A taste of beauty

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Stylist Team
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Food and beauty have long been intertwined. Stylist's Joanna McGarry explains why.

It’s highly likely I’ve already ingested the six pounds of lipstick I will supposedly consume in my lifetime. Because, aside from the pleasure of sporting a stripe of bold colour across my otherwise pallid face, wearing lipstick kind of tastes good. For instance, each time I take a swipe of Mac lipstick, with its distinct vanilla flavour, it is a subliminal reminder of scoffing some evil delight in a French patisserie. But, to the next lipstick wearer, that same flavour could be nauseating. Even in the ostensibly visual world of beauty, we are ruled by taste.

And taste is everything: it’s the difference between embarking on a 10-year love affair with a lipbalm and a momentary fling. It’s the lingering sweetness of a fragrance (Angel by Thierry Mugler, Candy Apples by DKNY or Guerlain’s Shalimar) that envelops the palate, instantly transporting you back to an afternoon of baking buns with your grandmother. It’s the practically edible name of a nail polish (Mint Candy Apple by Essie or Black Cherry Chutney by OPI), or a lipstick (Clarins Rouge Prodige Lipstick in Creamy Toffee or Bobbi Brown’s top-selling Blackberry) that makes you want it all the more. How we sensorially and psychologically respond to the intertwined worlds of food and beauty is a key part of the cosmetics industry. You couldn’t wrench the two apart if you tried.

Such Good Taste

The emphasis on taste in beauty products really hit its groove back in 2000 when Lancôme launched Juicy Tubes, food-inspired lip glosses (including Apricot, Toffee Honey and Honey Nectar – flavoured with honey). They looked like mini ice-lollies and were a global smash.

Now, major beauty houses spend eye-watering amounts to achieve a taste in lip products that will appeal to the masses. For Chanel’s Rouge Coco lipstick range, it’s a bouquet of French roses enhanced with raspberry and a hint of vanilla. While at Estée Lauder, Sensuous Rouge lipstick tastes of French macaroons and truffles.

Taste in make-up is polarising: you either love it or hate it. “Flavour is the deal-breaker,” says Orrea Light, vice-president of product development for L’Oréal Paris. “If you don’t like the way something is flavoured, you’re not going to wear it.” Likewise, the flavour could trigger a profoundly emotional effect too. “It can evoke emotions including comfort, seduction and relaxation,” says Veronique Delvigne, scientific communications director for Lancôme. So what’s the formula for a pleasantly flavoured lip product? “It’s important to take references that feel safe so, for example, avocado oil and hibiscus extract,” says Light. “There are a few that are typical for lipstick – violet notes, raspberry, lipgloss with berry notes. Vanilla means comfort – that’s typical for a European customer.”

ABOVE: Berries

Berries are ripe for the picking when naming lipsticks and nail polish… From left: Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in Blackberry, £18; Estée Lauder Pure Colour Nail Lacquer in Berry Desire, £14; Dior Le Vernis in Graphic Berry, £17.50

Feast Your Eyes

The beauty industry’s food obsession stretches far beyond the sense of taste. It’s there even at conception, the planting of a seed that goes on to become a make-up collection. “A great chef is the equivalent of a great make-up artist,” says James Gager, senior vice president and creative director at Mac. Indeed, Estée Lauder’s creative make-up director, Tom Pecheux, famously began his career as a pastry chef in Paris. And when Lloyd Simmonds, global make-up artist for YSL, strolled past an old-fashioned sweet shop seven months ago, inspiration struck.

Consequently, YSL’s spring 2012 make-up will be a homage to candy. “I wanted it to be playful, colourful and appetising,” he says of the pastel eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks in fruit-juice hues.

The influence of food returns to Mac early next year with the Shop Mac, Cook Mac colour collection – a range of zingy shades for eyes and lips each named after a food. “Who doesn’t like to shop or cook? I wanted to take it back to the gut things people do,” says Gager, senior vice president and creative director at Mac, tapping into the heart of our relationship with food; it’s universal, it speaks to us all.

When Lancôme recently presented its spring collection to the beauty press, it did so with each eyeshadow compact, lipstick and nail polish nestled inside jars of rose and pistachio macaroons. Lancôme’s three lipsticks for spring (on counters in January) are aptly named Rose Candy, Cotton Candy and Sweet Marmalade. It’s a clever tactic as it speaks to the appetite within us all; setting off even the most reluctant sweet tooth.

