THE FACE OF SPRING, 1990, is simple. Subtle. It's an un-made-up look that replaces the bold, almost-harsh eye and lip colors of the late '80s with a full array of next-to-nothing colors that make faces look natural, if not naked.
In this sophisticated reprise of the '60s, eyes are shadowed with brown, gray or muted purple powders, rimmed with subtle lines of black or sable pencil and finished with two or three thin coats of mascara. The goal is to enhance the shape of the eye and create a lush-but-believable lash.
The new brown-toned lipsticks range from pale gold and beige to intense mahogany, flattering women of almost any complexion type. Makeup artists suggest that women select shades slightly darker than their natural lip color, providing more quiet contrast than obvious color on a monochromatic face. They dust a touch of blusher high on the cheekbones, the pink and coral powders offering little more than a hint of color. Most important is a foundation that matches the complexion exactly and provides a delicate sheen. The overall effect is that of well-moisturized skin, rather than one of a well-made-up face. "Nobody wants to look painted anymore, just healthy," says Tony Michaels, senior vice president of marketing at Lancome.
"With neutrals, there's nothing artificial-looking," says Ultima president Andrea Robinson, who introduced a collection of neutral makeup called The Nakeds in December. "If a woman thinks she has great eyes or lips, she can add a hit of color on her best feature and keep the rest of the face simple." Robinson admits to being most comfortable in brown lipstick and occasionally wears a stripe of chartreuse shadow on her otherwise beige eyelids. The Nakeds collection includes foundation, eye shadow, blush, face powder and lipstick in 35 variations of colorlessness. From a pasty porcelain-white powder and a deep-cocoa lipstick to an almost-charcoal shadow, there isn't a rainbow hue in the group.
Cocoa brown blush and cinnamon-toned eye makeup have been the best-selling shades in Stendahl's spring collection, which has been available since late December. Mary Boyette, vice president of cosmetics, attributes the company's success to women's need for basic, wear-with-everything shades. "They don't want to have to decide on which makeup colors to carry in their purse or travel with," she explains. "Brown and beige make it easy." But if \o7 easy \f7 isn't an adequate substitute for vibrant colors, Boyette suggests using pinks and corals to extend the earth-tone palette.
Some makeup artists suggest outlining the mouth with brown-toned lip pencil and filling in with color, a simple way to ease into neutrals again. Lauder's Leaman suggests lipsticks in shades of nectarine and geranium red to be worn with earth-toned eye shadows. Adds Lancome's Michaels: "A little touch of color looks younger than an all-over brown look."
French makeup designers Tyen of Christian Dior and Serge Lutens of Shiseido are designing more natural-looking faces this season, too. Lutens uses matte-finish orange and gold to highlight the lips of an otherwise neutral face. Tyen says he adds very delicate pinks to the face "for happiness," and when he applies pink to the lips, the upper lip is made darker than the lower to give shape and roundness to the mouth.
Spring's relaxed fashions, pale colors and easy hair styles lend themselves to barely-there makeup. "Strong color on the face looks out of place when the hair is soft and flowing," says Leaman, who selects the colors included in each Lauder collection. But that's not all that's determining the need for a natural look. Working women don't have time for complex grooming. "We aren't as coiffed and perfectly groomed as we used to be; we're a little freer," she says.