In defence of bizarre beauty trends

CLEM BARSTOW
Last updated 13:13 17/09/2013
Rihanna
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BLUE LADY: Rihanna shows off her blue lips at the launch of her latest collection for River Island in London.

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Somewhere between those bright green colour-changing lipsticks from the toy shop and our first bottle of real foundation, most of us get the notion that makeup is supposed to be natural and flattering, and that "going really far out" with our cosmetic use extends to doing a dark lip and a smoky eye at the same time.

Makeup, so the accepted wisdom goes, is for camouflage and flattery only.

This isn't helped by the fact that any celebrities who dare to step outside of what's expected of them beauty-wise - think Drew Barrymore's Bladerunner moment, Leighton Meister's Studio 54-worthy look, or Rachel Weisz's red carpet goth phase - inevitably end up on "OMG beauty disaster!"-type lists.

(And of course, who can forget that New York Times piece in which Esquire editor Richard Dorment so kindly advised women that green and yellow nail polish was "the color of mucus. It's the color of infection. It's the color of old piano keys.")

The red carpet beauty critics must be having a field day this year, what with purple lipstick, power brows, '90s matte everything and fake sunburn blush, to name just a few, having been spotted on and off the runway. Yes, "ugly beauty" is truly a trend whose time has come.

The more you think about it, though, doesn't Rihanna look like she's on top of the world with her lips lacquered a deep shade of amethyst? Indeed, she's such a fan of purple lips that her second collaboration with M.A.C, RiRi Hearts M.A.C., contains another - Talk That Talk - in a deep plum (her first M.A.C. mini-collection included RiRi Boy, a dark matte pink-purple). 

Here's the thing: if Rihanna looks so stoked on her blue lipstick, it's because she's realised that so-called "ugly" beauty trends - in other words, anything that isn't aggressively subtle - are, well, a whole lot of fun. Not only that, but odd-coloured makeup (shimmery pink eyeshadow, pale green lip-gloss, bronze mascara) can be surprisingly flattering.

And that's "flattering" in the "who knew glitter-flecked safety-orange lipstick could really bring out your eye colour like this" way, not "flattering" in its usual incarnation as a way to make you look as nonthreatening as possible. (It also goes without saying that "Men don't like [x beauty trend]" is too often trotted out as a reason not to use makeup as a tool of creative expression.)

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See, the very idea of wearing "natural makeup" is kind of ridiculous, when you think about it. Why go to the bother of slapping layers of goop on your face if you're not going to make it perfectly obvious?

There's no reason that ordinary makeup can't have all the fun that its close relative, stage makeup, has on a nightly basis. Nobody's saying it's time to rock inch-long rainbow false eyelashes to the office, but as I once heard an older gentleman saying as he unloaded a trolley full of spangly Christmas paper onto the supermarket checkout, a bit of sparkle solves everything. 

- Sydney Morning Herald

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