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Beauty Incognito: Fall Makeup

Our fearless beauty reporters shop the world insearch of a colorful—but wearable—fall look.

As the summer days dwindled, our intrepid undercover reporters hit the stores in search of a new fall look as envisioned by some top makeup artists.



London, England


The sheer range of makeup brands on offer at London stores, from the ultradirectional to traditionally pretty, means customers are spoiled for choice when shopping around for a new look. However, past experiences have taught me that beauty-counter makeovers can be a way off from what’s promised in the ad campaign, so I had an open mind when I set forth on London’s Oxford Street to sample sales associates’ take on fall’s makeup looks.


Oxford Street

On a Sunday afternoon, the street-level beauty floor of Boots’ flagship on Oxford Street was buzzing, filled with tourists browsing fragrances and clusters of teens testing out lip glosses. I headed to the No7 counter—Boots’ own makeup line—to see if I’d be able to grab a sales assistant who’d help me try the line’s fall colors.

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A sales associate soon approached, and I asked for some guidance on how to tailor the brand’s fall looks to suit me. The fall colors wouldn’t be in until the following week, she said, so suggested I come back then to see one of their makeup artists, who would be able to show me how to work the new collection. When I returned on a Tuesday evening, the makeup artist ushered me to the makeover area—a stool facing the escalators, so I’d be in full view of shoppers filing through the busy store. I told the artist I’d like to try out their fall colors for inspiration for a party I had coming up. She presented me with the line’s No7 Limited Edition Autumn Eye Palette—four vivid jewel tones of orange, green, purple and blue. Nervous about the bold hues, I asked for a subtle take on the colors and agreed to try an orange-and-green combo on my eyes.

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The artist took an hour to do my makeup. She applied No7 Intelligent Balance Mousse Foundation to my face, then set about the eyes, smudging the orange all over my lids and green around the eye line (I began to think the effect wouldn’t be as low key as I’d hoped). She followed with No7 Autumn Limited Edition Smoky Eyeliner to make the colors “stand out,” and layered on No7 Exceptional Definition Mascara. She finished with an orangey pink blush and a caramel-colored lipstick.

When I looked in a mirror, I smiled appreciatively, but as I’d suspected, the overall effect was too Eighties disco for my liking. That said, I had asked for a demo of the fall colors. The artist declined payment, but said I could come back the following day to buy the colors when they were released. While I had every intention of doing so (I was grateful for the time she had spent on my makeup), I didn’t rush back to buy the look.


Oxford Street

Knowing the level of traffic in Selfridges’ beauty hall on any given day, I called the Estée Lauder counter to book a makeup session to try the brand’s fall look. The saleswoman explained the session would cost 20 pounds, or $32 at current exchange, which was redeemable against a makeup purchase.

I arrived at the store at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. While the beauty hall was as busy as ever, I felt a sense of calm in the seating area where I was asked to wait, a sleek corner sofa tucked behind the main counter. After a five-minute wait, the makeup artist took me over to sit at the counter.

Mindful of my full-on-makeup experience at Boots, I said that I’d like to try out Estée Lauder’s fall makeup look, Blue Dahlia, which was displayed at the makeup station, but wear it in a subtle way. The artist was amenable, assuring me that the look didn’t need to appear exactly like the vivid blue eye shadow Hilary Rhoda wears in the striking Blue Dahlia campaign.

After giving my skin a full cleansing and applying Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher and DayWear Plus Multi Protection Anti-Oxidant Creme, she began applying the blues, whites and grays of the Blue Dahlia Pure Color palette to my eyes. She explained each step in detail—only pausing when an errant customer asked her about Shu Uemura eye pencils—and, better still, she showed me the stages of the look as she went along so I could ask her to tone it up or down. After doing my eyes, she applied foundation, Double Wear Light Stay in Place Makeup, followed by Signature Silky Powder Blush in Pink Kiss and a slick of Pure Color Gloss in Twilight Petal on my lips.

