As part of my work on their 100 Years of Glamour campaign*, Max Factor took me to their Lipstick Laboratory down in Surrey to do something extremely exciting: lipstick making. I have always loved making a mess with oozy, unctuous stuff and so I couldn’t quite believe my luck when I received the invitation. I feared, initially, that it might just be one of those “for show” expeditions, where I’d just get to stir the bubbling pot or add a pre-made colour or what have you, but the girls at Max Factor assured me that no, I would be actually making up my own lipstick shades. Wearing a white coat and safety goggles and everything.
Oh good God, look at my face! I don’t think that anyone had reckoned on me being quite so enthusiastic. I was honestly like some kind of crazed six-year-old who had been given too much sugar; I’d started adding pigment to my lipstick base before anyone could even say “only add your colour one tiny drop at a time”. Lily Pebbles and Anna from ViviannaDoesMakeup, also on the trip, were only slightly more restrained – there were many, many squeals of excitement as we were shown to our work stations with their trays of colourful syringes and weighing scales.
We were assigned the task of creating three different lipstick shades and I decided, after – ooh – about three seconds of deliberation, that I wanted to make some really pastel-toned milkshake shades. I had been working on my Brigitte Bardot video (you can see that post here) and had been really inspired by all of those pale, almost chalky looking lipsticks that were around in that era. Dark, smouldering eyes and then lips all but blanked out, that beautiful matte finish. I decided to do a pale chalky pink and then a beautiful, creamy peach shade that would be slightly easier to wear. I knew from the start that I was going to be making shades that would be very difficult to wear, but I wanted the trio of shades to be fashion-led – something that a makeup artist would use on a shoot rather than an easy-to-wear bestseller. Pure fantasy rather than anything remotely realistic!
As space in the lab was tight, I ended up sharing my work station with the always-wonderful Caroline Barnes, Max Factor’s makeup artist. Caroline works on the most famous faces and for the best magazines (Vogue, Stylist, l’Officiel) and so she was totally in agreement that we should make something a bit edgy and unusual! We got stuck in, straight away, with making our pale Bardot pink. I had the idea that the lipstick trio could be named after a dessert, so the shades became known as Raspberry Ice (pale pink), Peach Melba (pale peach) and then, as a lovely surprise, a really bright red that we could call Cherry on the Top.
Raspberry Ice was probably the most difficult shade to make. I thought that it would all be a piece of cake, just a matter of chucking in the right colours and giving it all a stir, but in the end it took us three attempts to get it right. That’s three lipsticks made and tested, not just three goes at making the swatches look the right colour!
The first swatch (top of Caroline’s hand) was so, so pale, and the middle one wasn’t much better! The bottom swatch was the formula that went into the first lipstick mould – we thought that it looked great on the skin, but it was far too pale on the lips. I looked as though I’d covered my mouth in concealer!
The other problem with the pale shades was that they were far too matte; it was almost like trying to spread plaster on my lips. It really made me appreciate how much time and research goes into lipstick development; to get a formula just right, so that it’s not too waxy or sheer or chalky or dry, and to then make that formula in a range of colours… I can understand now why brands are so proud when they make a truly cutting-edge formula that’s light, long-wearing and comfortable on the lips. I mentioned in last week’s Brigitte Bardot post that Max Factor created a long-lasting lipstick in 1940 – one that would stay on through whole movie scenes, including kissy-face love scenes, and that wouldn’t irritate the skin. That must have been quite some invention, really, considering that we’re still all amazed now when a lipstick stays on for a few hours. (I am, at least. And I know I said I’m going to do a standalone post on it, but just to say again how impressed I was with the Lipfinity Always Delicate lipstick that I used in my Bardot video. I patted it on at 9.30am and it was still on at 5pm when I went into town!)
And so I had to admit that lipstick-making wasn’t quite as simple as I’d thought it would be. I was back to the drawing board so often I wore two grooves into the floor. Meanwhile Lily and Anna were flying along with their creations – how beautiful does Lily’s lipstick formula look inside the mold? And just look at the solid sticks:
There are honestly few things so weirdly satisfying as seeing a fully-formed lipstick emerge from a metal block. I could have watched it all day long. Which probably makes me a very sad person indeed, but we all have our strange perversions, don’t we?
Here are my milkshake shades, melting away in their melting pots. I have to say that I was very pleased with the way my Peach Melba turned out; it was spot-on first time around. Look at the two pale lipsticks together:
I’d buy them! Unfortunately, they will never be for sale. Not unless the bigwigs at Max Factor read this post and think, “hey! Why don’t we do a range of Sundae-inspired lipsticks? We could call one Peach Melba!”
I’m not sure how likely that is, so you’ll probably have to push your dreams of Peach Melba to one side, for now. What I do have, however, is three Cherry on the Top lipsticks to give away to readers. Cherry on the Top is a really vibrant, cheeky red – I have it on in the picture below:
That was just one coat, so you’d get quite a punchy little pout if you layered it up! And obviously, if you styled it out with some science-lab goggles and a white coat like me then you’d be the HEIGHT of fashion. To be in with a chance of winning, please leave a comment below. You must be signed up to A Model Recommends: Exclusive to enter (either the quarterly or daily newsletter – sign up here if you’re not already) and you must leave one comment before noon this Friday. Three winners will be picked at random – lucky winners of a rare, Crilly Edition lipstick!
*this post is sponsored by Max Factor as part of my work on their 100 Years of Glamour campaign.