Dark Lips Rule the New York Fashion Week Runway

Lips as rayless as midnight: It seems a dark dream for beauty—one with few legs in the real world. And yet, slowly but surely, those with a major makeup obsession are brandishing pouts painted in pitch-dark pigments. Not surprisingly, the movement is gaining momentum thanks to catwalk artistry; backstage at Marc Jacobs’ Fall/Winter show, makeup artist François Nars championed mouths blackened to the core. “Black is the new black,” he says unapologetically. “[Marc and I] never get sick of it.” Pulling inspiration from decadent rock stars like Alice Cooper and the glamorous grit of the New York City underground, Nars ventured that a deep lip is about attitude and rebellion—it gives its wearer personality. But no matter how dynamic the ultra-inky pout, nailing it so that color wears longer, doesn’t travel and accentuates the lip rather than illuminates its flaws (i.e. flakes and fine lines) is key to elevating this trend above and beyond.

Smooth Your Canvas

Rare is the perfect lip texture, and dark hues only amplify chapping and aging. To set the stage for dark domination, slough away any dead skin with a lip scrub. “Personally, I love a sugar-based scrub,” says MAC senior artist Keri Blair. “It’s very gentle but also abrasive enough to get the job done. Plus, it’s easy to dissolve any excess with water.” Follow with a healthy dose of hydration via a lip balm or moisturizer that sinks in on contact. Then, layer on a lip primer to help smooth any crevices to pave the way for a more even application of color.

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Draw Your Lines

Suffice it to say, lip pencil has made a major comeback—and it’s an absolute necessity for a successful pitch-dark mouth. “Using liner as a way to intensify wear and color payoff seems to be the key,” says Blair. “It’s also a great tool for balancing or enhancing the lips into the shape you want for the look you’re creating.” Agrees MAC makeup lead Kabuki, who’s various violet variations (say that fast!) at the Ohne Titel Fall/Winter show created the perfect pigment impact on onlookers: “The lips must be perfectly symmetrical because your eyes will go straight there due to them being [painted in] such dark colors,” he says. To balance proportion, Kabuki refined the shape with a deep lip liner after painting lips. “We’re cheating a little above the lip line in a very believable way to just balance it out,” he adds.

If you’re seeking consistent color, Blair advises matching your lip liner to your lip color. For balance, she points to a nude shade to add edges where you need them. “Also, liners are great tools for creating sharp and defined lip shapes or creating a lip stain with soft edges—right now trends in lips are really embracing both of these ideas,” Blair says.

Plunge into Pigment

While top runway artists conjured midnight lips by way of non-lip-specific products (witness Pat McGrath’s mix of her LABS Phantom 002 Black Caviar Gel Liner and Black 002 Eye Gloss for the sooty Fenty x Puma lip), deep, dark lip hues of all finishes are gaining footing in cosmetics. “You want a dense color with a good degree of opacity,” says makeup artist Garret Gervais, who created the pinot noir lip for this story. He likens it to priming a wall before you paint it a darker color: “If you aren’t going to base lips with lip liner (your primer), you need a lipstick that is thicker and more pigmented to act like a ‘paintplus-primer,’” he laughs. Adds Blair, “With dark shades it can sometimes be difficult to maintain an even look on lips, so it’s important to start off with a quality, full-coverage product to keep lips looking great longer.”

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Even when you use a high-quality lip color, remember that what you see behind the scenes may not read the same on camera; light tone and strength can alter color. “Have a clear conversation with the photographer so that you understand the lighting concept and what he intends to do in post,” Gervais says. Then, keep your eye trained on the monitor (if possible). “Make appropriate changes until you see the desired effect on-screen,” he shares.

If the color isn’t reading right, Blair suggests “using a lip pencil to brighten or deepen the shade, or adding a gloss to highlight” before completely ditching the lip hue altogether.

As makeup artists, you’re likely drawn to wild colors (think: indigo and forest green) for your more artistic adventures, but Blair says to keep this in mind for salon clients: “If she has pink undertones, tonal shades with a small amount of gray tend to work well. If she has a more golden skin tone, blue-red shades are a good option. Warmer skin tones look great with an orange-red hue.” If the color reads well on your client, rest assured she’ll dive deep into the dark lip trend— with your guidance, of course!

–by Karie L Frost

[Images: Raquel Olivo]