This time, I felt I’d gotten a wearable interpretation of a potentially tricky color. While I wouldn’t normally opt for blue eye shadow, I was so pleased with the result I was ready to part with 34 pounds, or $53, for the palette—particularly as the artist emphasized it was limited edition. Sadly, I was too late—it was already out of stock. I decided to buy the Double Wear foundation at 25 pounds, or $39, and resolved to call back to find out when the coveted palette was back on the shelves.  – Nina Jones

Los Angeles, USA


When I received my assignment to shop for a new fall makeup look, I was dubious, because I’m a makeup minimalist. My “look” consists of trace amounts of blush and eyeliner, the colors of which haven’t changed since 1990, let alone with each season (I like to think that pink and brown are classic colors). In fact, I’m loath to throw away my makeup, even well past its expiration date, because it takes me so long to use it up. I remember the day I dropped my Chanel Poudre Rose blush on the bathroom floor and the disc of pressed pink powder popped out of the compact and shattered to pieces. I had been using it for six years and had barely put a dent in it. My current blush dates back to the G.W. Bush administration. This assignment must be a sign.


Santa Monica Place, 315 Colorado Avenue

Given that part of my m.o. was to check out the makeup counters at Bloomingdale’s new beachfront store, I was eager to venture out. So, it seemed, was everyone else in Los Angeles. It took three visits to Bloomie’s during its opening week before the crowds had thinned enough for me to get near any of the counters.

At Shiseido, the new collection by Dick Page was prominently displayed. A sales associate pointed out the latest eye shadow palettes, all of which would look great on a tropical bird, but on my eyelids? A makeup artist sporting flawless skin and a tiny diamond nose ring took over. I told her I normally didn’t wear makeup, but I wanted to try color on my eyes and that turquoise and purple were my favorites. She chose two Hydro-Powder cream shadows (H6 and 410, $25 each) and used them as a base on my lids, then intensified the color using complementary powder eye shadow palettes. She finished by lining my outer lids with cream liner and suggested two nude lipsticks (BE 208 and BE 333), which she applied to the back of her hand. The whole thing took about six minutes.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw that the colors were actually wearable—i.e., I did not look like a clown, but the makeup didn’t do much to open up or accentuate my eyes. But my makeup artist was friendly and I should have taken her neutral eye makeup as a sign that she wasn’t one to overdo things. She skipped the sales pitch, but happily wrote down the colors she used on her business card and said to call anytime.

I nipped over to Chanel to check out the Peter Philips collection, but I couldn’t find it, nor could I find a salesperson to help me locate it. I had better luck at Estée Lauder, which boasts the biggest counter on the floor. About four women were midmakeover when I made my way to the display and asked for the Blue Dahlia palettes. I was informed they had sold out during opening week, but that the single shadows on display included the same colors. I asked for one of the free signature services, “Play With Color,” and this time was more assertive about wanting a “bold” and “dramatic” look with Blue Dahlia colors. My makeup artist prepped my eyes with a mix of Double Wear Concealer and eye cream and used four shadows: Ivory Slipper to highlight my brow bone, Wild Truffle for my lids, Nocturnal Blue for the “pop” color and Newport Blue for the outer corners. I could immediately see the dark, smoky direction she was going and suddenly felt very glamorous. She then penciled in my brows and applied Double Wear Midnight Blue liner to my lids, then eyelash primer and a healthy coat of Turbo Lash mascara.

Thrilled, I asked her to take my picture with my digital camera. Before she did, she topped me off with Radiant Berry Bronzer, Double Wear Rose lip liner and Twilight Petal lip gloss. I went home with an eyeliner and shadow for $42.50, excited to debut my new blue eyes.


Rite Aid
5575 Wilshire Boulevard

The other half of my mission was to check out mass brands at a Rite Aid, a decidedly less glamorous venue but a familiar one. At 7:30 a.m., the Mid-Wilshire branch was empty. I was excited to see Gucci Westman’s line for Revlon and Pat McGrath’s for Cover Girl, but I didn’t recognize either of the makeup artist–designed collections by the signage. The most fashion-forward items at Revlon looked like the Luxurious Color eye shadows, but seven of the 20 shades were out of stock. There were also a couple of Color Stay palettes marked “new,” which looked like code for “unwearable” with combos like light green/taupe/ lavender/brown. There was a “new” Luxe Color eyeliner in Electric Blue that reminded me of clown makeup. But there were small ad images of Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Beau Garrett to inspire me.

