist at Bobbi Brown
Look at both your natural lip colour, and the undertone and intensity of your skin. If you aren’t sure of your skin’s undertone, there are a few simple tricks to identify whether you are cool, warm, or neutral.
If you have a cool undertone, you may burn easily and apply sunscreen more often. If you tan easily and rarely burn, then you are likely to have warm undertones. If you burn, then tan, you are probably neutral.
If you look good in gold jewellery, you’re likely to have warm undertones. Silver tends to look more flattering on cooler tones. If you are a neutral, you’ll look great in either.
Try swatching shades side by side and it should be clear which is the more orange and which the more pink.
If you have a cool undertone, choose anything with a blue or purple base, such as a rose pink, or pinky mauve.
If your skin has a warm undertone, peachy nudes look best.
If you are a neutral undertone, both warm and cool-based lipsticks will work.
Huda Power Bullet Matte Lipstick in Last Night (£22) goes to the opposite extreme, being monstrously over-the-top. It is billed as a ‘cool-toned chocolate’. And, behold, I am back in teen Halloween mode, only with a more nightmarish middle-aged face.
Last Night may look glorious on Huda’s Arab-American creator Huda Kattan; on me it makes everyone scream in terror.
Make-up artist Nic Chapman’s Perfect Nude by MAC (£17.50) is a peachy coral in a sheeny, cream finish that is designed to ‘suit everyone’. I love Chapman, one half of the power-house Pixiwoo brand. However, on my mouth, this is horrendous.
There’s a Queen Mother quality I find agonising, while my teeth have never gleamed so yellow.
It looks incredible on blonde and beautiful Mail fashion expert Emily, who styles our images, but makes me weep.
And so to Posh Spice’s Posh Lipstick (£34). There are three supposedly pinkish-nude shades, meant to suit cool-toned complexions such as mine. Alas, they come up unflatteringly brown on my pout. Play, described as a ‘rich plum berry’, renders positively ginger: lovely in its way, but, all shades of wrong for Betts Spice.
Finally, I turn towards a nude I feel sure will work. Glossier’s Generation G in Like (£14) looks in the tube like a vampy plum, yet hits the lip with a pretty, pink, blotted effect that’s remarkably similar to the colour of my actual lips. Finally, we’re getting somewhere.
Then, wait! Here it is, the moment in which I discover my perfect nude: Lipstick Queen’s sheer berry Hello Sailor (£22).
Its effect is mesmerising: my skin glows, my eyes shine, my teeth look whiter — suddenly, my whole face makes sense.
Everybody breathes a sigh of relief. Does that name sound familiar though? Cast your eyes back a few paragraphs, and you’ll realise that’s because it’s already my daily go-to.
‘So let’s get this straight,’ sighs Oonagh. ‘After hours of trial and error, your nude turns out to be the shade you’re already using?’ Er, yes. There I was thinking I detested nudes, when I was wearing the shade all the time.
A cool blue sheen, Hello Sailor amps up my naturally purplish lip shade, making me look fresher and sexier. Plus, it’s so low-maintenance, I can apply it without a mirror like a balm. I adore it — I just didn’t realise it qualified as a nude under the new rules.
‘You see,’ notes Terry Barber of MAC. ‘There’s a nude lip for everybody on planet Earth.’ To which, I’d add: ‘And you may already be wearing it.’