- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2006

Choosing your cosmetics used to mean some pretty straightforward color selections: pink, red, maybe purple. No longer.

The new world of choices involves more intense decisions: Will you choose Temptress? Vixen? Or perhaps Teasing Flirt?

Makeup has always been about sex, usually implicitly, but things are becoming decidedly more explicit.

Sexy names are overrunning cosmetics counters, making a simple task such as buying blush seem like a trip to the curtained-off section of your local DVD rental place. Customers relish the promise and thrill inherent in the racy monikers, and beauty companies welcome the chance to call red something other than red.

“Makeup is hope in a jar. … Now, if you go into any cosmetics emporium, department store or Bath and Body Works, you can find every possible hope,” says Jean Godfrey-June, beauty director at Lucky magazine. “You can try on a different identity but not look different.”

Even a mild name can inspire. One of Miss Godfrey-June’s favorites, MAC Juicy Pink lip gloss, has a slightly shocking name and looks shockingly pink in the tube. In reality, it only adds a bit of shimmer to her lips.

“No one knows you’re wearing it — but you do,” she says. “Sexy makeup is for even more modest women than closet sexy-lingerie wearers.”

About 20 percent of new color cosmetics shades fell into this hot-and-heavy trend during the first half of the year, according to Karen Grant, senior beauty analyst at the market research firm NPD.

“This year is when we really saw the push toward really sexy names. It was really across categories — nails to lipsticks,” Miss Grant says.

It’s not just edgy companies such as Nars (the successful Orgasm blush, introduced in 1999), MAC (Velvet Teddy lipstick) or Benefit (Dr. Feelgood face balm). Traditional, mainstream brands are in the game, too, including Lancome (Exotic Kiss lip gloss), Clinique (Nudey nail polish) and Chanel (Boudoir rouge).

Color names that make you smile — or, even better, blush — help add distinction to otherwise similar products.

“There are only so many colors for makeup, only so many reds and pinks — a red is a red is a red — but some of the names make them stand out,” says Nina Sisselman, vice president of creative development for High Maintenance, the company with the beauty license for Playboy.

All things being equal, including color and texture, Renata Faiman of Los Angeles says she would pick a lip gloss with a racy name over boring Pink No. 6, but, says the 25-year-old public-relations executive, quality matters most.

“Always the color comes first, and then I look at the name and say, ‘Oooh, that’s so cute,’ ” she says.

“Every woman has many sides of sexy,” says Christine Beauchamp, chief executive of Victoria’s Secret Beauty, which recently introduced a collection called Very Sexy Makeup. Miss Beauchamp wears Passion lip gloss, a mosaic blush called Wild Child and Sultry eye shadow.

“We all love telling each other what shades we’re wearing,” she says. “Saying the names out loud makes you giggle,.”

At Victoria’s Secret, a team develops an entire personality for a line, complete with a script and voice, much like the early stages of scripting a movie. Once team members have a list of shade names, they “cast” them using what they think are the most appropriate colors. The names match the brand image, Miss Beauchamp says: sexy but not X-rated.

Lucky’s Miss Godfrey-June says creating a good, wearable product is still the most important thing: “Every woman has a drawer of makeup that she doesn’t wear. She buys something that’s a stretch or seems wild, but if it’s a color that she can’t wear, she won’t buy it again,” she says. “If you look like a clown, you won’t wear something called You Win a Million Dollars.”

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