At Cover Girl, the only imagery was a photo of Drew Barrymore on a pop-out display (it was like a board that came straight out from the wall) for Lash Blast Fusion. As far as fashion colors, the two-sided Smoky Shadow Blast automatic pencils were difficult to understand without assistance, and the Tropical Fusion and Crystal Waters Eye Enhancer Shadow Trios were shades that shouldn’t be worn outside of Cirque du Soleil. The single eye shadows were more on trend. Both brands, as well as L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline and Almay, offered a good spectrum of cheek and lip colors. Since there were no mirrors or testers, sampling was out of the question, and I didn’t feel inspired enough to take anything home. – Marcy Medina

Tokyo, Japan

While I confess to having an irreparable love of makeup, I’m not usually one to change my look with each season, preferring instead to choose my colors depending on my mood and outfit each day. But I had been admiring the smoky, metallic eyes that I’d seen all over the latest cosmetics ads, so I decided to hit the Tokyo streets in search of a fresh look for fall.


Matsumoto Kiyoshi
6-1-26 Roppongi, Minato-ku

Despite the overly bright lights and stuffed-to-thebrim shelves, the omnipresent Japanese drugstore chain is usually my first stop when I’m on the lookout for new makeup. The stores may not offer much in the way of service, but they carry both local and imported brands at reasonable prices, especially for Tokyo. Brushing past the man shouting out the bargains of the week to passersby on the crowded street, I headed upstairs to the cosmetics floor. A quick glance around didn’t turn up any new-looking product displays, so I made a beeline for the one free sales assistant, who was standing idly in a corner.

I told her what I was looking for and she directed me to a rack of Bourjois shadow trios conveniently called Smoky Eyes. I liked the look of the palettes in theory, but there were so many color options that I had no idea where to start. When I asked if there was someone who could apply the makeup for me and give me some tips, I was answered with nothing more than a blank look. I’ll take that as a no.

Trying not to get discouraged, I asked if the Bourjois colors were new for fall. They weren’t. Spotting a nearby Revlon display of vaguely fall-looking colors, I pointed and repeated my question. Another negative. Actually, my sales assistant politely informed me, the fall collections weren’t due in the store for another two to six weeks. Disappointed, I thanked her for her help and decided to continue my quest elsewhere.


21-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku

The cosmetics floor of the Shibuya branch of the Seibu department store is spacious and well staffed and carries most of the big brands, so it seemed like the next logical stop. I went during my lunch break on a weekday to avoid crowds, which turned out to be a good move. The first counter near the entrance is Estée Lauder, where I spotted samples of Tom Pecheux’s new Blue Dahlia collection. I don’t consider myself one of the few who can pull off deep blue eye shadow, but I was intrigued as to how the look might be toned down for day. Unfortunately, the two makeover stations were both already occupied and I only get an hour lunch, so I moved on.

My next stop was Chanel, where a huge display made it immediately clear that the fall collection designed by Peter Philips had arrived. I picked up a pamphlet and was approached by a friendly, smiling saleswoman, her own makeup done to perfection. When I told her I was after a new look for fall and that I was hoping to have someone apply it for me, she sat me down in one of many high stools (I counted no less than 10 makeover stations in the Chanel area) and tied a white cotton smock around my neck. She removed my existing makeup, then set to work expertly applying everything from eye cream to foundation and pressed powder. Next came a champagne gold–colored liquid eye shadow, which she said not only would provide extra glimmer but also increase the wear of the powder shadow to come. As she worked, she explained in detail what she was doing so that (in theory) I would be able to re-create the look at home. Only time will tell if that is actually possible.

Four shades of powder eye shadow and one of eyeliner later, I had—for the first time ever— that elusive smoky eye, in shimmering colors that would easily take me from day to night. This was complemented by a pale pink blush (she tried a darker one first, realized her mistake and quickly corrected it) and glossy, natural-looking lips. When I inquired about prices, the sales assistant rattled off—from memory—the cost of every single product she had used on me. I was so impressed by her service and the results that I bought a quad eye shadow and a deep eggplant– hued liner (I already own similar versions of the other products she used). After putting on white gloves, the sales assistant removed each product from its packaging to prove it was correct (true Japanese service at its finest) before handing me my purchase and escorting me to the outer edge of the Chanel corner. The grand total? About $115, and I had gotten exactly what I came for. – Kelly Wetherille

New York, USA

As a beauty assistant, I’m lucky enough to see and sample most new products before they launch, but I’m often left bewildered by how, exactly, to use them. I was excited to hit the stores for some expert advice.