ABOVE: Cherries

Who could resist the succulent tones of red found in cherries? From left: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries In The Snow, £7.49; Tom Ford Lip Color in Cherry Lush, £36; Jessica Custom Nail Colour in Cherrywood, £9.75

All in the name

For decades, as far back as Revlon’s Cherries In The Snow lipstick (launched in 1953), beauty has borrowed from the cookbook to name lipsticks and nail polish. Shade names act as rich psychological receptors, tapping into our memory, forming an indelible bond between product and wearer. Would Tom Ford’s lipstick in Cherry Lush have become his most successful shade if it were named ‘reddish pink’? Would Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey still be a top seller 40 years after launch if it was called ‘mauve’? Or would Dior’s Diorific lipstick in Sipping Cognac have endured for decades if it went by ‘mid-brown’? Make-up shades named after food go down one of two routes; comfort or humour. The latter seems to work well in the frivolous world of nail polish. Look to nail brand OPI for the most satisfying and witty – I Eat Mainely Lobster (a hot coral) and A Good Mandarin Is Hard To Find (neon orange) are favourites. More traditional make-up brands favour comforting food names – such as Burnt Sugar eyeshadow by Bobbi Brown (a golden brown), Givenchy’s Toffee Taffeta face powder (a quad of nudes) and Hot Cinnamon eyeshadow by Estée Lauder (a deep brown).


The pastel prettiness of macaroons and candy continue to inspire collections… From left: Lancôme Colour Fever Gloss in Green Petal, £18; YSL Ombre 5 Lumières No13, £39.50; Chanel Rouge Coco in Rose Dentelle, £23

Stirring scents

However, the most effective provocation of memory has to be through fragrance. “Taste and smell are one and the same,” says leading perfumer, Roja Dove. “Taste is processed in the same part of your brain as smell. That’s why the French often refer to smell as being ‘savoureux’, which means ‘tasty’.”

Time after time it seems it’s that powerful little pod, vanilla, that has the most potent effect on our psyche. The first perfume to incorporate it was Shalimar by Guerlain in 1925. “Vanilla has been scientifically proven to be universally appealing,” reveals Pierre Aulas, artistic olfactory director of Thierry Mugler Parfums. “It reminds us of the security of being a baby – it’s warm, welcoming, cocooning. The theory is that a mother’s milk may contain chemicals similar to vanilla which is why it makes us feel contented and safe.”

This winter has seen the release of Ombre Platine, from renowned perfumer Jean-Charles Brosseau (the man behind Ombre Rose), a semi-oriental sweetened scent with blackcurrant, coconut and creamy milk, which proposes the notion of freshly baked pastries and cream. There has also been Musc Maori by niche perfume house Parfumerie Générale, a scent that somehow captures the aroma of buttery biscuits.

ABOVE: Toffee

Perfect for nude tones and for sweetening scents, toffee reigns in beauty… From left: Alien Eau de Parfum, £38.81 for 30ml; Givenchy Le Prisme Soft Compact Face Powder in Toffee Taffeta, £32.50; Clarins Rouge Prodige Lipstick in Creamy Toffee, £17

Haute perfume

Next year is the 20th anniversary of Thierry Mugler’s Angel, a landmark that will trigger a trend for sweetflavoured notes in perfumery. Mugler’s latest project is a collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze, who has re-imagined four of Mugler’s iconic scents (Angel, Alien, Womanity and A*Men) as haute cuisine. Each has been reformulated with a new flavour: Angel is infused with pure cocoa powder, Alien with salted caramel butter, Womanity is perforated with fig chutney and A*Men enhanced with concentrate of red pepper.

“We wanted to establish a genuine parallel between haute cuisine and haute perfumery,” says Aulas. “The process was similar to gastronomy: the ingredients are combined at the end of the recipe to create a harmony of flavours. Hélène believes the nose and mouth are inseparable.” And that’s what scent and make-up really are – food for the skin and the soul.

Main image: Neil Young, senior make-up artist for Mac, artfully demonstrates this season’s blackberry-inspired lip, using Satin Lipstick in Media, £13.50, and Clear Lipglass, £11.50, both by Mac.

Photography: Jonny Storey