151 West 34th Street

The sun was shining on Monday around 11:30 a.m. as I made my way to Macy’s Herald Square in search of a fall makeup look. Expecting to find the store buzzing with tourists and frenzied shoppers, I was immediately struck by how relatively sparse the crowd was.

I strolled through the beauty department, noticing only one customer sampling eyeliners at the Chanel counter and bored-looking sales associates at YSL. There was some action over at Clinique, so I asked about fall colors and was lead to a small display featuring shimmering eye shadows with yummy names like Strawberry Fudge and Blackberry Frost. Before I could ask about a makeover, however, the associate disappeared back into the crowd of white.

Securing a makeup artist on the spot proved more difficult than I anticipated. At Dior and Chanel, I was told to come back another day, while at Shiseido, the associate said she couldn’t accommodate me because only two people were working.

At Estée Lauder, a smiling woman greeted me, but the best she could offer was a mini makeover, called the “Fatigue Fighter,” a free “instant complexion boost.” She blended Advanced Night Repair Eye Cream with Ideal Light Highlighter to disguise my dark under-eye circles, applied pressed powder to my cheeks and finished with burgundy lip gloss. (Having full lips, this is a color I tend to shy away from.)

Still hopeful for the full makeover I’d come for, I asked a Lancôme makeup artist for a fall look with colors from Aaron De Mey’s French Coquette collection. I agreed to buy three products, which is the policy for makeovers, and took a seat. Rocking flawless dewy skin and watermelon-hued lip gloss, the amiable associate quickly noticed that I have sensitive skin. She took off the remnants of my Estée Lauder look and massaged Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate into my face. Next, she applied Ôscillation Power Foundation and contoured my cheeks with Mocha Havana Shimmer blush, which complemented my fading summer tan. I was pleased with how natural and flawless my complexion looked. She lined my lower lids with both black and white pencil, to “open them up” used black liquid liner on top and finished with Hypnôse Drama Mascara to “show off my long lashes.” Lastly, she applied a hand-blended nude gloss, proving she’d been paying attention to what works best for me. I bought the eye pencil and concealer, spending about $55, which qualified me for a free gift-with-purchase (score!). My look was healthy and meticulously done—I left satisfied.


1471 Broadway

The second half of my journey found me at Walgreens in Times Square. The lunch rush had mostly died down, and as I walked in the store, I was happy to see a clean, welcoming environment. I took an escalator to the beauty floor—a recently renovated, well-lit space—and was struck by the size of the L’Oréal display, right at the top. The makeup was well organized, each section featuring large mirrors for sampling and testers. The one downfall? No Q-Tips or tissues made me less inclined to try any of it. I marveled at a touch-screen monitor in the skin care section, which computed a personalized product routine after a quick survey. For me, it suggested a pore-minimizing cleanser, SPF 15 for day and a Skin Genesis antiager for night. Each product recommended to me sat on nearby shelves. Easy to find and personalized? I was impressed.

Much of the makeup on display looked summery and bright, so I asked a salesgirl where the fall shades were. She said they wouldn’t be in for a few weeks.

The juicy nail and lip colors at Revlon, although not right for fall, looked great. Neutrogena was well stocked with foundations, powders and concealers, and, despite the absence of color, seemed a good place to get skin-correcting basics. At Almay, I noticed the Intense I-Color eye shadow palettes, tailored to specific eye colors. While abundant in the Hazel, Blue and Green shades, noticeably absent were any for us brown-eyed girls! The salesgirl noticed me sifting through the products and quickly led me toward Exact Eyelights for brown eyes by Cover Girl.

Although the experience was markedly different from Macy’s, I left confident I could easily create a similar fall look with the items on offer at Walgreens. – Belisa Silva